"I am well aware," Christopher West confessed in his recent interview with S+L, "that those looking for flaws in me will always be able to find them."
The popular Theology of the Body author and speaker offered a forthright response to his critics, who last year sparked a surprising public debate among Catholic academics. Theologian David L. Schindler derided a “pansexualist tendency” in West's work, claiming that he too broadly links sex with “all important human and indeed supernatural activity”. Philosopher Dr. Alice von Hildebrand questioned his frequent use of blunt, informal language, commenting that he “lacks reverence”.
Moral theologian Dr. Janet Smith soon responded by defending West's work as “completely sound” and calling Schindler's critiques unsubstantiated. Then, crucially, his superiors Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop Kevin Rhoades issued a joint statement reaffirming their “strong support” and “full confidence” in West, granting their episcopal blessing to the Theology of the Body Institute where he is a research fellow and faculty member.
The eloquent West is quite capable of articulating his own defense and, invoking John Paul II, he maintains that the late pontiff's Theology of the Body is key to overthrowing today's 'culture of death'. Still, looking back on his early years in ministry, he concedes that he would now express some of his arguments differently.
"'You will come to see that your critics will demand perfection of you,'" says West, quoting the advice he received from a bishop. "I humbly admit I don't have perfection to give."
If you missed our interview with West when it first aired on S+L two weeks ago, the Catholic Focus episode is now streaming online.