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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Descent Into the Maelstrom

Janet Smith has unleashed one of the most disjointed, unscholarly attacks of her career. It is a sad thing to see someone who was once a great defender of the Church fall into the hands of a personality cult.

Smith, who has zero formal education in theology, who has never even done undergraduate work in the discipline, much less gone through the rigorous examination of a graduate degree in theology, believes Dawn Eden's master's thesis is seriously flawed. Keep in mind that by saying this, Smith not only denigrates Eden, she directly denigrates the entire board of theologians who judged Eden's thesis and found it acceptable, and indirectly denigrates the entire teaching institution which gave Eden her degree.

Dr. Janet Smith, classical languages scholar, now informs us that she has become the standard to which graduate theology programs must submit themselves. Truly, Dr. Janet Smith is the very model of fairness, humility and docility.

Smith begins her tirade by stating that she is unhappy a master's thesis is published for public reading. We may recall that she was previously unhappy that a man with an actual doctorate in theology, Dr. David Schindler, the man who actually taught Chris West theology, made public his concerns about West's distortion of Catholic theology. Indeed, Smith has expressed disappointment about any public criticism of her idol.

But that is as far as Smith has ever gone. She has never adequately answered Dr. Schindler's concerns about West, nor has she ever produced the evidence that she claims she had concerning any of West's more outrageous claims. Smith has entirely failed to engage anything Dr. Schindler has said in any substantive way.

Instead, Smith has decided to go after a "soft" target, a freshly-minted MA in theology - someone who has exactly the same credentials Chris West has, with the obvious exception that none of Eden's instructors have publicly condemned Eden's work.

So, Smith - with all of her myriad formal qualifications in theology - decides to fill that lacunae.

As is so often the case with the Westian cult, Smith begins with an ad hominem attack. Instead of engaging in a substantive discussion of issues, Smith takes issue with the non-issue of "tone." Numerous Westian critics have been taken to task for their "tone", including Fr. Geiger, Wade St. Ong, and myself. Every time anyone says anything remotely critical of West, that individual is attacked as vicious, divisive, hateful, jealous, envious and ridden with dandruff.

If the critic has read West's works, he is attacked for not having attended his public lectures. If he has read his works and attended his lectures, he is attacked for not having attended the extremely pricy private audiences West makes available through his institute. If materials from West's Institute are used, the critics are attacked because they aren't quoting directly what Wast says right now. West is apparently impossible to critique because you have to have shadowed him for the last ten years in order to be qualified to critique him.

We know this is true because a woman with zero formal training in theology, a paid employee of Chris West, tells us it is so.

You see, Westians don't need to even study theology in a formal way in order to know that a West critic has to have been by West's side every minute of the past ten years for a critique to be valid.

Smith then goes on to say that West has refined and re-written portions of his work, and Eden hasn't taken that into account. She completely mis-quotes Eden - "Eden responds to those who have called her on her false statement that West refuses to reflect on his presentations. " Actually, Eden has said West refuses to correct his presentations, she has never said he refuses to reflect on his presentations.

And, in fact, Smith's "defense" is incoherent on this point.

Either West substantially re-wrote the portions of his work that Smith refers to or he only did a cosmetic re-write without changing anything substantive.

If it is the latter, then Eden is correct - West refuses to correct his presentations.

If it is the former, then what is Smith upset about? West certainly wouldn't need to substantially re-write something that was already correct - that would be absurd. And if he really did substantially change what he was saying, then all of his critics were correct in the past in their assertion that West distorted Catholic theology and those same critics may well be correct now, again.

Furthermore, to say that he substantially re-wrote sections of his work is not to say that he corrected his work. A man can re-write something and still be in error.

So, for Smith's charge against Eden to work, Smith has to show that the original passage is substantially different from the re-worked passage and that the re-worked passage is correct.

Smith does neither.

Instead, we are just supposed to take her word that West is fine and always has been fine. We know this is true because she has consistently failed to provide any of the evidence she has herself said exists, despite numerous private and public pleas to do so. Indeed, other Westians have replied instead by insisting no evidence is necessary.

Teaching Authority
Smith then takes Eden to task for daring to critique West, given that Eden is not a bishop (i.e., she continues the ad hominem). Now, Eden doesn't have to be a bishop to offer fraternal correction, either publicly or privately.

But, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. On what grounds does Smith critique Eden, for Smith is no bishop either? What level of hubris does it take to attack Eden for critiquing West, and charge her with an error (if it is an error) that Smith herself makes?

Yet we are meant to take no notice of this - Smith is being generous and helpful, while Eden is being hateful and divisive. Smith doesn't need to be a bishop to critique Eden. Smith does, after all, have all the requisite formal credentials in theology (no.... wait.... strike that), while Eden only has an MA in theology... the same theology degree Chris West has... and a much higher theology degree than Janet Smith has. And, of course, Eden's teachings have not been publicly condemned by her own instructors, as West has.

Now, notice that if Smith were being consistent, this charge of "not being a bishop" could be raised equally against Dr. David Schindler, West's own theology instructor, who (along with other members of the faculty) condemned West's work publicly. Yet Smith has never had the cojones to raise such an objection to Dr. Schindler.

Why not?

Because Dr. Janet Smith, classical languages scholar, would have her teeth handed to her if she tried it. West's own instructors have said he is untrustworthy. Eden merely expands on that thesis.

Besides which, even if one were to admit that only bishops could undertake this kind of criticism, it still wouldn't help Smith's case. Bishops can be wrong. They often are wrong. As anyone with formal training in theology could point out, most of the major heresies of the Church have been started or promoted by bishops, including several patriarchs (Constantinople leaps to mind). So, West may have the approbation of bishops, but this means absolutely nothing from the standpoint of whether or not his work is trustworthy.

Janet knows this, or should know it.

But she deliberately introduces this red herring about authority because.... well, why would a good theologian bring forward such a stupid objection, unless she hoped that the common folk wouldn't notice the error?

Marketing Genius
Smith is upset that Eden charged $10 for her thesis for a period of roughly two weeks.
She is not upset that West has offered substantially flawed theology for thousands of dollars for years on end.

And if it wasn't substantially flawed, why did he re-write it?
And if he didn't re-write it in a substantial way, why does Smith pretend he did?
Ahh... the horns of the dilemma...

Faulty Evidence
She provides no evidence of any faulty evidence.
It's breathtaking, really.

Several ad hominems later, she chastises Eden for pointing out that imprimaturs are not canonizations. Yet this is a point that even those with theology degrees often fail to remember.

Indeed, it seems to me that Smith herself, in this same essay, had just pointed to the bishops' approbation of West's work as a sign of its orthodoxy. Now she denies that it is.

So, which is it, Janet?

Is the bishop's approbation - which you attacked Eden for daring to question - is that a sign of orthodoxy, or is Eden to be attacked for reminding us that such approbation is no necessary sign of anything, even though you yourself seem to have trouble remembering this salient fact?

It's a wonderful argument that can be used to attack the same victim from both directions.

Smith than goes on to say
A bad tone can convey to the reader that the critic has a personal agenda against a particular author; that the critic has produced a polemic rather than a sober scholarly analysis.
Exactly, Janet.

Substantive Analysis
Janet begins her substantive analysis with the classic logical fallacy "poisoning the well." She addresses "only one" problem while implying that there are scads and scads more. Of course, she doesn't provide any evidence for her implication, because she has none (just as she has no evidence from the Magisterium to support West).

Dr. Janet Smith just wants the reader to walk away from her polemic with the impression that there's a lot more wrong in Eden's thesis than Smith can actually identify.
I would have thought Eden would be pleased that West says the Theology of the Body “isn’t just about sex and marriage,” because elsewhere she accuses him of presenting the Theology of the Body as though it were only about sex and marriage. He can’t win!
Here, Smith demonstrates either that she is not competent to read a master's thesis in theology or she intends to deliberately misrepresent Eden's points.

Eden's demonstrates, through West's own words, that West wants to make TOB the lens through which all Catholic teaching is seen. Since West's argument has essentially been that sexual activity is the center of TOB, his approach sexualizes all of Catholic teaching. This results in such errors as turning virtue into vice, turning the Easter candle into a phallic symbol, turning the baldachin into a bedroom, and calling the virginal womb "useless." Eden points out that this is rank stupidity (my words, not hers), and exceedingly dangerous.

Smith seems unable to grasp this point.

Smith then goes on to attribute to John Paul II something West created:
West quotes John Paul II as saying that “Since our creation as male and female is the ‘fundamental fact of human existence’ (Feb. 13, 1980), the theology of the body affords ‘the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life’ (Oct. 29, 1980).”
Now, a good scholar would be very interested in seeing the context of two quotes slammed together from two audiences given nearly eight months apart. But Smith apparently has no curiosity in this direction.

I do.
Let's look:
1. For a long time now, our Wednesday reflections have been centered on the following enunciation of Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:27-28)....

6. Rereading it, this appeal contained in Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount cannot be an act detached from the context of concrete existence. It always means—though only in the dimension of the act to which it referred—the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life, which also contains that meaning of the body which here we call "nuptial." (October 29, 1980)
So, John Paul II was not, in fact, referring to the whole of TOB, but only to a specific statement made in the Sermon on the Mount. Worse, JP II specifically restricts its meaning to "only the dimension of the act to which it referred."

When we look at the February audience, the same problem arises:
In the mystery of creation, man and woman were "given" in a special way to each other by the Creator. That was not only in the dimension of that first human couple and of that first communion of persons, but in the whole perspective of the existence of the human family. The fundamental fact of human existence at every stage of its history is that God "created them male and female."
John Paul II ensconced this "fundamental fact of human existence" within the context of "the whole perspective of the existence of the human family." This changes the whole meaning, especially given the fact that the TOB audiences say essentially nothing about the human family.

So, upon examining JP II's actual words and their contexts, Eden's critique is demonstrated to be accurate. West did, indeed, distort JP II by quoting him out of context, eliding the comments, slamming disparate comments together as if they were one comment and Smith bought it!

The degree to which Smith has drunk the koolaid is evident in her next set of remarks, in which she attempts to get John Paul II to say that everything is connected to human marriage.
In light of Ephesians 5, he even says that the ultimate truth about the “great mystery” of marriage “is in a certain sense the central theme of the whole of revelation, its central reality” (General Audience 9/8/82). This is to say that everything God wants to tell us on earth about who he is, the meaning of life, the reason he created us, how we are to live, as well as our ultimate destiny, is contained somehow in the meaning of the human body and the call of male and female to become “one body” in marriage.
Of course, to make her thesis work, she has to avoid the Pope's "weasel words" - "in a certain sense."

As Dr. Schindler has already pointed out - and NO ONE has refuted - our salvation is related primarily to our filiation, our adoption as sons and daughters of God. Nuptiality, the marriage relationship, is important, but it is necessarily secondary to the primary sonship relationship. We are logically speaking, sons and daughters before we are spouse, or, to put it another way, we are spouse because we are first son/daughter.

The reason is obvious.
You can't marry a gerbil.
You can't get engaged to your horse.
In order to become spouse, you must first share the same nature as your beloved.
God gives us His own nature through baptism, in which we are deified, divinized, allowed to participate in God's own nature.

Once we share in His nature, then He can marry us, but not before.
Now, in the space-time continuum we inhabit, both of these things happen simultaneously in baptism.
But in terms of logical sequence, filiation must precede nuptiality.
So, nuptiality must be secondary.

John Paul II knows this, as West and Smith do not, so he knew he had to add the "weasel words", "in a certain sense", in order to avoid being a heretic.
2. So then this analogy which permeates the text of the Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33) has its ultimate basis in God's salvific plan. This will become still more clear and evident when we place the passage of this text analyzed by us in the overall context of the Letter to the Ephesians. Then one will more easily understand why the author, after citing the words of Genesis 2:24, writes: "This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church" (Eph 5:32).
The mystery which is the ultimate basis of God's salvific plan is the union of Christ and His Church, not of man and woman. This is important because the union of Christ and His Church, like the union of Joseph and Mary, is an asexual union, a continent union, a celibate union, and all the more fecund precisely because of its celibacy.

Sex is a means by which the three goods of marriage may be achieved (procreation, union, remedy for concupiscence), but it is not necessary to attain any of those goods, as both Joseph and Mary, and Christ and His Church demonstrate. In both of those marriages, all three goods are attained without sex.

If, as West/Smith aver, "sex plunges us headfirst into the Christian mystery" then Mary and Joseph are sadly un-introduced to this mystery, and so is Jesus and His Church. No one argues that sex is anything other than holy - what we would like to point out is that sex is not central to the Christian mystery, and, insofar as it "plunges us" into the Christian mystery, it does so not because of itself, but because of its consequences, the procreation of immortal persons and the creation of family, the ability it has to help accomplish the three goods of marriage. But it is never required to establish those three goods, and, indeed, Thomas points out that the remedy for concupiscence is better achieved through other means (namely mortification and prayer).

Smith then swallows whole the idea that the Church is (a) maturing in Her understanding about sex and (b) we know this because West is an obviously well-qualified judge of exactly how mature the Church is.

Because he's so brilliant, he can stand in judgement of the Church and applaud how well She is coming along in matching his understanding of sex. She has a long way to go of course - I've personally heard West describe the Church as a teenager in her level of sexual understanding - but with West's help, She will undoubtedly get there.

Smith finds it remarkable that Eden apparently mocks West's position.
Why, Dr. Smith, why would anyone mock such an open, loving, generous person as Chris West?

Now, West says elsewhere that what the Church is teaching is nothing new.

But if that is true, then why does Weigel call this a "timebomb" that will require a rethinking of all the tenets of the Creed?

If this isn't new, why does Smith apparently agree with West and Weigel that this will, indeed, require a re-thinking of all the tenets of the Creed?

Either it's new, and requires such a rethinking, or it isn't new, and doesn't require a rethinking.

You can't say that it's really, really ancient teaching, thus it forces us to rethink the way the Creed has always been understood.

But, this is precisely and essentially what West, Smith and Weigel say.
Eden finds their position problematic, essentially incoherent.

Latin is Repressive
Smith goes on to essentially say that she finds Latin, the official language of the Church and of the Mass (both Ordinary and Extraordinary Form), the "suggestion" of repression.

That's a remarkable stance for a seminary instructor to take, especially one whose only degrees are in classical languages (she might want to point this out to Google, which recently added Latin to its translation tool set).

So, Dr. Smith asks, what evidence do we have that West's teachings cause people to resent "yesterday's" Church?

Well, how about the evidence of a seminary that refuses to teach the Extraordinary Form to its seminarians, the kind of inadequate seminary that Dr. Janet Smith's Sacred Heart Seminary currently offers?

What about seminary instructors who find Latin suggestive of repression, even though Vatican II required all seminarians to be well-versed in Latin?

What about using the phrase "yesterday's Church" to describe the current, official and ancient language of the Church?

Isn't the very idea that (a) human sexuality lies at the heart of human existence AND (b) the Church is only now deepening her understanding of human sexuality - both Westian themes - a possible cause of resentment, even mistrust of the Church and her teachings?

But Dr. Smith is unable to grasp the connection.

What can we say?
Dr. Janet Smith presents an immature, non-theological, virtually incoherent defense of Chris West. Her essay is almost entirely ad hominem, infrequently buttressed by very few and grossly misunderstood passages from John Paul II's general audiences. It would get, perhaps, a barely passing grade in a sophomore theology class.

This is the depths to which Westianism has brought Dr. Janet Smith.
Who will follow her into this maelstrom?

50 comments: said...

I wanted to dialogue on some points you made. I am going to answer them as if I am right but my intention is for you to address what I say and elaborate. For the sake of time restraints, I am picking and choosing parts I feel “called” to but I certainly would dialogue more specific ones if you would like me to. I have come to think more deeply about certain aspects of Theology of The Body based on our past conversations so my intention is to go deeper, not to tout my own position. That being said, here we go.
West quotes John Paul II as saying that “Since our creation as male and female is the ‘fundamental fact of human existence’ (Feb. 13, 1980), the theology of the body affords ‘the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life’ (Oct. 29, 1980).”
Now, a good scholar would be very interested in seeing the context of two quotes slammed together from two audiences given nearly ten months apart. But Smith apparently has no curiosity in this direction.
Let's look:
1. For a long time now, our Wednesday reflections have been centered on the following enunciation of Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:27-28)....

6. Rereading it, this appeal contained in Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount cannot be an act detached from the context of concrete existence. It always means—though only in the dimension of the act to which it referred—the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life, which also contains that meaning of the body which here we call "nuptial." (October 29, 1980)
So, John Paul II was not, in fact, referring to the whole of TOB, but only to a specific statement made in the Sermon on the Mount. Worse, JP II specifically restricts its meaning to "only the dimension of the act to which it referred."First of all, TOB is about the fact that our bodies speak a theology. Theology is the study of something. So in fact, to say that we are either male or female (sex as a noun) and this difference in our sexuality (noun) can only be understood when we see how our sex (noun) relates to the other sex (noun) which is sex (verb). My ovaries, my womb and my breasts mean nothing if there would not be a male member of which to give the semen that could join with an egg. My womb would be nothing if this new life did not result. My breasts would be no different than the male breast if not the hormones from the child growing inside of me to stimulate lactation. So in light of this truth lets look at the quote again; concrete existence is our male and female selves. This self is more than just physical it is spiritual and intellectual. The act being referred to as nuptial means so much more than sex as a verb. It means that in our maleness and femaleness we communicate a truth about God and our purpose for living out our yes to God through that femininity or masculinity and how it comes into communion with one another. Mary entered into a nuptial union with God. In their communion, he took on the flesh of man and grew inside of her. said...

When we look at the February audience, the same problem arises:
In the mystery of creation, man and woman were "given" in a special way to each other by the Creator. That was not only in the dimension of that first human couple and of that first communion of persons, but in the whole perspective of the existence of the human family. The fundamental fact of human existence at every stage of its history is that God "created them male and female."
John Paul II ensconced this "fundamental fact of human existence" within the context of "the whole perspective of the existence of the human family." This changes the whole meaning, especially given the fact that the TOB audiences say essentially nothing about the human family. The human family is part of the mystical body of Christ. We relate to one another through our masculinity and our femininity. To reiterate, this can not be understood fully through only sister and brother relationships nor could son or daughter because I do not need ovaries or a womb to be in a relationship with my father but I do need one to understand the relationship of spouses. said...

The mystery which is the ultimate basis of God's salvific plan is the union of Christ and His Church, not of man and woman. This is important because the union of Christ and His Church, like the union of Joseph and Mary, is an asexual union, a continent union, a celibate union, and all the more fecund precisely because of its celibacy. Mary was free from sin! She was also united in to God in the flesh through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and inside of her female womb she was in perfect communion with God! This was not asexual! Her female receptivity was very much engaged and God the father was revealed through her motherhood. There was a giver and receiver and the love between them was fruitful.

Sex is a means by which the three goods of marriage may be achieved (procreation, union, remedy for concupiscence), but it is not necessary to attain any of those goods, as both Joseph and Mary, and Christ and His Church demonstrate. In both of those marriages, all three goods are attained without sex.

Firs of all of course God's salvific plan is the union of Christ and His Church however, Christ and His Church can be understood in context of man and woman. This is one of the reasons a woman can not be a priest. The union of Christ and His Church speaks of Christ, sinless and spotless, the church is not. We are not spotless as Mary was. Mary was conceived without sin. We were not. Mary did not need the gift of sex (verb) to live out her yes since she was perfected already. We however, are not Jesus and not Mary therefore our relationship with God and each other will clearly be different since in marriage, we are dealing with two persons that are imperfect. In Holy Orders, we are dealing with a man who is imperfect and the Church which is made up of persons who are imperfect. In none of these scenarios are there persons who are free from original sin. However, in the marriage of Joseph and Mary, one of them is. To call the marriage of St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother asexual strips away the life giving love that they shared. As I said before, Mary was anything but asexual. She lived out her femininity to it's fullness but in her perfection she did not need to have sex (verb). Her union was with God and he made himself flesh inside of her womb. Hardly asexual.

This changes the whole meaning, especially given the fact that the TOB audiences say essentially nothing about the human family. I would have to agree here. We do need to speak more about the family however, God is a family. He is the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. When we probe deeper we see that God gives himself in love and through that gift of self (and the receptivity of Mary) God is made flesh. Jesus, in his flesh and divinity gives a gift of himself for all of humanity to the Father. The love that flows between them is faithful and totally giving. The gift of the total self is freely given, no one takes Jesus life but he lays it down freely. The fruit of this love is the Holy Spirit. Men and their masculinity speak to the Fatherhood and the giving dimensions of God. Women in their receptivity are made known through Mary's yes. See my analysis of Our Lady of Guadalupe and how this image reveals the trinity. Perhaps we need to enter Mary more deeply into our understanding of Theology of The Body? Yes, we do need to talk more about the family. said...

If you could give me your email address I would prefer to dialogue privately if you have the time. If not, I understand and thank you for the time you have given so far.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


1) If a woman's body "means nothing" without a man to inseminate her, then the Blessed Virgin is pointless. AND you've fallen into the classic lie about what it means to be a woman - you believe you are only useful if you are inseminated and bear children. The Church disputes this position by giving us Mary.

2) Family comes before nuptiality. We are made children of God before we can become spouses of God. Human paternity takes its pattern from this divine paternity, as St. Paul says. Mary's understanding of her relationship with Joseph did not come through her ovaries.

3) The Church is, indeed, spotless Bride. Every time we sin, we disassociate ourselves from the Bride. She remains spotless even if we are soiled. We are re-united with the spotless Bride through Reconciliation, which makes us clean again and worthy of rejoining the spotless Bride.

4) I agree that more discussion of the family needs to take place, but it can't happen inside of TOB, because the TOB audiences do not discuss family, children or procreation. Indeed, even though the audiences are much, much larger, they mention those topics less frequently in raw numbers than Humanae Vitae does.

This is made even more ironic given the fact that the TOB audiences are meant to be nothing but commentary on HV - but they don't even touch on the subject of children, which HV spends a lot of its time addressing.

We could say the same thing about physical mortification - more discussion needs to take place, but you can't do it in TOB because TOB doesn't address it.

TOB is NOT the answer to everything. It's not clear that it is the answer to anything.

Kevin said...

What I find humorous is Dr. Smith faults Dawn Eden for not liking what Bishops said, that these Bishops have a "legitimate claim to be judges of the fidelity of an authors work."

She then faults Fr. Slater's theology manual as having evidence of "repression" because certain things were in Latin, not English. The work in question has an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat.

On what basis does Dr. Smith accuse Bishops Davis and Bodkin, men who have “legitimate claim to be judges of the fidelity of an authors work” of repression and general prudery? Such an approach is “lacking in docility and humility” indeed.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


You make an excellent point, but it raises an even better question.

How did our esteemed Dr. Janet Smith handled ordained men who dissented from Humanae Vitae???


I don't think people with doctorates like to be laughed at.

But, it is the age of the Internet, and the mode of the music has changed.

The genteel Ph.D. country club is rapidly falling into decay. The riff-raff (that would be us) have entered the sacred space of the doctorate, and pointed out what fools they be... :)

But, Smith should LOVE the new rules!

Isn't the story of the Emperor With No Clothes a thoroughly TOB tale?

Kevin said...

My work on the topic, hope Mr. Kellmeyer does not mind shameless promotion. said...

No no, that is not what I mean at all. I apologize for not being better at expressing myself in this arena. What I mean is that a woman can understand God's plan for her life in light of her femininity. Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand was the first person I ever heard address this (as I discovered my faith as an adult and I had little formation)that talked about a woman's organs being inside of the body. She even spoke about the hymen. All of these things reveal something about woman. For instance, a woman is called to "receive". There are many other things as well, I did not mean to say in any way that a woman needs to be inseminated to find her value or calling. However, knowing that she can bare life in her womb DOES reveal something about woman to herself and to the world. As Dr. Alice Von Hildebrands says Women are guardians of purity! Yes!!All women are called to bear children!!Spritual children or physical children! We should be pregnant with life and bare it into the world with our yes and receptivity! said...

You are missing the point as to what it means to be "woman". Only a feminist would get angry and say "How dare you say my only usefulness is if I get pregnant and bare children". A catholic woman would say, I am open to life and I will a mother, whether spiritual or physical but I give God my yes "Be it done unto me according to thy word".

As for Mary, she was made pregnant by being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. A man could not have done what she did. Her femaleness, her reciptivity was demonstrated by her pregnant body, the FRUIT of her womb. Her womb would have been USELESS to us all had it not received it's gift of God's love poured out into her. Through her God made the body, that made His body. Please tell me you are getting this much of my point? said...

As for Mary's understanding of St. Joseph, her husband was God. Her union was with God. Her union with God was made flesh. She opened herself to God. If we follow your line of thinking then it is as if she cheated on St. Joseph with God. Mary did not need to have a physical relationship with a man because she had already experienced the banquet! She was immaculately conceived. You said it yourself, sex is also a rememdy for concupiscence. She had none! Therefore she did not need to have sex. But perhaps, the rest of us sacramentally married person DO need to engage in the marital embrace to learn something about ourselves and God.

Svetlana said...

I have a question. I've only read one of C. West's books and I was really turned off by the anything goes attitude so long as... insert legalistic caveat...

but here's the question: Are Westians attempting to use the TOB as a means to Heterosexualize the Church? And by that I mean, that the last 50+ years the Church (from a secular progressive view) sort of withered and become effeminate and soft in it's presentation. The sort of Dan Brown view that the Church is guilty and hiding from deep concupiscible sin (like the Sex Scandal).

The more I read from Fr. Loya and other followers, the more I feel like I am getting the R-rated version of RCIA. When I went through RCIA, the program lacked any authentic teaching from the Church. The lay leaders laid out a very soft and sometimes false view of the Church and the Mass and shied away from any hot topics with the all encompassing 'let your conscience be your guide" nonsense. The goal was to get us in the door and then deal with the hard facts later. These propositions from West, et al, seems like the American Pie version of that. Get the unbelieving, gyrating masses in the door and deal with the hard facts later. Could this all be an attempt to remake the face of the Faith into some sort of Virile, Hard Bodied, Heterosexual Christianity? said...

Speaking of husbands, I need to get off this computer. I will pick this up again tomorrow if I have time. Peace in Christ Our King.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


There are any number of celibate female saints. You seem to imply that their wombs were useless. I don't know why you keep skating around this idea that Catholic women need to be pregnant to be fully Catholic.

Sure, Scripture says "a woman is saved by the bearing of children" but that doesn't mean it's the only way to be saved.

While what you say is true, if you mean to deny that Joseph was Mary's true husband, then you have become a heretic. While Mary may not have needed remedy for concupiscence, Joseph certainly did, and both still required the other goods of marriage - procreation and union.

In no case were any of these needs fulfilled by sex. So, Joseph had three of the purposes of marriage met without sex, Mary had two of them met without sex. And their marriage was the best of human sacramental marriages.

Kevin said...


I would say the only thing to remember is that for Mary and Joseph, they experienced the "nuptial meaning of the body" par excellence. This would imply that, holy as sex may be, there is something even more important to that in understanding the nuptial meaning of the body. It's also in a sense why celibacy is ultimately superior. It's not that they are "rejecting" sex. They are instead choosing to dedicate themselves fully to the Kingdom, or as you said, they are a sign of man ultimately being at the banquet.

I think Steve's point was more to emphasize that first and foremost, we are children of God. A woman does not cease to have meaning if she is never married or has sex, likewise with a man. They still maintain that identity, that dignity, that meaning through their creation in God's image, and ultimately their adoption into the family through Baptism. This point tends to get overlooked in a lot of West's work.

Kevin said...

"I am afraid that I may have contributed to that. While I believe my criticisms of Eden’s thesis are justified, I also think they may be overdone. I needn’t have pointed out so many instances of objectionable tone, for instance. By doing so, I committed the very error that I found in her work. I set a tone of unrelenting opposition to Eden and defensiveness about West’s work. That is ironic and humbling!"

So says Dr. Smith in the response to this article. I think this also casts serious doubt elsewhere about the remainder of the work. Now it is incumbent upon Dr. Smith to walk it back.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

You know, it occurs to me that none of this public debate is really necessary.

If the Westians would like to shut my mouth, and the mouths of those who critique West, then they need only convince their friendly bishops to pose a dubium or two to the Congregation for Divine Worship or the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith:

"Can the Easter Candle legitimately be taught to be a phallic symbol?"

"Can the baldachin legitimately be taught to be a symbol of the altar as marriage bed?"

"Is continence to be taught as a virtue?"

"Are the Theology of the Body audiences to be considered the centerpiece of catechetical importance?"

If the CDF or CDW ruled in their favor, we would be forced into silence. Of course, if either one did not... said...

Again, somehow your not understanding the point I am inquiring about. So let me pose it as questions.

Are all women called to be Mothers? Dr. Alice von Hildebrand would say yes. The book "This is Our Faith" would say yes. Is this true? All women are called to be mothers? So I am talking about Sex as a noun.

Why can't men be mothers? If a woman can be a spiritual mother thus not needing to be pregnant, than why can't a man be a spiritual mother? Because a woman and a mother is known through her sex (noun) which is "revealed" by her having a womb. A man does not.

So does that mean a woman is a mother because of a child in her womb? No, but her female sex is known through her bodies design, thus her calling in life which is to be a mother.

I thought that is what TOB was about? The Body revealing God to us through our sex (noun)which can only be understood in light of the other sex(noun) which of course is sex(verb).

This is a major simplification, but I am trying to discern if I am going in the right direction here. I am not speaking about pregnancy. I am going deeper and talking about design.

I am not denying St. Joseph as being her spouse, rather I am saying that our ultimate calling is to be united with God and she had done this more perfectly than any other human being had ever done until then right? Her flesh was made one flesh with God and it was the fruit of her womb, Jesus.

Kevin said...

Of course such would take years, by then which the entire West dustup would be over.

Let's not kid ourselves, West's reputation has suffered a massive hit over this. Dr. Smith herself pretty much concedes it, as that was one of the reasons she felt compelled to defend her colleague and friend.

If nothing else, this proves his prseentation is no longer the invincible juggernaut many people mistakenly believed it was.

Within the next few years, he will be forced into making some pretty painful modifications to his work (and if he does, everyone should let him do it and encourage him without piling on or gloating!), or he will fade and be diminished into irrelevance outside of a few devout fans. I for one think the second option is neither good nor desirable, since many of the things he presents do have merit, and his voice is a useful one for evangelization.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Aquinas said that our body reveals God only as a trace.

The primary way in which we image God is through our intellect and our will NOT through our body.

John Paul II was a good enough Thomist to recognize that this is true. So, the whole Theology of the Body, insofar as it's promoters do not recognize or teach this, turn Catholic theology literally on its head. These promoters place the soul (intellect and will) below the body in importance.

This is viciously dangerous. said...

Okay, I get what your saying but the title of the work is not theology of the person. It is in fact Theology of The Body so of course the discussion is going to be discussing the design of the body and how it reveals a truth about our creator and our being created male and female, the only two kinds of human bodies that can exist. With me?

I am not putting emphasis on the body being superior to Intellect or my Soul, Heaven Forbid!

I am only discussing design of the physical and what it's language is and what I can learn from understanding it's design as masculine and feminine.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Uh, if you read the Pope's audiences, you'll see that Theology of the Body is supposed to be a theology of the person.

Indeed, if your take were the correct one, there would be no discussion of morality (e.g., lust) in the TOB audiences, since morality is a function of the intellect and will.

The problem is precisely that the Pope followed Thomistic theology in his general audiences, but TOB promoters don't follow Thomistic theology in their expositions.

That's rather a significant divergence, and it is the source of most of your confusion. said...

I would be careful to say that the primary way we image God is through the intellect and soul and not the body. Where are you getting this quote or information or teaching from? I would want to read that.

The sacraments are an outward sign of the inward grace that pours into our soul and it's only means of reception is by a physical interaction with the material. Of course, I would need to think through how then Baptism of desire is made physical but God desires our physical participation or he would not have given us bodies.

To say that some how we are more perfect or more like God only through our intellect and our soul and to exclude our bodies is not Catholic church teaching. I must not be understanding you here. Could you please elaborate? said...

Sure, okay but it is understanding the person through the body and how it is related back to the person. Isn't that why the focus in topic is the body?

I was merely stating that there is a lot of emphasis on the body in Theology of the Body. Just as in Love and Responsibility there is a lot of focus on love. I realize that it is love as it relates to the person.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Read the Summa. It's all in there. Here's an article which quotes one part that addresses this question directly:

You say "To say that some how we are more perfect or more like God only through our intellect and our soul and to exclude our bodies is not Catholic church teaching."

You are engaging in the Cartesian heresy. We are like God primarily through our souls, our intellect and will.

Your TOB training is shining through. You demonstrate in spades why Chris West is viciously dangerous.

Thank you for the dialogue. This is precisely the kind of "fruits" that Dr. Smith always waves her hands about, but it contains the details she never bothers to explore. said...

Are you excluding the body Steve? said...

By the way, I am talking about imaging God, not saying "like" God.

God does not have a body so obviously we could not be "like" him in body. Our intellect and soul would suffice but I thought you were saying that we can not image him or engage with him exept through our intellect and our soul.

That is what I objected to.

Again, language is so important. I just see so much resistence in you to anything physical. It is like Shakespeare when he said "My thee doth protest to much". What is really going on here? Why does it seem you are hell bent on discarding the value of our bodies in our faith? It also seems as if you think my defense of the body is me some how wanted to over emphasize it. You said yourself, that if anyone criticizes West people go nuts, well when I try and include the body and the sex of the body you seem to go......

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh for heaven's sake.

The human person is the combination of body and soul, the soul being composed of the intellect and will, but simply, in such way that the will can be said to be an appetite of the intellect.

Now, as Rome has pointed out, those who are separated from their bodies (as the holy souls in purgatory or the souls in heaven prior to the Last Judgement and the Resurrection of the Body) are still persons, despite their lack of bodies, yet they are incomplete, thus the need for the Resurrection.

Yet the locus of the person is where the soul resides (in purgatory, heaven, hell or the body), NOT where the body resides (e.g., in the grave).

Thus, the soul is the primary image of God, and the body, being formed by the soul, ineluctably carries the image of God, but as a trace imprinted by the soul upon the form of the body.

While it is true that bodily participation in a sacrament is important, the participation of the soul is crucial. A body from which the soul has departed can receive no sacraments nor graces apart from the providential grace of existence, but a soul which is separated from the body CAN still receive saving grace (e.g., the perfection attained in purgatory).

Would you spend a year studying the Summa? It would do you a world of good.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Alright, Christina, here's a thought experiment.

You go engage with God JUST through your body, without your soul's participation at all.

You know, go engage with God like a corpse would.

Now, try that engagement again with JUST your soul, as a saint in purgatory or heaven would.

Now, which worked better for you?

Do you see why Thomas didn't think the body carried nearly the same importance as the soul?

Do you see why St. Francis of Assisi called the body "Brother Ass" but never attached such a sobriquet to the soul?

Kevin said...

I think there is a misunderstanding on one point:

JPII said the body "makes visible that which is invisble." Yet he never said it does so perfectly. Sometimes the body doesn't accurately depict the soul, but it always depicts certain meanings, aspects, etc.

Viewed in this prism, OF COURSE the soul is superior to the body.

Defenders of Mr. West love to emphasize the "body" of that quote, but never the higher manifestation it represents, albeit in an imperfect way.

Drogo said...

From Bill Haley:

Your strongest point is the theological truth that we are adoptive children before spouses. That should be stressed more than the rest of your article.

Smith was not arguing that Latin per se is a sign of repression, but that all of the manual had been translated from Latin EXCEPT the part dealing with sexuality. It was a sign of repression that only those areas were left in Latin. You are intelligent enough to see that and were perhaps uncharitable to her in not presenting her claim correctly.

Your comment on the new era of internet interrupting the scholarly work encourages unintelligent thought and uncharitable remarks. You should know better that theology and any study takes a discipline of the intellect and will. Truth and charity are the objects of a true study, and you lose credibility when you encourage unintelligent pride like that to rear its ugly head.

Kevin said...

I think he was more pointing out that, just like other places, a PhD is no longer sacrosanct. Dr. Smith had to have known, no matter the intent, the PhD would lend credence to the cause, and she launched something she now wants to take back, making countless "uncharitable remarks" (her words.)

As far as repression, take a look at what Fr. Slater is actually discussing, and then outside of that, he discusses "immodest touches" meant to stimulate "veneral pleasure." That part is in English.

Doesn't sound very repressive to me!

Besides, she omitted the fact that Fr. Slater wrote this work specifically for priests, not laymen, when Latin was well known by all priests. (He mentions this in the preface.)

Dr. Smith did "ready, fire, aim" on this one.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Let us assume English is the national language of the US (I do not say it should be, I merely use this for example). If you are a native speaker of German, and I reply to you in an American magazine in a mix German and English, is the presence of the English passages a sign that I want to repress the truth of those passages from most Germans?

I don't see how that would be true. As an American, it is natural to reply in English.

The official language of the Church is Latin. Even during the Second Vatican Council, some bishops made their entire address to the council in Latin. Were they trying to repress the truth contained within their addresses from their fellow bishops?

If you read books, fiction or non-fiction, written prior to World War II, you will frequently find passages written in Latin, Greek, and French without translation. Were those authors trying to hide the truth from their readers?

No - they were assuming their readers were well-educated enough to read the original Greek, Latin, or French on their own. their assumption was not unfounded. You were not considered educated at the turn of the century unless you could read those languages.

To say that a pre-Vatican II manual retains some Latin is to say that it retains some connection to the ancient traditions of the Church and that it assumed a moderately well-educated reader.

Dr. Smith commits the sin of anachronism to make the conclusion she does. Rather than being uncharitable, I am being far too kind to her.

As a classical languages scholar, she certainly knows the history of her own discipline. She already know all this - but she deliberately mis-represented the pre-Vatican II educational reality in order to make a spurious point to a readership that she knows to be uneducated.

In short, to be perfectly honest, she lied.

Finally, truth is the only real charity. Anyone who discusses God and man's relation to God is doing theology.

The internet is changing the parameters for what constitutes acceptable debate.

It doesn't matter if you or I like that, the fact is, the way debates are going to be carried out are going to be different.

You may find the new modes of expression uncharitable, as the well-heeled 2% of the population who graduated college at the turn of the last century found the influx of GI's into their post-WW II institutions rude, gauche and lacking in polish.

Quite frankly, the old standards for what constitutes "productive" debate are no longer operative. Productive debate now has a much brasher way of being done.

I find it appropriate that this new phase of the debate began on the feast of St. Jerome, the saint who most fully lived out the jeremiad.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

And, just to pile on, which is superior?

To read a passage in translation or to read a passage in the original language?

The original is superior - it contains nuances of meaning that no translation, no matter how good, can carry.

When discussing sex and sexual sin, it is extremely important that nuance not be lost.

Thus, the insistence on retaining the Latin phrasing for an extremely delicate and nuanced subject is an insistence on rigorous accuracy on the part of the both the author and the reader.

Far from repressing the meaning, to leave a passage in the original Latin accentuates the meaning and adds to the emphasis that it is extremely important to fully understand this section.

Sections which are not as critically reliant on nuance and exact meaning might allow translation into a foreign language, but these sections were so crucial that they did not permit that luxury.

Again, anyone trained in a foreign language (or several, as is the case with Dr. Smith) knows this.

So, Dr. Janet Smith is either substantially incompetent in her own field (classical languages) or she is substantially a liar.

In perfect justice and perfect charity, I don't see how you avoid the horns of that dilemma.

If you can point a way out, I would be most grateful.

Drogo said...

It is Bill. I have yet to figure out how to get rid of "Drogo".

The internet should not replace manners in the intellectual order. If it does, then those who foster such conversations are fostering a force destructive of culture and civilization. But you are correct that intellectuals are often more concerned with credentials than the credibility of what is said.

Taking an opponent's comments and misinterpreting them or not giving them a fair due is not a sign of charity. Your reply to me was more on point than your initial post which even went after the seminary formation where Prof. Smith works: not exactly a precise point.

She thinks keeping the Latin in areas of sexuality in those works was a sign of repression. You see it accentuating the importance of the topic. You could have presented your counter argument rather than speaking as if Prof. Smith thinks Latin alone is a sign of repression.

I do agree with your ultimate point that West is mistaken in his theology. I wish you would not couch it in hyperbolic or hasty remarks.

A dull or broad swinging sword tears through an opponent. It may cut out an infection, but it cuts the opponent down.

However, like the Divine Physician's scalpel, the sharpened sword intends to cut without tearing so as to allow the real infection to be excised and healing to commence.

May our swords be sharp and our wounds healed!

Bill Haley said...

Now it's fixed.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


To be perfectly honest, I was so taken aback by a classics scholar who claims to be a theologian denigrating her own Catholic Church using Latin that I simply pointed out that incongruity.

When you asked your question, you forced me to articulate the basis for my shock in a way that the writing of the essay did not.

I composed my analysis of Dr. Smith's essay literally as I read it, and did not stress the Latin remark as it did not figure prominently in her diatribe.

However, your question forced me to contemplate more deeply the utter madness of her position, if she really did take that position innocently.

If it were innocent, yet she still made it, that remark alone demonstrates the total depravity to which Westianism has brought her thinking.

Simply meditating on the extent of that error is breath-taking in its implications of how warped her thought has become.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


To address your other point, we should notice that what constitutes "manners" changes from age to age, within certain boundaries.

So, Jesus called people names, Paul called people names, Jerome and Augustine called people names, etc., etc., etc. The idea that we shouldn't call people names is peculiar to our age.

There is no firm evidence that it is helpful to the proclamation of the Gospel to always refrain from doing this. That is to say, there is no firm evidence that current cultural mores are charitable.

Kevin said...

Mr. Haley,

In the comments thread that follows the article, someone tried pointing this out to her. She circled the wagons around the original argument.

The poster also mentioned Pre-Vatican II moral theology manuals that WERE translated completely into the vernacular, and discussed sexual issues, and they were quite explicit. On that, there was silence.

I'd recomend clicking the link she gives for Fr. Slater's moral theology manual. One doesn't have to be a Latin student to understand what the chapter headings mean. To be fully honest, I honestly wish they would repress that stuff,, honestly had no clue they talk about that kind of stuff in moral theology manuals lol. Gives me a newfound respect for priests in the confessional. If they hear one confession related to the kind of things covered there, they've already got more stomach in those 10 minutes than most people will have in a lifetime.

Scott said...

This is all very ugly, dude. I wonder what the Apostle Peter would think about all of this "scholarly" mudslinging? Whatever happened to charity and love? I thought that was what Christianity was all about? I guess I'm just a naive and misguided Westian. This hatefulness must sell books.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Charity and love do not preclude clear words - just ask Jesus.

It DOES sell books - West has sold millions since he started styling himself and his readers as mystically pure and his critics as depraved Manichean heretics.

He's been using this language for years.

Scott said...

I can't help but think that today's meditation from "The Word Among Us" is relevant to this debate. While I don't necessarily agree that West and Smith require your correction, I strongly believe your opinions should be offered in a spirit of charity and love.

On today's reading (Galatians 2:1-7, 7-14) "The Word Among Us" offers the following from their daily meditation:

"Of course, we should admire Paul for his bravery and his undying commitment to the gospel. But we should also be careful to learn from his missteps and mistakes. The truth - no matter how important it is - cannot stand in isolation, as a solitary pillar upholding the entire church. No, the truth must always be connected with love. It must always be placed side by side with the call to fellowship and communion. Surely Paul could have found a better, more respectful way to preserve both the message of the gospel and the unity of the apostles.

Like Peter and Paul, we must do all we can to work together to serve both truth and unity. By responding to pressure the way he did, Peter gave the believers in Antioch a false impression of Christianity. And by overreacting to the situation, Paul brought the church close to a tragic division. It was only after they took up the whole issue with their fellow apostles - in an act of unity and trust - that it was resolved peacefully (Acts 15:1-31).

Just like Peter and Paul, we too can find the way to unity in our churches and in our homes. All it takes is a humble determination to uphold each other as we work together to honor the truths of the Lord. He can make us one!"

Credit: "The Word Among Us," October 2010, p. 30.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Well, I'm certainly not the kind of person who feels he is capable of standing in judgement of the apostles.

Clearly, the people who wrote that piece are secure enough in their version of Christianity that they DO feel capable of judging the apostles.

I'm impressed.

Not in a good way, but impressed, nonetheless.

Scott said...

I guess that you are so impressed that the whole point about truth always needing to be connected with love is lost on you. Maybe when one's opinion does not reflect the truth, love is unnecessary?

Steve Kellmeyer said...


When Jesus whipped people in the Temple was He being loving?

When he called the scribes and Pharisees names (Blind guides! Hypocrites!) was he being loving? said...

Ya, but your Sham-Wow piece is not in the spirit of wanting to correct, it is mostly anger. Scott has a point, you are filled with rage. Is it Holy rage, I believe that you are sincerely desiring for others to see their errors, however, whether your rage is justified is another thing completely.

As you believe Westians are misled, so do I believe you are missing a more complete picture. We are capable of more freedom than you allow in your understanding of TOB.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Thanks for judging my soul, Christina.

Not everyone has that kind of chutzpah.

Westians do - Chris does it every time an audience member critiques his presentation - but no one else really has that kind of second sight apart from Padre Pio and Chris West. said...

Don't you see Steve that you and I are capable of so much more. Christ came into the world to restore us to the purity of the original creation.

You speak so much about the about the “dangers” of sexuality, it seems as if you believe there is no escape from sin.

I only mean to say that I pick up such a distrust of the body that it seems to reject the possibility that Christ offers us real freedom in this area.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


God bless you, but over and over again your instincts have been demonstrated to be completely wrong.

We've produced Magisterial documents and works from the Fathers and the Doctors. You can't even come up with anything solid from West.

I don't know how to tell you this in a "nice" way, but there it is.

Because you follow West, you continually misunderstand Creation, the Fall, Sin or Redemption.

Stop following your "instincts" and start following what the Church actually teaches.

You aren't a mystic.
You don't know what you are talking about.

Michael said...

You're a bully, Steve (as per Brendan's post, and you're reply)

Love you're work.
God bless you, from the depths of His Sacred Heart.