National Catholic Register


Yes to West’s Eloquence, No to His Hyperbole


BY Jim Cosgrove

March 3-9, 2002 Issue | Posted 3/3/02 at 2:00 PM


Although I like the fact that Christopher West is speaking about the beauty and nobility of sex and the body, I agree with Mark Lowery: West goes too far. Time does not permit me to go into detail, but perhaps we can address a few points of Mr. West's rebuttal (“Christopher West Responds: Christian Nuptiality and Nuptial Christianity,” Jan. 20-26) to see the type of errors he makes.

“Lowery believes the truth of the body is ‘not the center of Christian life,’” says West. “Yet John Paul believes it's the ‘fundamental element of human existence in the world.’”

To be the fundamental element is not to be the center. By analogy, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith taught in its 1974 Declaration on Abortion, “Bodily life is a fundamental good; here below it is the condition for all other goods. But there are higher values for which it could be legitimate or even necessary to be willing to expose oneself to the risk of losing bodily life.” Bodily life is fundamental, but the spiritual life is central.

“Awareness of the meaning of the body,” as John Paul II put it, is indeed the fundamental element since we all have bodies, but holiness, the life of grace, is the “center of Christian life” (and includes an awareness of the nuptial meaning of the body).

As another example, West quotes the Pope as saying that living the truth of the body always means “the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life.” In fact, what the Pope said was: “This appeal [to rediscover, and realize the nuptial meaning of the body] … always means — though only in the dimension of the act to which it refers — the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life.”

By leaving out the qualifying phrase, West inflated the importance of the appeal. It's only one dimension of the meaning of the whole of existence.

As a fellow graduate of the Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, I would appeal to Christopher West to continue to wax eloquent about the theology of the body, but to please take care not to get too deep into hyperbole. This Theology of The Body is a great antidote to the dualism that was preached by the dissenters from Humanae Vitae, but it is not the center of the Christian life. It's only one essential part of it.


Wheaton, Maryland