The Pivotal Question:
Christopher West’s Response to the Recent Discussions
When the public conversation about my work unfolded following my appearance on Nightline last May, I did not think it was wise for me to respond until I had submitted the matter to my local bishops. Now that Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop Kevin Rhoades have issued a statement, it seems appropriate for me to offer some reflections as well.
First, I want to thank the many men and women – former students, married couples, catechists, theologians, seminarians, priests, deacons, religious, and bishops – who contacted me to offer their encouragement during this time. Your prayers and support were a tremendous gift to me. I would also like to thank those scholars and teachers of the faith who wrote in support of me, especially Janet Smith, Michael Waldstein, Michael Healy, Father Thomas Loya, Matthew Pinto, and, of course, Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Rhoades. Your willingness to speak out on my behalf remains a profound consolation.
Second, I want to thank those of you who offered thoughtful critiques of my work and helpful suggestions on how to improve it. I have taken them to heart. Indeed, I have always weighed my critics’ observations carefully and prayerfully. They have helped me refine my approach a great deal over the years and I remain very grateful for that.
That said, much of the criticism that appeared after the Nightline interview significantly misrepresented what I teach. Rumors were repeated so often that subsequent commentators simply treated dubious accusations as fact. Although I do not intend to respond point by point to the various criticisms, it seems I would be remiss as a teacher of the Theology of the Body (TOB) not to reflect briefly on what seems to be the pivotal point of the conversation. It is “pivotal” in the sense that people’s perspective on this point pivots them in very different directions when evaluating my work. This point is also critical in as much as it leads us to what I, and many others, consider to be “the pearl” of John Paul II’s TOB.
I offer these reflections in a spirit of humility and love for all those involved, not in an effort to “defend” myself. I am well aware that those looking for flaws in me will always be able to find them. I, like every interpreter of the Pope’s thought, bring my own personal perspectives,