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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shocked to Find Gambling Here

The police were famously shocked to find gambling at Rick's.

And I'm shocked to discover that Catholic Exchange is vociferously defending Chris West.

But, let's take apart a few of the sillier comments made by the CE representative, Heidi Saxton:

Differences in Approach or Content?
1) She states that the differences between West and von Hildebrand amount to different blind men around an elephant, that is, it is merely a difference of approach, not content. You may remember that Mark Shea launched this trial ballon on Inside Catholic within the last 48 hours. It seems the Westians are trying to establish a solid meme in multiple channels before The Chris returns from his sabbatical.

Is it true?
Well, shockingly enough, my conclusion is "NO!" (Betcha' didn't see THAT coming, eh?)

This cannot be a problem of the blind man and the elephant because there can be no conflict between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, as John Paul II pointed out in Catechesi Tradendae #22.
It is useless to play off orthopraxis against orthodoxy... Nor is any opposition to be set up between a catechesis taking life as its point of departure and a traditional doctrinal and systematic catechesis...This revelation is not however isolated from life or artificially juxtaposed to it. It is concerned with the ultimate meaning of life and it illumines the whole of life with the light of the Gospel, to inspire it or to question it.
This is a question of doctrine - how it is presented without distortion. West, supposedly a great student of John Paul II, seems wholly unacquainted with papal writings outside of a very narrow scope.

So, West's position is that this is a problem of approach.
The von Hildebrand position is that this is a problem of content.
The two positions are not mutually reconcilable.

It's similar to the difference between a clinician telling a general practice physician, "Your treatment is wrong because I wouldn't have prescribed that drug for pneumonia"
the clinician saying "Your treatment is wrong because the patient has a broken back, not pneumonia."
The first is a difference in approach.
The second is a difference concerning the facts.

Given that Saxton acknowledges, and West's own editor admits in a linked article, that some of West's positions are wrong, von Hildebrand's concerns are demonstrable and essentially admitted by all sides.

On the other hand, apart from repeated bald assertion by West supporters, there is no evidence West's contention is true. However, we must all remember the most important aspect to this part of the discussion: Joseph Goebbels' point that if you repeat a lie often enough, it is believed.

Does The End Justify The Means?
2) To say that many good people have come to Christ through TOB is really not relevant to the discussion. Catholics are not just concerned about ends - we also care about means.

To take a physical example, Christ has brought many people into existence through artificial insemination and rape, but this fact does not mean either artificial insemination or rape are therefore reasonable ways to give the gift of life.

To judge ONLY by the fruits is to implicitly accept the idea that the ends justifies the means. The continued harping on the fruits of West's work, with scant attention paid to his means, is itself a violation of how Catholics look at things.

How Thin is West's Skin?
3) Why would people take it personally when West feels himself treated in a trivial way? The very statement that this happens shows that the people who do this are not identifying with Christ so much as they are identifying with Chris - Christ without the "t", that is, Christ without His Cross, which is essentially what Chris preaches.

The inability to separate "doctrine" from delivery from deliverer is the definition of a personality cult. Indeed, Saxton herself virtually admits this. She points out that everyone agrees both of the von Hildebrands have done marvelous work in explaining the teachings of the Church, yet no one cares much if either one is somewhat marginalized. That is, Saxton admits that the personality cult does not exist for either of the von Hildebrands.

The very fact that this personality cult exists for West, that all sides agree it exists, and that it seems to have been encouraged at every step, is a serious mark against those who defend and those who follow West.

Catholic Exchange Distorts Catholic Doctrine?
4) Saxton implies that the Church has, at some point, taught that sex is 'dirty.' She needs to substantiate that implication or retract it.

To say that people have this understanding of the Church is to simply state that they believe a falsehood. It is the case that Chris West has done nothing to dissuade people that the Church at one time taught this. In fact, in the seminars I've attended and the recordings I've heard of him, he has actively encouraged that understanding. But let us scale back the assertion to accommodate critics and just say he has done little to correct it.

The fact that he has done little to correct the misunderstanding is a standing indictment of West. He is playing roughshod with the truth in order to "identify" with his audience. Again, NO catechist is permitted to adulterate the truth in this way - it is a violation of John Paul II's teachings in Catechesi Tradendae, #30-31:
Thus, no true catechist can lawfully, on his own initiative, make a selection of what he considers important in the deposit of faith as opposed to what he considers unimportant, so as to teach the one and reject the other... It can also happen that a particular sort of language proves preferable for transmitting this content to a particular individual or group. The choice made will be a valid one to the extent that, far from being dictated by more or less subjective theories or prejudices stamped with a certain ideology, it is inspired by the humble concern to stay closer to a content that must remain intact. The method and language used must truly be means for communicating the whole and not just a part of "the words of eternal life"(80) and the "ways of life."(81)
Questions concerning the appropriateness of West's language are thus very apropos. As can be seen from the above quote, the Holy Father himself was concerned that the catechist's language must communicate the whole truth, that it must not be driven by "subjective theories."

But West's only defense for his language is the purely subjective theory that he needs to use such language in order to reach people. He has provided no evidence to show that this is true, neither empirical nor formal.

Given the following facts:
  • Pauline Books and Media blog TOB offensive (four articles in 48 hours),
  • Mark Shea's recent "coming out" article with Inside Catholic on TOB (and remember, he constantly professes to know nothing about TOB), and
  • this Catholic Exchange series on TOB,
  • All of these happening in the same week
we seem to be witnessing a coordinated effort by multiple spinners attempting to prepare the ground for West's return.

Look for more spin in more venues - the next likely places are the Ignatius Press blog and probably something from Catholic Marketing Network to the Catholic bookstore community. Also, something from Maximus (a spinoff of Catholic Exchange) is probably in the works.
If they can figure out how to twist EWTN into this, they'll be on a roll.

Watch for the following points to be repeated ad nauseam:
  • the West controversy is just one of approach, not content,
  • the argument is not very important,
  • West is being personally attacked and can't defend himself because he's "on sabbatical",
  • West detractors are mean


Matheus F. Ticiani said...

Did you notice also, Steve, that members of the Catholic Celebrity Frat Pack, even the ones who claim to "have the great advantage of a more or less benign indifference" about the issue and that they "don't mind criticism of West per se", (just the "vituperative, self-pitying" criticism from you) seemed to have ignored the recent post by Barbara Nicolosi on the issue and the announcement of the free availability of Dawn Eden's dissertation for download? Links for both items keep absent from their blogs...

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Why, Matheus, I had been so involved with pitiful navel-gazing that my tear-filled eyes entirely missed this!

But you are entirely correct.
Catholic Exchange somehow fails to run a story about the free Dawn Eden MA thesis download. Even its TOB channel is silent. What an unusual lacunae for them!

And poor Barbara Nicolosi!
She is quoted when a movie is the subject, but when TOB is involved, the silence on her views becomes deafening.

I'm shocked, shocked....
Whatever could be the cause?
And where's the popcorn?

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

Funny, Steve

Somebody has been reading these comments... (still no mention of Barbara's article to be found)

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Well, Barbara can be ignored. The less momentum reported against West, the less there is, right?

Heidi Hess Saxton said...

Steve: I never said -- never even thought -- that the Von Hildebrands don't have their following. (I believe you refer to it as "personality of cult".) In fact, it is precisely the VH followers who are doing their best to destroy the work and reputation of West and TOBI.

Neither do I consider myself a "Westian," as I have read with great benefit the works of both individuals.

As I see it, you are inclined to attack anyone who is unwilling to denounce Mr. West without reservation. Your tone lacks charity, and I wonder if Dr. Von Hildebrand herself would approve of what you are doing.

None of us are perfect. Each of us is called to be transformed through the renewal of our minds and the pursuit of virtue.

Instead of attacking your brothers and sisters in Christ, you might consider how you ought to be praying for them, as we pray for you.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Thanks for the ad hominem attacks. I really appreciate it. Most people don't afford me this honor, but people supporting West never fail in that and I just wanted to say that I'm touched.

Also, I would like you to respond to the theological concerns I raised.

You haven't.

I expect that you can't, but I'll give you another chance, on the off chance that you were so involved in doing the ad hominem that you forgot to address the theological problems.

You have a single sentence concerning your take on the AvH "followers" and I quote: "She also seemed excessively concerned on the question of whether CW was a disciple of her husband’s. To her, this was critical—to most of us, not so much."

So, your response to me is at variance with your response in your own article.

Please deal with the other theological objections I raised.

If you can.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh, and just as a side note, the man who has done more to destroy the work of Christopher West then any other man alive is....

Christopher West.

A lot of people hate my commentary, but no one has been able to refute it.

And all I'm doing is reporting what Chris said and comparing it to what the Magisterium says.

So, take your best shot, Heidi. Prove that West supporters have something on the theological ball.

Take apart my arguments.

Good luck!

Annie Anomous said...

Where can I find the 7 arguments you make against West's Theology? I would like to review them.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

There are 4 in this article, there are 7 in the article "Shea Shoots - Does He Score?"

There are several more in "Sex, Lies, and Pauline Books and Media."
More still in "Cult of the Expert."
Another in "Catholic Blizzards" (also, follow the link in the article for further explanation), another in "The Dog That Didn't Bark," then the problem of "The Discipline", another still in "West and Hefner: Together Again", more in "Don't Go West Young Man", one of the more egregious errors West made in "Sex, Lies and the Wild, Wild West", then "Chris and the Cult", "The Bishop, The Pope and Chris West", a sidelight in "Philospher, Healy Thyself" and not technically West's error, but funny nonetheless - "Shooting Shea's Own."

Just search on "west" on this blog. You'll get lots of his errors laid out.

These lists are not comprehensive. I've been debating trying to write a short essay that covers most of the major problems West presents.