Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sr Lorraine on Dawn Eden, Part 2

Guest post #2 as promised, from Sr Lorraine of "Open wide the doors to Christ." Be sure to visit her site to join in the comments.

In her thesis, Dawn lists ten themes that she says are the major themes in Christopher West's work. She also listed them in the talk she gave at her defense (near the bottom of that page).

Her listing of these themes raises the question: how did she determine that these themes are in fact the major ones of West's work? She doesn't explain her criteria for selecting them. 
This leads to the further question: do these ten themes in fact represent the distillation of West's work? If West himself were to summarize his work in ten themes, would he choose these or something else? Do these themes really capture the essence of his work? Are there others that could have been included? West is basing his themes on John Paul, and several other important themes could be noted, such as the communion of persons, spousal meaning of the body, shame, receptivity, celibacy for the sake of the kingdom, the new evangelization and the culture of death, and most importantly, the theme of self-gift.

If Dawn wants to critique all of West's work, she needs to be absolutely sure that she is presenting his work accurately. Her synthesis is certainly open to debate. My personal opinion is that she's selecting themes that better suit her criticisms of West, and omitting others that are more fundamental but not so open to criticism. This leaves Dawn's thesis vulnerable, since her critique assumes her reading of West corresponds to what he is actually saying, but it may not. Again, this relates to the difficulty I mentioned in my first post, that Dawn has taken on a project that's so broad she can't do it justice.

Guest Post: Sr Lorraine on Dawn Eden

Bi-locating from Sr Lorraine's own blog, Open Wide the Doors to Christ (where you can follow the conversation that has already begun). Be back here (or there) for more, which Sr Lorraine promises; it should be very stimulating.

Dawn Eden has written her master's thesis critiquing the work of Christopher West. She was kind enough to send me a free copy and I read through it carefully. I admire Dawn and thank God for the grace of her conversion to the Catholic faith and the wonderful work she has been doing to promote chastity.

I sent her some lengthy feedback that was more critical than favorable. Since discussion of this is going on in the Catholic blogosphere, I'd like to say something about it without revealing details of her thesis, which she is selling to get some funds for her further studies. So I'll probably do this in a few posts. Here's some intro:

My background in this area is as follows: For the past 16 years, I've been working in our apostolate as a developmental editor. I edited Christopher West's book Theology of the Body Explained (Pauline Books & Media). I also collaborated with Dr Michael Waldstein when we published his translation of the Pope's TOB talks. It was a privilege for me to have carried out this work. Both West and Waldstein are outstanding, dedicated Catholics who are working tirelessly to promote Catholic teaching.

My general impression of Dawn's thesis is that she took on a large project in giving “a comprehensive overview of West’s presentation of TOB.” Since much of West’s work has been in his speaking presentations, to fairly evaluate it would require her to follow the development of his teaching as it has unfolded over the past decade. That’s quite a project. It's so broad that I don't think it's even possible to do it in a master's thesis. To be fair to West, she would need to also contextualize his teachings so as to present them objectively without any distortion. In my opinion, the thesis does not accomplish this objective.

Since West is actively engaged in developing his work continually, her thesis may become dated quite quickly. This point also touches on the question of how West has responded to criticisms. I believe that he has made changes to his presentations in response to various types of feedback. In my personal work with him on his book, he was very open to constructive suggestions and willing to make edits when needed. I mention this because Dawn does not document how West has in fact made changes to his presentations after getting constructive criticism. If her goal is to give a comprehensive overview of West's presentations of TOB, that's a necessary part of the picture.

More to follow...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Women, Sex and the Church

It's the title of an upcoming release from Pauline, and got the attention of Publisher's Weekly. I saw an advance copy of it yesterday and it is fantastic. I think it will especially be helpful to people who struggle with Church teaching. Anyway, here's what Publisher's Weekly had to say in their religion book feature:

Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching
Edited by Erika Bachiochi. Pauline Books and Media, $19.95 paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-8198-8320-9
In this thoughtful and wide-ranging collection of essays, eight women and one man set out to explain and defend the Catholic Church’s teaching on sex, reproduction, priestly ordination, and family. Bachiochi, a lawyer and theologian who edited and contributed to the compilation, opens by calling herself an unlikely candidate for the project because she once “identified with a radical feminist contingent and was adamantly anti-Catholic.” As she learned more about Catholicism’s teachings, she writes, she decided that the church needed a way to explain them as “pro-woman.” The essays she assembled seek to show that the church’s teachings free rather than oppress women. Other contributors to the volume include Sister Sara Butler, a theologian and former proponent of women’s ordination, who wrote the essay on the priesthood, and economist Jennifer Roback Morse, whose essay looks at marriage. Given that this book challenges a popular view of Catholicism as antiwoman, it will be welcomed by those who support the church’s teaching; readers who disagree might still find its perspective provocative.(Aug.)