Sr Helena has been at a Theology of the Body course all week, studying under the masterful Michael Waldstein, and turning his lectures into tweets.
A week or so ago, she had sent me a link to this: Marcel Lejeune at Texas A & M posted a lengthy critique of Dawn Eden's Master's Thesis, which was itself a critique of Christopher West's teaching, especially his earliest teachings, on the Theology of the Body. I was reminded of that today by another post about Eden's thesis, this one favorable to her approach. Both posts are worth reading.
I haven’t read West, so I can’t really say one thing about him or his books, except to give thanks to God that someone recognized the life-changing power hidden in the Pope’s insights, and started to get the word out to others. If TOB is “revolutionary,” perhaps it is in this sense. An example: Decades ago. Karl Rahner remarked half-jokingly that Catholics didn’t know what to do with the doctrine of the Trinity; that most were probably unknowing tritheists. TOB has revealed the Trinity as so much more than a “doctrine” for us to piously affirm; it really is the central truth of life! We always “believed” this, but suddenly have a way to appreciate it and let it truly inform our prayer, our liturgical life, and our relationships. If we let TOB in, isn’t that revolutionary?
For those who find JP2’s talks “often obscurely expressed and suffer[ing], at least to my philosophical mind, many gaps in argument” [Liccione] could it be that they have been working with earlier versions of the talks? As Michael Waldstein has found, the original TOB was a book, practically ready for the publisher when Karol Wojtyla was made Pope, at which point the Curia informed him that Popes don’t publish books as private authors. So he took the material, shifted the order, and presented it piecemeal–which is how it was translated and published in L’Osservatore Romano’s various editions. The first printed books, including the one-volume “Theology of the Body,” relied on these less than optimal texts. Waldstein had access to the Polish originals, in the original order, with their original subheadings, etc. (all of which had been lost in the talks), so the new, critical translation (under the title, “Man and Woman He Created Them”) is really the way to go. Above all, the original order of the topics may resolve a good bit of the obscurity Liccione found.
What I especially love about TOB is the way it brings the whole of Scripture, liturgy, doctrine and “real life” together. As Waldstein, and also Scripture scholar William Kurz, SJ, put it, the Theology of the Body is a sapiential reading of the Scriptures, a wisdom reading of the Bible given to a generation and a culture that is desperately in need of it.
There is so much in TOB that it would be a shame for those who find it life-giving and awe-inspiring to lose themselves in carping with each other or breaking up into camps, rather than promoting its core insights as widely as possible. How useful is it, really, for the new evangelization, to critique other evangelizers? I believe that at this early stage in the service of the Theology of the Body, the most urgent task we have is to make it known to people who are desperate for it.