Christopher West Calls Critics "Religious Right"

As Christopher West emerges from his "personal and professional" sabbatical, he is revealing that he has not been idle during that time. He took 6 months off to reflect on his approach.  He has clearly come to some firm decisions and has been busy building a large new dimension to his ministry. He has also come out swinging against his critics, calling them people "usually from the religious right." (See more here)

I am not a fan of West's presentation/interpretation of John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" (I first wrote about my perspective on this here) but I've always given him the benefit of the doubt as far as being a faithful, orthodox Catholic. Apparently, he doesn't give me the same credit...But I'm not exactly sure...

Of course, he doesn't even know me. Which is why it was somewhat troubling to find out that he considers me (lumped in with a whole group of nameless critics) to be members of the "religious right."

Honestly, I don't even know what that phrase means when it comes from another faithful, practicing Catholic. Does he mean that critics of his approach are not fully in line with Church teaching? Or does he simply mean to say that he thinks we're all just a bunch of prudes? Does being the "religious right" mean that we think sexual intimacy is bad? Or maybe he just means that we likely voted for George W. Bush instead of Al Gore?  I wear bathing suits and make-up. I enjoy the company of my husband. I attend Mass said in the vernacular. I follow the teaching authority of Rome and don't doubt the legitimacy of the current papacy. Should I be offended by the label?

Until now, I just assumed that West and I were fellow travelers on the same road with different opinions about how to approach the public teaching of sexuality. The Catholic Church is a big, big place with lots of room for reasonable differences. But this changes things a bit...and makes me wonder why a faithful Catholic would find it necessary to paint his growing group of critics with such a pejorative and political term. Very odd.

Even in my criticisms of West's approach, it has not occurred to me to label him as a "moderate" or "leftist" Catholic. I trust he is one of the practicing faithful. His teachings are either orthodox or heterodox, not "right" or "left." And the appropriateness of his language and methods is obviously a question that is still being heavily debated by Catholics all over the directional board: right-leaning, left-leaning, slightly right of center, half-way between moderate and left, 9 hash marks shy of schism....

I have been called a member of the "religious right" many times. But never by a practicing Catholic. The term is loaded with political connotations generally used in debate over moral behavior. Follow a political campaign for a day and you'll hear the label used at least once.  But for Catholics, isn't the question of orthodoxy much more pressing?
Posted on September 21, 2010 and filed under "christopher west", "criticism of chris west", "theology of the body".