Dear Mr. Shea,
I think, in order to aid your discernment of Christopher West, I ought to offer my own views of the man. Not only has the man garnered the support of Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput of Denver as well as the breathtakingly enthusiastic support of his own bishop, Kevin C. Rhoades, but he has been a major catalyst for the rediscovery of authentic Catholic sexuality. There has not been brought to my attention anything Mr. West has said or done that is anything other than thoroughly orthodox.
I had the opportunity to attend one of Mr. West’s “Head and Heart Immersion Courses” that he offers near his home in Quarryville, Pennsylvania. This opportunity was due in no small part to Mr. West’s organization providing me, a practicing, “gay” man, with a $500 scholarship.
In my case, the study of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body left me cold and indifferent to the philosophy. Grounded as it is in a phenomenology, it seemed irrelevant to me. My own experience, I had been taught, was worthless, my desires evil, my friendships counterfeit. West took a particular interest in me, made a point of physically embracing me and whispering a few lines from Braveheart in my ear. While passionate restraint may not be a talent of his, his hemorrhaging of emotion was able to provide me with an experience of everything he had talked about over that week which was far more valuable than any reasoned argument.
Christopher West, even more so than David Morrison, has been one of the few people who has been able to point to a Savior who has an interest in me, personally. He has absolutely been the only person who has affirmed for me the existence of a Church that would welcome me into full communion, free of caveats, as a man, rather than as some malformed sexual monster.
It seems to me that if there were more men and women like Christopher West in the pews, men and women with same-sex attractions wouldn’t feel the need to search for love in public restrooms, churches like MCC or in legally recognized same-sex marriage. Instead, like a man who puts on a condom, full communion is too often held back from these individuals in the name of “prudence,” psychopathology, increased statistical likelihood of sexual assault, or whatever argument of convenience can be mustered to justify what is, in the end, bigotry.
Has Christopher West made me a saint? Hardly. Has he dispelled any and all doubts and objections I may harbor? Not in the least. I think asking that of anyone, especially in my case, is a little much. What he has done is given me a new method of inquiry at a time when all other avenues have come to naught. In this, he has demonstrated his value as an apologist for authentic human sexuality far more than anyone else in the media.
This tells me, more than ever, that West is on the side of the angels and doesn’t deserve the witch hunt he’s getting. Are there legimate rational critiques of his work? Sure. Nobody’s perfect. But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. And please, if you have an ungovernable impulse to attack West for dining with tax collectors and sinners, just stow it, will ya?