Monday, May 6, 2013

Revisitng the "Westian Wars"

When the so-called "Westian Wars" erupted in 2010, I found myself working together with those like Dawn Eden and Fr. Angelo Geiger in attempting to critique some of the more outlandish views of Christopher West in his presentation of Blessed John Paul II's "Man and Woman He Created Them."  If one looked at the tale of the tape, this really was David versus Goliath.  One popular author and several relatively unknown bloggers waging a combox war against one of the biggest Catholic speakers in America, one of the foremost experts on Humanae Vitae, one of the most prominent Catholic publishing companies, as well as the one of the largest Catholic Web Magazines.

I had two goals I hoped to contribute to in the various discussion groups and essays I wrote on the subject.  I not only wanted to contribute to showing how the defenders of Mr. West really were wrong (and in many cases simply defending the indefensible), but also provide an alternative interpretation of the Wednesday audiences, one that went to great lengths to respect Catholic Tradition.

How did we do?  On the first part, I honestly think the small group did better than could be expected.  The "TOB" section of Catholic Exchange essentially ceased to exist as a result of our relentless critique of their material.  Mr. West's own editor even wrote a public essay in which she conceded that his critics had a point, and one of the central points of his theological presentation was erroneous and he should stop using it.  Dr. Janet Smith's much  hyped "response" to Dawn Eden was so lampooned it was yanked, and later reposted in some dark corner of the Internet not many people paid much attention to.  This humble author even contributed a lot of the research that enabled critics to unmask it for the fraud it was.  Due to her work and determination, Dawn Eden had established herself as a major player in the Catholic intellectual circuit here in America, and used her moment of celebrity to write a very strong book in My Peace I Give to You, showing how a robustly Catholic understanding of sexuality and the human person can lead to healing for those who were the victims of abuse.  The critics are mostly silent.  Fr. Loya no longer writes for Catholic Exchange.  They barely even mention their previous history as being one of the biggest promoters of the "Westian" view.  The various critics raised up against us nobody remembers.  On Part One, we won, decisively.

What about Part Two?  Here, I think the results are a bit more mixed.  Dawn Eden had her book, in which I think she provides a fresh bit of insight in how to look at things, and I think she presented a genuine development in how to approach the matter of abuse.  Yet I think on a lot of the other issues, we fell short.  We didn't really explain how the Wednesday audiences should be interpreted within the hermeneutic of continuity.  Once Mr. West and his ilk went quiet, so did we on this stuff for the most part.  Who can blame us?  We covered TOB almost everyday for a year.  We were bored and tired.  Dawn writed to write her book and continue her studies.  Fr. Geiger wanted to get back to Marian chivalry and numerous other things he was doing as a priest.  I started dating someone who I am going to marry in a few weeks, baseball season started and Elder Scrolls V came out.  When the issue died down, Catholic commentators and bloggers found something else to talk about.  When Mr. West released his "response" two years later, it was largely ignored.

Roughly 18 months later I think I've tried to correct this imbalance with some of my recent writings, attempting to show the historical roots of a lot of the concepts Blessed John Paul talked about.  It has been my hope that the passage of time would allow everyone to look at the issue with a fresh perspective.  I've also hoped it would help some of my traditionalist brethren to understand that, at least on this, there's a lot we could turn to which is useful.  Most importantly, I hope this is able to transcend personalities, and get to the ideas.  Before, you had to mention Christopher West, because he pretty much was the only player in the game when it came to how to interpret Blessed John Paul's Wednesday audiences.  That just isn't the case anymore.

So with that in mind, that is how I've wanted to cover this issue from time to time, and can only hope that the work done here can lead to discussions where those with far greater talents than myself can step things up a notch and really contribute.


  1. Thanks for revisiting this. While I knew about Dawn Eden and Alice von Hildebrand's critiques of Christopher West, there are a lot of other names and posts you mention that will send me back to the Net for more research. Once again, I appreciate your expanding my knowledge base on these matters!

  2. There was also Fr. Jose Granados (Called to Love). Sadly some of the best work on the subject is on a blog that went poof with Dr. David Delaney with the wonderfully (or reeedonkyoulusly) named blog "Cosmos Liturgy Sex" which probably was one of the best philosophical critques of the so called "Westian" school of thought on the manner. The blog crashed and he lost everything. Was a real shame to. A lot of people started taking the critques more seriously when he chimed in.

    You might be able to find some of his stuff through the archives if you really want a bit more research.


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