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Cardinal, bishop express ‘strong support’ for Christopher West’s work

September 18, 2009

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania have expressed “strong support” for the work of Christopher West in a letter dated August 10 and released September 17. West is a research fellow of the Theology of the Body Institute, which seeks to make Pope John Paul II’s general audiences on marriage and Humanae Vitae more accessible to contemporary culture.

West’s work has occasioned a rare split among Catholic scholars who defend the Church's teaching on contraception, marriage, and family life. Janet Smith and Michael Waldstein have strongly defended his work following controversial comments West made on Nightline, while Alice von Hildebrand, James Likoudis, and David Schindler have questioned whether West's language sufficiently respects the modesty proper to discussions of sexuality and whether his work takes adequate account of Catholic teaching on concupiscence.

Backing West, Cardinal Rigali (in whose archdiocese the Theology of the Body Institute is located) and Bishop Rhoades (West’s local ordinary) write:

We are convinced that John Paul II's Theology of the Body is a treasure for the Church, indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time. Yet, its scholarly language needs to be "translated" into more accessible categories if the average person is to benefit from it. To do this is the specific mission of the Theology of the Body Institute, and we believe that Christopher West, the Institute's popular lecturer and spokesman, has been given a particular charism to carry out this mission. With great skill as a presenter, with keen insight as a thinker, and with profound reverence for the mystery of human sexuality, he has been able to reach thousands in our sexually wounded culture with the Gospel of salvation in Christ.

In light of recent discussions, we are happy to state our full confidence in Christopher, who continues to show great responsibility and openness in listening carefully to various observations and reflections on his work and in taking them into account. He and the Theology of the Body Institute are in communication with us, their local ordinaries. They work with our episcopal blessing. In our view their programs, courses, and materials reflect strong fidelity to the teaching of the Church and to the thought of Pope John Paul II. As such, we consider them of superb value for promoting the New Evangelization.

We sincerely hope that Christopher will continue his much needed work in the Church. He does so with our enthusiastic encouragement …


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