Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Explanation of Why CERC did not Post Dawn Eden's Thesis

An Explanation of Why CERC did not Post Dawn Eden's Thesis
Here are some highlights:
Erroneous claims
In a footnote in Chapter 1 Miss Eden states that she will show in the succeeding chapter that Mr. West's interpretation of the symbolism of the Paschal Candle "was condemned by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council."13 Anyone who is familiar with Council's 16 documents will recognize at once that this statement is false. Her own references in the following chapter show that clarification on this point did not come from the Council Fathers, but from a commission formed after the Council ended.14 Moreover, while the clarification and other sources cited by Miss Eden demonstrate that Mr. West was mistaken about Paschal symbolism, the guidance issued was explanatory and pastoral; there was no "condemnation."
None of the possible interpretations of this are favourable to Miss Eden. Either she has failed to check her manuscript to correct an obvious and serious mistake that she later detected, or she does not know the difference between documents issued by an ecumenical council and those produced by subsequent Church committees, or she does not understand the difference between correction and condemnation, or she has deliberately or carelessly used exaggerated and inflammatory language, or she has knowingly made a false accusation. These are not the marks of a thesis that warrants affirmation by thoughtful and prudent people.


Lack of systematic analysis
(there is only part here)
Considering Mr. West's treatment of "occasions of sin" (p. 49-55), Miss Eden introduces an eleventh theme that she neglected to include in the comprehensive overview in Chapter 1: "the association of "mature purity" with a man's ability to actively seek out what would be, for other men, occasions of sin, and – instead of being defiled by them – find in them a source of further purification."27
The only evidence she offers for this "running theme" are stories Mr. West told about two of his personal experiences: one at mass, the other at the beach. It is abundantly clear from both of these accounts – as they are given by Miss Eden – that Mr. West did not "actively seek out" occasions of sin, but turned unsought temptations into opportunities for an increase in grace. It is equally clear – again from Miss Eden's account – that he does not recommend the strategy without appropriate reservations. Despite this, Miss Eden goes on to say:

To the best of my knowledge and research, this idea that one should actively seek out opportunities to engage in a "lively battle" against lust is completely novel in the Church's history. (emphasis added)28

If that is true, then credit for introducing this novel idea belongs to Miss Eden, not Mr. West. Her claim that this is Mr. West's position is contradicted by the only evidence she offers to support it.

She suggests that Mr. West's responses to these cultural artifacts are too much coloured by a personal reaction against "puritanism," and that they reflect an insufficient awareness of the objective dangers of such entertainment.33 Based on the material she presents here and the reflections of John Paul II (again, see note 31) the suggestion is plausible. However, it is also clear from what she presents that Mr. West was offering an hypothesis about their origins and suggestions about how to turn them into "teachable moments." He was not, as her heading states, promoting the work of the singer or playwrights.
Taking Chapter 2 as a whole, Miss Eden has failed to provide a careful, systematic and detailed analysis of Mr. West's work in light of John Paul II's theology. It does not substantiate her accusations
Chapter 3
Chapter 3 of the thesis opens with the statement that the preceding chapters showed "that Christopher West's presentation of the theology of the body is compromised by errors and lacunae."(p. 63) Since the preceding chapters did nothing of the sort, and Chapter 3 relies on this claim, it is not necessary to review it.

Summary
According to Miss Eden, Mr. West's presentation of the theology of the body

is "damaging"34

"theologically compromised"35

fails to understand continence as it is defined by the traditional teachings of the Church"36

appears "to validate the culture's preoccupation with sex"37

teaches that the deposit of faith is incomplete and that Church doctrine keeps pace with changing times.38

encourages people to actively seek out occasions of sin, and find in them a source of further purification
None of these accusations are demonstrated by her thesis; the last is shown to be a false accusation by the evidence that she presents to support it.
Sean Murphy

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