Blog Post

Bishops Express Support for Christopher West

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer Two Pennsylvania prelates have issued a statement of support for the embattled Christopher West, whose work promoting Pope John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" came under fire after he made controversial statements on ABC’s Nightline last spring. In a statement released on Sept. 17, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali, and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the diocese of Harrisburg, expressed their “strong support” for the important work West is doing in educating the public about this important document by the late Pope John Paul II. "We are convinced that John Paul II's Theology of the Body is a treasure for the Church, indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time,” the statement says. "Yet, its scholarly language needs to be 'translated' into more accessible categories if the average person is to benefit from it. "To do this is the specific mission of the Theology of the Body Institute, and we believe that Christopher West, the Institute's popular lecturer and spokesman, has been given a particular charism to carry out this mission." West came under fire after saying in an interview on ABC’s Nightline that there is a “very profound” connection between John Paul II and Playboy Founder Hugh Hefner, and that Christians should “complete what the sexual revolution began.” The comments touched off a firestorm of comments from theologians and Catholic publishers, some of whom accused West of playing loose with the late Pope’s teaching and for trivializing certain aspects of Christian sexual theology.  However, West claims that ABC misrepresented his comments and pulled quotations out of context in order to “sensationalize” the story. According to a statement he issued shortly after the controversy broke, he claimed that the point he was making about the connection between JPII and Hugh Hefner was simply that both men were reacting to an unhealthy Puritanism. Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Rhoades remain confident in West, however, and say they believe his "programs, courses, and materials reflect strong fidelity to the teaching of the Church and to the thought of Pope John Paul II." They go on to say that "In light of recent discussions, we are happy to state our full confidence in Christopher, who continues to show great responsibility and openness in listening carefully to various observations and reflections on his work and in taking them into account." The prelates close their statement by reassuring the public that Christopher West has their blessing and express their hope that more people will avail themselves of the Institute’s valuable training and resources. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®