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Monday, November 23, 2009

The Discipline

Throughout the history of the Church, the greatest of saints have regularly undertaken personal and severe mortifications in order to join themselves to the sufferings of Christ, as He poured Himself out in the Passion - the expression of Divine Love.

Saints have been known to refuse all comfortable chairs and beds, throw themselves into thorn bushes, deliberately expose themselves to extremes of heat and cold, even whip themselves with a scourge, in order to accomplish this goal. In fact, this last practice, that is, self-flagellation, was so common among those pursuing sanctity that it was known simply as The Discipline.

Now, in a great sign of the possible sanctity of John Paul II, we have the testimony of his closest companions that he, too, mortified his own flesh through use of The Discipline:
Polish nun Tobiana Sobodka, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus order, who worked for Pope John Paul in his private Vatican apartments and at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo near Rome. 
Sister Sobodka said: 'Several times he (Pope John Paul) would put himself through bodily penance. 
'We would hear it - we were in the next room at Castel Gandolfo. You could hear the sound of the blows when he flagellated himself. He did it when he was still capable of moving on his own.' 

The flagellation is also confirmed by another bishop who has given testimony, Emery Kabongo, who for several years was a secretary for Pope John Paul. 
He said: 'He would punish himself and in particular just before he ordained bishops and priests. Before passing on the sacraments he wanted to prepare himself. 
'I never actually saw it myself but several people told me about it.'
Why is this important? Because Chris West has, on numerous occasions, publicly said that anyone who mortifies the flesh in this fashion does not really understand the Theology of the Body. He has mocked the saints who have undertaken physical mortifications, especially self-inflicted physical mortification, as not fully understanding the theology of the body. According to West, such individuals showed their spiritual immaturity, their failure to plumb the full richness of Christian teaching, when they did these things. As Chris himself said, "The Church is at about the level of a teenager in her understanding of human sexuality."

I have personal experience of the errors he has publicly taught in this area. Several years ago, I was present for a three-day weekend given by Christopher West on the theology of the body in a Midwestern diocese. Although it was sponsored by a private individual, the event was advertised throughout the diocese, resulting in numerous diocesan officials being present.

West spent the entirety of Friday evening mis-teaching on the place of suffering in the theology of the body, to such an extent that several diocesan officials took turns walking out of the room because they couldn't stand to listen to his errors. Although not a member of the diocesan staff, I had several friends on staff who were aghast at West's teachings. Because they were staff, they could not come forward easily to confront West on these errors.

So, I waited until all the other participants in the evening had conversed with him and departed. Then I personally entered into a conversation with him in order to privately correct him on his erroneous teaching concerning the place of human suffering in the pursuit of sanctity. Mr. West took enormous issue with my statements and responded in a decidedly unfriendly fashion, shouting at me and physically pushing me.

Others who were in the area but out of earshot, including the man who sponsored his talk, saw Mr. West's actions and personally apologized to me for his response, swearing that they would never bring the man into the area again.

Now it turns out that Christopher West, the self-anointed expert on the Theology of the Body, knows that theology so well that he was inadvertently but implicitly mocking Pope John Paul II's own understanding of TOB.

If we needed any further proof that Christopher West is a positive danger to the Church in his misrepresentation of Pope John Paul II's teaching, this personal testimony as to John Paul II's practice versus Christopher West's "interpretation" should put the final nail in the coffin.

Cardinal Rigali, Bishop Rhoades, I call upon you to discipline Christopher West.


Larry said...

Well said, and I agree. Chris West has been increasingly shown to be spreading dangerous error that poses danger to the souls of many of the faithful.

When I first became aware of the pushback against West within the Church (about a year ago), I did not know quite what to believe, but I decided that I would avoid West and his work. Since that time, I have become increasingly convinced that he is causing scandal and unrepentantly spreading error.

Tancred said...

West is proof that anyone with some talent in public speaking and some talent at huckstering, practically no matter what theology he teaches can hang a shingle under the auspices of the Church.

West is a fraud.

Steve said...

listen up...all you guys must have rocks in your head!!! Chris West and his understanding of JP2's TOB has been a tremendous blessing to the Catholic Church...especially the young Catholics in their understanding human love and sex....

Tim said...

I was at a recent CW presentation and he used the following illustration. Holding up a piece of paper, he said, paraphrasing, "Imagine this is a beautiful painting. A painting of the mystery of man and woman- naked without shame in the Garden." Then illustrating what original sin did, he crumples up the paper into a ball. He said the "classic mistake of religious people is they throw away the painting" as he tossed the ball of paper behind him.

He then spoke of Hefner and that Playboy was his personal response to his puritanical upbringing. CW said most of us were raised in a puritanical home.

He refers to Hefner as the "fast food gospel." He said what Hefner did, unlike the religious people who merely throw away the "ball", was hold up the "ball" and say look at its beauty(as CW held it back up). He did go onto say that JPII took that crumpled up ball and unfolded it to return it back to more of its original beauty.

So there were 3 options. Religious people throw it away ("Body bad, spirit good"), Hefner holds it up to be looked at ("Body good") and then there's JPII who uncrumples the paper in his TOB.

The part of his analogy where I feel he got into much trouble is when CW said "Fast food is better than starving." He said chicken nuggets may not be the best food but it's better than nothing. The "nothing" in his analogy was the religious person who throws it away and the fast food was Hefner. It seems one can deduce from that analogy that pornography is better than the puritanical upbringing of most Christians. JPII's TOB may take the gold medal but Playboy takes the silver? Follow his "logic" and what are you left with? A good understanding?