Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dawn Eden's Master's Thesis on Theology of the Body now at CNA

The thesis written by Dawn Eden which critiques Christopher West is now available for free via Catholic News Agency (llink is provided in the body of her post below), which is hosting the 80+ page document on it's website. 

This is very good news because the research offered by Dawn is worthy of time and attention.  I myself have read the revised edition which preceded this version now on CNA.  I felt she did a very good job of detailing some of the main problems, and she does so in a way that is not condescending.  I am hoping to write my own review later.   

Sadly, as with anyone who has raised concerns over the Christopher West interpretation and presentation of Pope John Paul II's writings on the subject, Dawn has come under criticism. It's important to note that the version uploaded at CNA is revised and addresses some of these. 

I have been watching this intense debate for the past year and I've noticed that no matter how charitably someone critiques aspects of West's interpretation and presentation, they are thought to be "attacking" him. The matter has divided many good and faithful Catholics.  I believe that the reason the cork blew so forcefully is that a segment of Catholics has had issues with it for a very long time and dialogue has been suppressed by the wave of enthusiasm. 

Pearls are created by friction.  That which Pope John Paul II wrote will be better understood over time.  The way  it is interpreted and presented will grow over time, and I believe these critiques which are coming out are a necessary part of polishing.  Therefore, harsh rhetoric on either side is unnecessary. 

I strongly advise young people, and parents, to read this thesis and understand the problems.  I will be making a post which compiles arguments on both sides (hopefully, chronologically).  As you read more of these, you will begin to see the themes of concern. 

I believe people need to make their own bishops aware of their concerns - charitably.

Dawn writes (my emphases in bold):

My master's thesis critiquing Christopher West now available for free from Catholic News Agency

Following Cardinal Justin Rigali's homily at the Theology of the Body urging that the "rich content" of John Paul II's Wednesday catecheses "be mined and proclaimed," I have decided to make my master's thesis, "Towards a 'Climate of Chastity': Bringing Catechesis on the Theology of the Body into the Hermeneutic of Continuity," available to all, free of charge. The thesis critiques the presentation of John Paul II's theology of the body that has been popularized by Christopher West and the Theology of the Body Institute, which was founded to promote West's presentation.

Catholic News Agency has generously agreed to host the thesis on its Web site so that the paper may be downloaded for free. The link for downloading the thesis may be found at the end of CNA's interview with me. That article also has space for comments, if you would like to add your own thoughts to the discussion.

The version of my thesis available from CNA is a brand new revision that includes a new preface in which I answer some criticisms that have arisen since I first made the work available. In addition, since some West fans have claimed I do not give his teachings sufficient context, I have included additional examples from his work.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has encouraged me in my research, as well as everyone who has shown their support by donating to support my doctoral studies. (As I have previously noted, my goal is to become a professor of moral theology at a small Catholic college.) If you have benefited from my thesis and would like to support my studies, you may click here to donate.

Thanks also to those who have written me with any kind of feedback on my thesis, whether supportive or not. Submitting my work for public discussion has been a great learning experience. If you would like to contact me, I invite you to do so via my feedback form. Also, I am grateful for any and all "knee-mail"--that is, prayer. I am sending it heaven-ward daily for everyone who reads my thesis, and for everyone involved in the TOB discussion.

Here is one excerpt from the CNA article where the thesis can be found:

Eden’s thesis—which gained public attention in June when she published her official defense on her blog—has sparked controversy among some Catholics, as it critically examines popular speaker Christopher West’s presentation of John Paul II’s teachings.

Among the assertions made by West that she faulted was his claim that the Church’s liturgy “is modeled on the union of spouses,” which he supports by saying the Easter Candle is “truly” intended to be a phallic symbol. Eden countered this by citing documentation from the Consilium—the body of experts charged with revising the liturgy following Vatican II—showing that theologians appointed by the Magisterium had rejected the phallic interpretation of the candle
And, with good reason. You'll have to read the thesis to learn more.

For those who do not know Dawn Eden, you can find more here from her website

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