ABC News Misrepresents Theology of the Body

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

Christopher West, popular Catholic speaker on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, says a recent ABC television segment about him made understandable but “sensationalized” misrepresentations and distortions.

On May 7, ABC News published a story and a seven-minute video segment on an interview with West in which he was described as “not your average sex therapist” and described him as having “two big heroes” Pope John Paul II and Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner.

“I never said Hugh Hefner is a hero, never,” West said during an interview the next day with the Catholic News Agency (CNA), explaining that Hefner said he started Playboy as a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of Americans’ Puritan heritage.

“The point I was making with ABC was that we as Catholics agree with Hefner’s diagnosis of the disease of Puritanism, a fearful rejection of the body rooted in heritage of Manicheanism,” West said.”Sadly, that very important point did not come out in the interview.”

He went on to clarify: “Let the record stand very clearly: the pornographic revolution that Hugh Hefner inaugurated, the medicine that he suggested, proves to be in many ways more dangerous than the disease itself.”

West said the ABC correspondents were generally “very professional” and “very interested” in giving a fair hearing to the Theology of the Body. However, the two hour interview and four hours of speaking footage had to be reduced to a 7-minute interview.

“I can understand why they put it together the way they did. They did a decent job,” he said, but his concerns prompted him to encourage people to read his articles and books for “the very important context” because the ABC story sensationalized some of the sexual aspects.

“Certainly the Theology of the Body provides a beautiful vision for us of marital love. But to reduce the Theology of the Body to its teaching on sexual morality, or to some kind of Catholic version of a sex manual is terribly missing the mark.”

He also disavowed ABC’s characterization that he sees the Bible as “the ultimate sex guide,” saying he never made such a statement and that the phrase can be seriously misunderstood by “our pornographic culture.”

“The Bible provides for us a guide to learn how to love,” West told CNA. “Our culture has such emphasis on the mere physical mechanics of sex… the Bible is not a sex guide in that context. Rather, it is an ode to love, an invitation to love as Christ loves.”

A response to the ABC interview is now appearing on his web site, saying that he is not a sex therapist but an educator, author, lecturer, and faculty member of the Theology of the Body Institute.

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