Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Christopher West and Sex Worship

If continence and avoiding the near occasion of sin (such as an engaged couple limiting the amount of time they spend alone together, or the "Bishop" who turned away his eyes) are not positively real virtues (as Christopher West teaches. Go to this Steve Kellmeyer post for instance), then no virtue can be attained, for prudence is the first cardinal virtue, without which no moral virtue is possible.

Also, if continence and avoiding the near occasion of sin is not a positively real virtue, then fornication and the like are not really sins. For the evil of sin is not a "thing", but is a privation; a privation of the good; and virtue is related to good as sin is related to evil. Thus, if continence is not a virtue, then its privation (as in the form of fornication) could not possibly be a sin.

So let's say someone wants to make millions of dollars by using a Pope's work of theology, pop sex-magic and a lot of ellipsis. Then the above logic can work to that person's favour, because then both continence and fornication are of equal "value", in that they are simply forms of "not going deep enough" in "the ethos of redemption".

Oh wait. That's exactly what Christopher West does. Well shucks, except that it seems he prefers, in his keeping statements open-ended kind of way, you use fornication as an ethos of redemption instead of continence. After all, of the two, fornication puts one right into that necessary sexual mediation that holds the key to one's redemption, doesn't it? Whereas continence...well that's just repressive denial - a "negative". It doesn't take hold of lust and transform it by going deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into it, does it? No Sir-ee-Bob.

As the old saying goes, when you've dug yourself into a hole...keep digging - because eventually you will work your way to China. Those porn makers and those who fornicate - in the teaching of West their sins are only sins because they "stop at the surface".

As Christopher West says at the end of the interview below with Brandon Vogt (an interview dripping at the seams with the sliest corruption of Church teaching), when asked to say something to our sexually distorted modern world: "You're onto something; but don't stop at the surface of sexuality". (It's towards the end of the interview for those who can't endure the whole thing.)





You're onto something, eh? The sex drive and passions as old as the stars and historically well-known to overwhelm a person and cause people to act in all sorts of ways, from King David and before him and after him to teenage boys and girls to adults to everything else and so on and so on and so on...you're "onto something"?

Oh no, there's no pantheistic sex worship going on here ladies and gentlemen, none at all...




If people wish, could you supply some more links to articles and posts concerning how West teaches that continence and avoiding the occasion of sin is not really a virtue in the comment box?

21 comments:

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Hi,Paul--

Since you appear insistent on continuing an exercise that most would view as decidedly UN-Lenten through and through, I would like to ask for some clarification before you proceed to some other point in tomorrow's post.

You wrote that this video is "an interview dripping at the seams with the sliest corruption of Church teaching."

Could you please specify the "sliest corruption"? Where is the part in this video or other sources in which you find West teaching "that continence and avoiding the occasion of sin is not really a virtue?"

Or did you mean to include the word "positive" (as in a *positive* virtue) as you mentioned earlier, but here in this sentence just overlooked it?

God bless you--if you have any particular prayer intentions, let me know, as I continue to keep you in prayer.

Deacon Jim Russell

Deacon Jim Russell said...

"Contingency and perseverance are not perfections of the sensitive appetite. This is clear from the fact that passions abound in the continent and persevering man, which would not be the case if his sensitive appetite were perfected by a habit making it conformable to reason. Contingency and perseverance are, however, perfections of the rational faculty, and withstand the passions lest reason be led astray. But they fall short of being virtues: since intellectual virtue, which makes reason to hold itself well in respect of moral matters, presupposes a right appetite of the end, so that it may hold itself aright in respect of principles, i.e. the ends, on which it builds its argument: and this is wanting in the continent and persevering man. Nor again can an action proceeding from two principles be perfect, unless each principle be perfected by the habit corresponding to that operation: thus, however perfect be the principal agent employing an instrument, it will produce an imperfect effect, if the instrument be not well disposed also. Hence if the sensitive faculty, which is moved by the rational faculty, is not perfect; however perfect the rational faculty may be, the resulting action will be imperfect: and consequently the principle of that action will not be a virtue. And for this reason, contingency, desisting from pleasures, and perseverance in the midst of pains, are not virtues, but something less than a virtue, as the Philosopher maintains (Ethic. vii, 1,9)."

Summa Theologica, Prima Secundae, q. 58, a. 3, ad 2....

Paul--it appears you are arguing with Aquinas, not West.


God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Paul Stilwell said...

Aquinas is saying that in contingency there needs to be desire.

And those prudish engaged couples, well , we all know they have no desire to be virtuous. Oh, and that Bishop too.

Paul Stilwell said...

Also, read Dawn Eden's Master Thesis page 43 to 55.

Also, the very fact that an engaged couple avoids the near occasion of sin with their future marriage in mind makes the avoidance a virtue. For it is geared towards that end of perfection.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Paul--

So where does Aquinas say that continence is a virtue?

In this place, Aquinas says: "But they fall short of being virtues: since intellectual virtue, which makes reason to hold itself well in respect of moral matters, presupposes a right appetite of the end, so that it may hold itself aright in respect of principles, i.e. the ends, on which it builds its argument: and this is wanting in the continent and persevering man. "

So the "continent and persevering man" is "wanting" relative to the "right appetite of the end", correct?

So I am at a loss to explain how Aquinas sees continence as virtue. Can you provide a reference that makes it clear that he does?

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Deacon Jim Russell said...

I read the section from Eden's thesis. In it, she says: "The reading of Aquinas that begins West’s train of thought is reasonably accurate; the
Angelic Doctor does indeed indicate that continence alone, in isolation from right desire, is an
incomplete virtue."

The interesting thing here is that Eden chooses an apparently poorly worded phrase, stating that "continence alone" is an "incomplete virtue."

But that's not what Aquinas says at all. He doesn't say that continence is a form of virtue that is "incomplete", he says that it's NOT a virtue. It's something "less" than a virtue.

I would grant that some of the confusion on this issue resides in the ToB translation(s), as is mentioned in West's latest book in the footnotes--there is apparently a Polish word, if I'm recalling correctly, that in places has been translated as "continence" in English, and thus rendering a phrase as "virtue of continence" in ToB. But the original word in the text there is more rightly translated as "temperance", it seems.

Assuming this is so, this would save Eden several pages' worth of trouble, as it appears she spends some time trying to provide a framework for understand the JP II phrase "virtue of continence" in light of the Aquinas quote.

The problem is that Aquinas' assessment of continence as *not* being a virtue is stated clearly enough. So the real apparent discrepancy is between the Aquinas quote and the ToB translation of JPII rendered "virtue of continence."

I think the idea that JP II is really speaking of the "virtue of temperance" makes a *lot* of sense as it does not create any tension between his use of terms and Aquinas.

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

jvc said...

What is the point of responding to this joker? It's like trying to grab on to a wet eel. I've never seen someone slip and slide so much before.

It really takes enormous hubris to refuse to answer questions in thread after thread and then demand that someone else respond to you.

jvc said...

Also, is has West ever apologized for that horrible botching of the story about the two Bishops? West's error is either morally depraved or he is the worst scholar ever produced.

I'm sure he found a way to double down on the story in his new product.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Hey, Paul--check this out:

Summa II, II, 155, 1--

"I answer that, The word "continence" is taken by various people in two ways. For some understand continence to denote abstention from all venereal pleasure: thus the Apostle joins continence to chastity (Galatians 5:23). On this sense perfect continence is virginity in the first place, and widowhood in the second. Wherefore the same applies to continence understood thus, as to virginity which we have stated above (Question 152, Article 3) to be a virtue. Others, however, understand continence as signifying that whereby a man resists evil desires, which in him are vehement. On this sense the Philosopher takes continence (Ethic. vii, 7), and thus also it is used in the Conferences of the Fathers (Collat. xii, 10,11). In this way continence has something of the nature of a virtue, in so far, to wit, as the reason stands firm in opposition to the passions, lest it be led astray by them: yet it does not attain to the perfect nature of a moral virtue, by which even the sensitive appetite is subject to reason so that vehement passions contrary to reason do not arise in the sensitive appetite. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 9) that "continence is not a virtue but a mixture," inasmuch as it has something of virtue, and somewhat falls short of virtue.

If, however, we take virtue in a broad sense, for any principle of commendable actions, we may say that continence is a virtue. "

Now, *that* seems to get to the heart of the matter.

Aquinas affirms continence is a "virtue" in the *broad* sense, while acknowledging that its philosophical roots affirm it as a "mixture" that falls short of virtue...

So, Eden, West, JPII, Aquinas, etc.--and us--we're trying to navigate some deep theological/philosophical waters.

In this case, Aquinas affirms a "both/and" here--continence is not *precisely* a "virtue" but is only "broadly" a virtue.

This is very interesting to me. And it may more easily reconcile JPII's use of terms with Aquinas, and possibly Eden with West, so to speak....

Deacon Jim Russell

Wade St. Onge said...

JVC: "Has West ever apologized for that horrible botching of the story about the two Bishops?"

I will teach you a second lesson about this debate (I see you've caught on to the first) - pay more attention to what West and his defenders DON'T say than what they DO say. That's the real smoking gun in this debate.

They will focus on Dawn Eden's tone and Dr. von Hildebrand's occasional tenuous anecdote or connection but they won't touch the most substantial points.

The two bishops? There is no defending the indefensible - so they attack tone and assassinate character and hope that if they do a good enough job with these that the readers will just forget all about the two bishops. And unless you have a logical mind and an eye for fallacies, it works.

http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com/2012/02/tob-silence-that-speaks-volumes.html

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Wade writes:

****The two bishops? There is no defending the indefensible - so they attack tone and assassinate character and hope that if they do a good enough job with these that the readers will just forget all about the two bishops. And unless you have a logical mind and an eye for fallacies, it works.*****

Wow. So the ones who are attacking "tone" and assassinating "character" are those defending West? Not those mocking West and calling him all sorts of names? Who knew?

It's just pretty telling when the complaints against West include the complaint that he employed an illustration involving two bishops, inspired by something in Catholic tradition, and because there is more to the original story than he used in the illustration, he somehow is "botching" this and needs to apologize.

Ah, well. But let's get back to Aquinas and the fact that he asserts that continence is not a "positively real virtue", to borrow a phrase from Paul.

Which, of course, pretty much makes Paul's original post (above) moot.

Paul's complaint against West appears based on a misunderstanding of Aquinas. The misunderstanding is...understandable...given that Aquinas uses a bit of "both/and" here--as might JPII himself--when it comes to the "virtue" of continence, which is only a "virtue", according to Aquinas, in the "broad" sense, but not in the technical theological sense, which is *precisely* the sense West identifies when discussing the contrast between continence and virtue.

Hmmmm.

God bless you, Wade and jvc. I hope you are able to find the grace and truth you most need during this Lent.

Deacon Jim Russell

Paul Stilwell said...

"Paul's complaint against West appears based on a misunderstanding of Aquinas. The misunderstanding is...understandable...given that Aquinas uses a bit of "both/and" here--as might JPII himself--when it comes to the "virtue" of continence, which is only a "virtue", according to Aquinas, in the "broad" sense, but not in the technical theological sense, which is *precisely* the sense West identifies when discussing the contrast between continence and virtue."

In the context of TOB continence is a positively real virtue as opposed to West's saying that it could not be called virtuous because: John Paul is talking about continence leading up to marriage, after which he says it become habitual temperance and develops into the more specific theological virtues.

West takes that stage of virtue that happens within marriage and says that it must be practiced by the couple before marriage if they are to truly called virtuous, and that their avoiding the near occasion of sin and practicing continence can not therefore be called virtuous.

Oh, and John Paul was using the term virtue in the exact same way Aquinas used it. There are no several equally valid interpretations. John Paul got it right. West gets it wrong.

Paul Stilwell said...

"It's just pretty telling when the complaints against West include the complaint that he employed an illustration involving two bishops, inspired by something in Catholic tradition, and because there is more to the original story than he used in the illustration, he somehow is "botching" this and needs to apologize."

"Employed an illustration"

"inspired by something in Catholic tradition"

"more to the original story than he used in the illustration"

How very cute. You're weasel words are amazing. Christopher West took a detailed, rather extended account and perverted it, nay, totally destroyed it, and took a few pieces from the rubble and used them to form a bullcrap story while calling it a true account.

jvc said...

Only a true pathalogical liar could distort the story of the "two bishops" to the extent that West did and claim that the original meaning had ANYTHING WHATSOEVER to do with West's manipulation. And you, sir, are a pathalogical liar if you are incapable of seeing this. You disgust me and you are unworthy of the diaconate. May God help save the people in your life.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

jvc--knock yourself out... God bless you, my friend....


Paul--how can you really say JPII is right *and* agrees with Aquinas while West is "wrong" when it is abundantly clear that West is completely adherent to the Aquinas view that continence is not intrinsically virtuous???

That doesn't make sense, given the evidence that Aquinas clearly stands with the ancient philosophical view that continence is not itself a virtue and that it can only be called "virtue" in the broad sense?

The virtue in this case (and in the case of continence in marriage) is clearly "temperance".

And as such, West is simply not "wrong" about this....

Now, for the "two bishops" thing. If you haven't read West's new book, then you miss things like this:

"Based on the ambiguity of the facts, I have come to agree with those who have pointed out that the story of Nonnus and Pelagia is not the best one to use in this context (some reports of their encounter make quite a different point than the one I make). Still, the point that mature purity involves more than "looking away" remains valid regardless of what may or may not have happened between these two saints."

"At the Heart of the Gospel," End note #25.

So, can we move on now that we know West himself no longer thinks it's the best example to use to make his point?

As for me, I'll concede your point as well--the "two bishops" story in original context doesn't merit use as a quick illustration of how mature purity differs from merely "looking away".

And if I'm fortunate enough to meet them someday in Heaven, I'll tell them so personally....

Meanwhile, as long as this torturous and tortuous Lenten "exercise" continues, can we quit with the name-calling and character killing?

Still praying for you all....and I'll be happy to pray for any specific intentions you wish to share.

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

jvc said...

Wow, was that so difficult? You really are an odd man. West admits that he got the story wrong, but you initially defend his first telling of the story?

I guess when the distortion is blatantly obvious, and actually serves to undermine the entire original intent of the distortion, he has to backtrack.

Wade St. Onge said...

It's not the story of the two bishops that is problematic. It's the doctrine he is teaching in conjunction with and through that story that is problematic.

Clearly he has not abandoned the doctrine even if he may have abandoned the story.

It's just like when Dawn Eden gave a good refutation of the Easter candle as phallic symbol in her thesis: although Sr. Lorraine conceded it, Dr. Smith said West should "cease to speak of the Easter candle in this way" not because it is theologically problematic but because "it causes such a ruckus". The same thing is at play here - namely, drop the illustration but leave the theology untouched.

But just because he stops teaching it doesn't mean he has abandoned the teaching, nor does it mean he is ceasing to over-sexualize the liturgy.

The more I see excerpts from this book, the more I realize he has not changed a thing in his theology since his sabbatical, and the more inclined I am to go ahead and finish that book critiquing his theology.

Wade St. Onge said...

Sorry, jvc, I thought you learned the first lesson. I guess you didn't. Let me re-teach you: If a defender of West is a manipulative, intellectually-dishonest, chronic liar, the best response is to simply "ignore" him. It's like a weed - the more you feed it, the bigger and stronger it gets.

Wade St. Onge said...

Except, the only thing, jvc, is if said person is a cleric, you will get fewer blessings and assurance of prayers because said cleric is putting on airs of taking the high road (when it is just his way of being manipulative, condescending, and attempting to look impressive in front of other blog readers).

And that's the last I have to say about that. Now back to the issues at hand ...

jvc said...

Wade, as a student of politics, I am definitely familiar with the strategy of taking a story, or inventing a story, that is convenient for one's position and then abandoning that story once it becomes unhelpful. I have no doubt that is what West and his followers have done with this story.

The real giveaway is that people like Deacon Jim didn't seem to really have a problem with the initial story because, of course, he had no problem with the manipulative theology behind the initial story.

It really is pride, and therefore sin, to believe that a person is so enlightened that he can disregard the natural, biological impulses imbued in all of us in order to adopt the same errors of the Pelagians and the Adamians.

I'll pray for your conversion, Deacon Jim.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Hi, Wade--

I strongly suggest that you go ahead and write your book; just make sure you send it to your bishop for a nihil obstat and imprimatur...

As to my being a manipulative, intellectually dishonest, chronic liar, cite your evidence. Just don't *invent* the "evidence" like you have done before....

As to your accusations that I am not sincere in my good wishes and prayers for you, I am comfortable letting *God* be the Judge of that, not you.

I would much rather face my Lord someday, knowing I have at least tried mightily to pray for and show kindness to those who disagreed with me.

Nothing I would say about theology would have much meaning at all if I proved myself incapable of the most basic and fundamental application of Christ's Redemption--charity, kindness, and a willingness to pray for others.

If I have a "love" for truth, I should also bear that love for truth-seekers of all kinds, especially since the Gospel calls us to speak the truth--in love.

God bless you, Wade, jvc, Paul--you remain in my prayers and I count you among my brothers in Christ...

Deacon Jim Russell