Dr. Alice von Hildebrand critiques Christopher West’s take on the Theology of the Body, respects the fact that West obviously seeks to serve God and the Church, and charitably points out the places where he drops the ball, sometimes quite egregiously. It’s a pleasure to read and I hope West heeds it.
The reason she’s a pleasure to read is that she hasn’t learned a thing from the Steve Kellmeyer approach, which consists of berating West as a “cultist“, calling Abp. Chaput and anybody else who does not share Kellmeyer’s bitter and all-consuming hatred of West a “Stalinist“, making slashing over-the-top attacks comparing him and William May to Maciel, all while heaping more and more contempt John Paul II’s teaching (“prudentially inept“), the bishops as “freaking heretics“, arraigning George Weigel as a “spineless snake“, admiring his own reflection and comparing himself to Jesus, heaping pity upon himself, raging against imaginary competitors as “media hucksters”, declaring of the Theology of the Body to be the “bloviating” of JPII, and handing down the Grand Inquisitorial verdict on the objects of his burning envy, “They aren’t holy, they are in many respects barely Catholic, but because they are excellent at marketing themselves and their cause, they gain adherents. Instead of teaching the Catholic Faith, they hijack it for their own ends: a remunerative religious order here, a profitable real estate deal there, a lucrative book deal in the corner.”
This is made particularly exquisite by the fact that placed directly opposite this Verdict from Mt. Sinai is this ad for Kellmeyer’s book on the TOB (one of many for the Collected Works of Steve Kellmeyer trumpeted on Kellmeyer’s site):
Now, far be it from me to say a guy can’t plug his books on his own site. I do it all the time. But it’s a bit rich for him to condemn other writers for doing so.
More than this, it’s grotesque for him to write:
I no longer make TOB recommendations because its a shibboleth, and most of the stuff out there isn’t worth the time. TOB is a lot more useless than people think.
JP II bloviated a lot in those TOB audiences. George Weigel, the man who made such a big deal about TOB, was and is a sycophant who used the access he was given to JP II to become “respected.” The more of Weigel I read and hear, the less I respect.
You’re much better off just studying the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Read the writings of the saints. JP II was a nice man and all, but when it comes to TOB, there isn’t really much “there” there.
I did indeed used to write and give talks on TOB. Have you? My book on TOB is a Catholic bestseller, in fact. It is still listed in the sidebar of this blog. It’s been used as a textbook in colleges across the United States, including Boston College and Peter Kreeft, who named it one of the best books of 2005. So?
If you don’t think there are “fads” in Catholic theology, then you are very much mistaken and you have little grasp of how human beings work.
I used to think Weigel was really cool. How could he not be? He was the Pope’s biographer! And I thought JP II was the greatest because I had no adult experience with any other Pope.
It’s ten years later. Now I’ve got Benedict as a comparison to JP II, I’ve had more time to listen to and read Weigel, I’ve spent a lot more time in study of TOB, and I’m realizing that the whole thing is a house of cards.
Now, I’m considered an expert on the subject and I’ve fed my family for years by promoting it. I’m not making any money by trashing it. In fact, I’m having to move to do other things to make up the lost income. So why am I doing it? It’s called “reflection.”
As for self-promotion, absolutely I’ve engaged in it and still do. Anyone who runs a business does. Every Catholic author does. Father Z’s site is a great place to do it. In fact, you should read what I have to say about that in Three Problems
But, for a man with a theology degree and thus few marketable skills (which describes most of the lay people in this business), what else is there to do? I’ve already cut my talks down to the absolute bone, and I’m moving away from authoring books, for precisely the reasons I outline in the essay. The more I see of the Catholic author industry, the more I am sure it is not a path to holiness.
…and then go on promoting his own Theology of the Body book *and* condemning somebody else as a huckster who is only doing it for the money! That takes a special kind of hypocritical gall. If Kellmeyer thinks his own books are built on “a house of cards” and that the TOB is a lot more useless than people think, if he is now the sadder but wiser Catholic who is over his girlhood crush on JPII and has been called by God Most High to denounce and condemn those who hawk books on TOB, then why is he still hawking his books on TOB, even as he gives vent to his bitter rage against West and other enthusiasts for the subject?
Here’s what Kellmeyer should be doing if he ever manages to work up as much integrity as he has pharisaic condemnation for others and pity for himself: Withdraw his book from circulation and stop advertising it.
“Easy for you to say, Shea”. Well, yeah. It is. Cuz I’ve done it. I stopped advertising and selling Not By Scripture Alone (to which I contributed an essay) when it became clear to me that its editor, Robert Sungenis, was embracing a toxic and crazy anti-semitism and I did not want to be associated with or lend my name to his work, lest I lead people to trust his nutty junk as reliable Catholic teaching. Kellmeyer wants to set himself up as judge, jury and executioner, not only of West, but of a lot of other people as “cultists” and “media hucksters”–all while hawking books which, by his own profession, he no longer believes in, purely for the money. And he wants, not merely to condemn their work, but to go around declaring Catholics in good standing with the Church as “barely Catholic”, “freaking heretics” and so forth.
There are real problems with West’s TOB. Alice Von Hildebrand points them out. Others I have spoken with have likewise done a thorough (and charitable) job of outlining the problems–all without acting as though somebody died and made them the judge, jury, and assassin of West’s, Weigel’s, Healy’s, Smith’s, Pinto’s, Chaput’s and sundry other’s souls and reputations. And all without the crowning hypocrisy of saying, “I don’t believe there’s any There there when it comes to the TOB, but keeping buying my books about TOB and ignore Those Media Hucksters over there.”