Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Christopher West Criticized by Alice von Hildebrand

Alice von Hildebrand is an amazing Catholic writer. Her deceased husband was one of the greatest theologians in the world - Dietrich von Hildebrand.

She has made comments about the Nightline segment with Christopher West, but I think she is off target with her comments. They are mostly ad hominem and don't address the content. Also, she says she gets the "gist" of the theology of the body, but apparently she hasn't studied it. She says:

“My feeling is that Christopher West has become famous because he started discussing the Theology of the Body, which is extremely appealing topic. The difficulty is that, in the meantime, he became so famous that I do believe he has become much too self-assured and has lost sight of the extreme sensitivity of the topic.”

This is “very troubling” because what she calls the “intimate sphere” is something “very mysterious, very profound, something that has a direct relationship with God.”

“My feeling is that his vocabulary and his way of approaching it totally lacks reverence.”

“Reverence is the key to purity,” she told CNA.” The intimate sphere “is not a topic of public discussion” but is “extremely serious.”

“It seems to me that his presentation, his vocabulary, the vulgarity of things that he uses are things that simply indicate that even though he might have good intentions he has derailed and is doing a lot of harm.”

She said people should not forget that we have been “profoundly affected” by original sin.

It seems to me that she is over-reacting and has some puritanical tendencies in here thinking about sexuality.
She then says:

“I’m shocked and horrified by the words that he uses. His mere mention of Hugh Hefner is to my mind an abomination.”

The reality is that if we avoid the topic, we are condemning millions to a life of shame when they hide the problem of pornography. We need to bring it into the light and talk about it honestly and openly. Also, West is not comparing JPII and Hefner, but contrasting them. Let him speak for himself:


elena maria vidal said...

I have watched her on EWTN for years but never before have I heard Dr. Alice von Hildebrand described as being "puritanical." For one thing, she is Belgian, and as far as I know, Belgium was never a puritanical hotbed. Her husband was Austrian, and the Austrians have never exactly been known as puritanical either. Yes, she has expressed some concerns about Mr. West's presentation, in her usual reserved and modest manner, but I would hardly describe it as being "puritanical." Forgive me for disagreeing with you, but I am surprised to see a beloved Catholic author such as Dr. von Hildebrand being labeled as having extreme Calvinist views about the human body.

Marcel said...

She says that the "intimate sphere" is not for public discussion.

This is fear about sexuality being talked about publicly. We can not have this kind of fear and win the culture wars we currently have. It is impossible.

Sarah said...

I just saw this post. I am glad you brought it up, because I LOVE Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, but I was kind of taken aback by some of her comments.

I agree that reverence is key to purity, and that at times C. West may be irreverent in his manner of speaking, but why address this in an article to CNA? I'm sure he would be open to discussing it with her...maybe she was reacting to the original segment on Nightline, but it would have been a safe assumption that they have their own agenda in presenting C. West which probably isn't accurate to his message.

And then to say that the intimate sphere is not for public discussion...well, maybe in a perfect world we wouldn't have to, but we all know that we're in a fallen world. JPII knew this; he set forth the Theology of the Body in GENERAL AUDIENCES in ST. PETER'S SQUARE.

Like I said, I LOVE Dr. von Hildebrand, and highly recommend her writings to women all the time, but how will we ever fight the culture of death silent and divided?

elena maria vidal said...

Hi, again. I think by "intimate sphere" Dr. von Hildebrand did not mean that sex should never be talked about at all. She herself has discussed many intimate matters in her books, tapes and on EWTN. She is by no means a prude. But as a high profile Catholic writer perhaps she sees it as her duty to point out some flaws in Mr. West's presentation. Similarly, many people have seen fit to publicly criticize Dr. Von Hildebrand, an elderly widow, in defense of Christopher West and calling her "a puritan." That's fine, if that's your point of view, as long as you are truly aware of what puritanism is.