ABC interview 'sensationalized' Theology of the Body, Christopher West says
Philadelphia, Pa., May 9, 2009 / 11:01 am (CNA).-
Christopher West, a Catholic speaker on Catholic sexual ethics and the Theology of the Body, says the recent ABC television segment about him made understandable but "sensationalized" misrepresentations and distortions. In the interview, West was described as having as his "two big heroes" Pope John Paul II and Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner.
On Thursday ABC News published a story and a seven-minute video segment on its interview with West, describing him as "not your average sex therapist."
"As Christians, we are desperately in need of a renewed vision of our sexuality," West said. "The union of man and woman itself is meant to be here on planet Earth an image, a foretaste, a little glimmer of the eternal ecstasy that awaits us in heaven."
ABC named as West's "two big heroes" Pope John Paul II and Hugh Hefner, reportage West later disputed.
"I actually see very profound historical connections between Hugh Hefner and John Paul II," West told ABC, which reported that West believes each man rescued sex from prudish Victorian morality.
According to ABC, West said Hefner had a "yearning," an "ache" and a "longing" for love, union and intimacy.
On the other hand, West said Pope John Paul II took the sexual revolution further in his "Theology of the Body" which taught that sexual love has been central to God's plan for mankind.
West has sold more than a million copies of his books and more than 3 million CDs. Attendees at his retreats told ABC his talks "revolutionized" their marriages and their views of their spouses.
"Christians must not retreat from what the sexual revolution began," West said in a lecture excerpted by ABC. "Christians must complete what the sexual revolution began."
"We have to bring God and sex back together," he added.
CNA spoke with West in a Friday interview to follow up on ABC's report, asking him to give his opinion on the report and to explain his view of the Theology of the Body and Christian marriage.
"The Theology of the Body is the vision of what it means to be human," West said. "The Theology of the Body teaches us that our bodies as male and female are a sign here on earth of the eternal mystery of the Trinity. Ultimately the mystery of the Trinity is revealed through Christ and the Church.
"Pope John Paul II says that, right from the beginning, the holy nuptials of man and woman are a primordial sacrament, a foreshadowing, a sign that points us to the love of Christ and the Church. Love is sacramental, revelatory."
He said it was "very important" to understand that the Theology of the Body is not only for married people.
It is "for everybody, married, single, or consecrated celibate, because it provides a vision for us of what it means to be human. That was very lacking of the story."
"The story [by ABC] sensationalized some of the sexual aspects," West said.
"Certainly the Theology of the Body provides a beautiful vision for us of marital love. But to reduce the Theology of the Body to its teaching on sexual morality, or to some kind of Catholic version of a sex manual is terribly missing the mark."
He said the ABC correspondents were generally "very professional" and "very interested" in giving a fair hearing to the Theology of the Body. However, the two hour interview and four hours of speaking footage had to be reduced to a 7-minute interview.
"I can understand why they put it together the way they did. They did a decent job," he told CNA, but his concerns prompted him to encourage people to read his articles and books for "the very important context."
Responding to ABC's characterization of Hefner and Pope John Paul II as "heroes," West said the statement was not given proper context.
"I never said Hugh Hefner is a hero, never," he remarked, explaining that Hefner said he started Playboy as a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of Americans' Puritan heritage.
"The point I was making with ABC was that we as Catholics agree with Hefner's diagnosis of the disease of Puritanism, a fearful rejection of the body rooted in heritage of Manicheanism. Sadly, that very important point did not come out in the interview."
"Let the record stand very clearly: the pornographic revolution that Hugh Hefner inaugurated, the medicine that he suggested, proves to be in many ways more dangerous than the disease itself.
According to West, Hefner has remarked that he has never "found the love that's satisfying."
"The man is just going to the wrong menu to feed the hungry," West said.
"We disagree radically, in that we do not agree with his remedy of the disease. Pope John Paul II provides precisely the proper remedy to a 'Manichean' or 'prudish' Puritanism."
In West's view, Pope John Paul II was in agreement with Hefner that the body and human sexuality must not be rejected.
"The very, very important distinction is that Hefner began a sexual revolution of indulgence, of indulging libido, without concern for a proper understanding of the true dignity of the human being and of human love."
While the Sexual Revolution started people talking about sex, this conversation must be brought "into the glorious mystery of why God made us this way in the first place."
"We must redeem the body, redeem sexuality," he remarked. "That's what I mean by 'completing the sexual revolution.' Only Christians can do that because of the work won through the bodily death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."
The Sexual Revolution led people away from a "prudish" rejection of the body, but also led people to "wallow in the mud."
"Now we need to take a bath," he told CNA.
These points were made in his interview with ABC but were cut for the section that was broadcast, West reported.
He added that Pope John Paul II "rescued" sex both from the "fearful Puritanism" in which many Christians are raised, but also from "the pornographic distortion of sex that is rampant in our culture."
West said a hunger for the true understanding of the human body and sexuality is implanted by God, but charged that Christians have placed themselves on a "starvation diet" that leads other hungry people to the "fast food" of pornography.
"Why was Hugh Hefner a successful 'evangelist'? Because eating fast food is a lot better than starving to death," West said. "What Pope John Paul II does is, he shows us that Christianity is considered an invitation to the banquet of love that truly satisfies."
West also disavowed the characterization that he sees the Bible as "the ultimate sex guide," saying he never made such a statement and that the phrase can be seriously misunderstood by "our pornographic culture."
"The Bible provides for us a guide to learn how to love," West told CNA. "Our culture has such emphasis on the mere physical mechanics of sex… the Bible is not a sex guide in that context. Rather, it is an ode to love, an invitation to love as Christ loves."
He also issued a response to the interview on his web site, saying that he is not a sex therapist but an educator, author, lecturer, and faculty member of the Theology of the Body Institute.