Eden on West

17 01 2011

Sometimes, it’s good just to read some good old fashioned Catholic debate and see if I can read it with a straight face. For that reason, I am thankful that Dawn Eden put her Master’s thesis on-line for the curious to read and contemplate. Since I have never read Christopher West, I won’t go on the war path too much with him here. Since I have read the original Theology of the Body lectures and found them to be impenetrable gunk with the consistency of a marshmallow, I feel I can comment on general tendencies I see both in the polemicizer and the object of her polemic:

1. Repression: I have to go back unwillingly to my studies of Foucault, but I think it goes without saying that West’s characterization of the pre-Vatican II church as sexually repressed is a perfect example of pop-sociology gone wrong. In Foucault, the greatest repression comes not in silence, but precisely in discourse. That is why, for him, the Victorians were far more sexualized than those who came before them. A far more respectful position towards sex is the silence of the taboo. People speak about something to neutralize it, to bring it out into the open. Who knows? Maybe pre-Vatican II Catholics enjoyed sex way more than we do precisely because they didn’t talk about it.
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