Thursday, July 29, 2010

Custody of the Eyes

The traditional way of avoiding near occasions of sin. (Via Esther.)
In her Theology Master’s thesis, written for the DC Dominican House of Studies, pro-life personality Dawn Eden has critiqued Christopher West’s take on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which is also spread by the Theology of the Body Institute.

A dispute over West’s methods erupted in May 2009 after ABC aired an interview with the prominent Catholic apologist, in which he appeared to make several highly controversial statements. Although West later clarified and said the statements in question were taken out of context, one of West’s former professors, David Schindler, of the Pontifical Institute for Marriage and the Family in D.C., took the opportunity to express concerns about various aspects of West’s approach.

In her thesis Eden, like Schindler, specifies that she does not question West’s intention to be orthodox.  Rather, she proposes corrective measures which she suggests would redeem the “unwitting flaws” in West’s catechesis, which “detract from his intended message.”

For Eden, one of the main contentions with West’s approach is that it opposes traditional conceptions of modesty and the recommended practice of looking away from immodesty (‘custody of the eyes’).
Eden notes that the Catholic Church has traditionally stated that chastity education should include instruction on avoiding occasions of sin. “West states, by contrast, that mature purity is found only in those who are willing to ‘risk’ concupiscence so that they might reap the benefits of ‘union with Christ and his Church.’"
Citing examples from West’s writings, Eden explains that, “By ‘risking,’ he means specifically that men who struggle with lust should practice looking at beautiful women so that they might learn to raise their thoughts and feelings from lust, to joy at encountering the image of God in female beauty.”

In her thesis titled, "Towards a 'Climate of Chastity': Bringing Catechesis on the Theology of the Body into the Hermeneutic of Continuity," Eden argues that such advice runs contrary to traditional Catholic teaching.  In the ninth chapter of the Book of Sirach, Eden points out, men are encouraged to look away from shapely women.
Furthermore she points out that Pope John Paul II, who originated the Theology of the Body, has pointed out that after the loss of original grace, man and woman have a “specific necessity of privacy with regard to their own bodies.”  Eden states that John Paul’s “understanding of modesty—seeing it not merely as a reaction to the potential lustful ‘look,’ but as a requirement for a ‘truly human culture of morals’—is absent from West’s TOB.”


Matterhorn said...

When has the Church ever taught people to take 'risks' in this regard?!

elena maria vidal said...

I was always taught that temptations against faith and chastity should be avoided most diligently.

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