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.
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.
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?
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...
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.
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.
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)....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."
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)
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?