Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pope Pius XII Contradicts Christopher West

From Sacra Viginitas.

54. It should be noted, as indeed the Fathers and Doctors of the Church teach, that we can more easily struggle against and repress the wiles of evil and the enticements of the passions if we do not struggle directly against them, but rather flee from them as best we may. For the preserving of chastity, according to the teaching of Jerome, flight is more effective than open warfare: 'Therefore I flee, lest I be overcome.' Flight must be understood in this sense, that not only do we diligently avoid occasion of sin, but especially that in struggles of this kind we lift our minds and hearts to God ...

55. Flight and alert vigilance, by which we carefully avoid the occasions of sin, have always been considered by holy men and women as the most effective method of combat in this matter; today however it does not seem that everybody holds the same opinion. Some indeed claim that all Christians, and the clergy in particular, should not be 'separated from the world' as in the past, but should be 'close to the world;' therefore they should 'take the risk' and put their chastity to the test in order to show whether or not they have the strength to resist; therefore, they say, let young clerics see everything so that they may accustom themselves to gaze at everything with equanimity, and thus render themselves immune to all temptations. For this reason they readily grant young clerics the liberty to turn their eyes in any direction without the slightest concern for modesty; they may attend motion pictures, even those forbidden by ecclesiastical censorship; they may peruse even obscene periodicals; they may read novels which are listed in the Index of forbidden books or prohibited by the Natural Law. ... But it is easily seen that this method of educating and training the clergy to acquire the sanctity proper to their calling is wrong and harmful. For 'he that loveth danger shall perish in it;' [Ecclus 3:27] most appropriate in this connection is the admonition of Augustine: 'Do not say that you have a chaste mind if your eyes are unchaste, because an unchaste eye betrays an unchaste heart.'

HT Wade St. Onge


Kevin O'Brien said...

Wade and Deacon Jim, if you'd like to continue your discussion on West, do so at this post and focus on what Pius reiterates here - Church Teaching on the praxis of Chastity as it relates to custody of the eyes, a teaching that West contradicts.

Deacon Jim, I am not troubled that you are defending West. I am troubled that you are defending the errors that we've identified in West.

West's entire approach leads to a rationalization for engagement in near occasions of sin and by implication sin itself in order to prove one's "mature purity". West is trashing Theology of the Body, using it as an excuse for lust and for a Gnosticism that allows the illumined to engage in activities that the lowly prudes call sin.

West claims that Puritanism is the cause of sexual license in our culture. John Paul II contradicts this. West claims that lust can only be redeemed by engaging lust. Pius XII contradicts this. West is turning Church teaching on love into an obsession with sex. Common sense and plain decency contradicts this.

I will say, however, that if anybody makes a case as offensive as equating a doctor attempting to save the life of a naked burn victim and a dirty old man leering at Playboy, I will not put up with that.

Wade St. Onge said...

Further problems for West's doctrine of "fight over flight" and "mature purity and the pure gaze of love" in trying to reconcile it with the Tradition can be found in Pius XII's footnotes.

Paragraph 54 reads: "It should be noted, as indeed the Fathers [90] and Doctors [91] of the Church teach ...". Footnote 91 cites "The True Spouse of Jesus Christ" by St. Alphonsus Liguori (who was to moral theology what St. Thomas was to systematic theology).

In "True Spouse", St. Alphonsus has a whole chapter on "mortification of the eyes".

Now, St. Alphonsus cites the examples of various religious saints that took things to a greater extreme than those of us average laypeople do. That is to be expected when you are called to "the state of perfection". However, St. Alphonsus does encapsulate the Catholic Tradition on this issue - and clearly contradicts West's doctrines of "mature purity" and the "pure gaze of love".

You can read it here:

Or if this link doesn't work, scroll down to pages 217-224 here:

Just as "to become deep in history is to cease to be Protestant", so too "to become deep in the Catholic Tradition is to cease to defend West's theology". Dawn Eden is on the whole correct: West does not interpret Theology of the Body with a "hermeneutic of continuity" with the whole Catholic Tradition.

Wade St. Onge said...

Deacon Jim says Pius XII "doesn't get it" but then he goes on to say he will "trust the man who HAS the obligation and the grace to lead me", namely, Cardinal Rigali. So he chides us for not following Cardinal Rigali but then he doesn't follow Pius XII.

And on top of that, prays that WE will "see rightly"?

And then he goes on to tell us WE are "dishonest" but when confronted with clear teaching from the Tradition, continues to stand by his initial position, but bows out of the debate because he knows he is trapped but says it is rather our dishonesty that is causing him to leave?

Let every reader take careful note: Deacon Jim, who agrees with West's understanding of Theology of the Body, has just pitted himself against the entire Catholic Tradition on this subject, as encapsulated by Pope Pius XII and the greatest moral theologian in Church history, Doctor St. Alphonsus Liguori.

Let every man judge for himself who is right, and choose your side accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this Kevin, i'll make sure to pass this post on to my friends. God bless


Wade St. Onge said...

What a display of mental gymanstics.

You haven't even touched St. Alphonsus. He's the key to properly interpreting Pius XII.

It is clear: Deacon Jim will defend West no matter what the Tradition says, and he will twist the Tradition and create a false synthesis so he can say he agrees with both.

Reader, decide for yourself.

Deacon Jim Russell said...


I would propose that *Pius* is the key to "interpreting" Pius.

I'm not defending West, I'm defending Catholic Tradition.

Will you be able to respond respectfully with something other than saying it's "mental gymnastics" to put #54 of "Sacra Virginitas" in context with #s 48, 57 and 58?

I would also like to suggest a slightly different approach to discussion--namely, can we for the moment set aside specific reference to *visual* temptation and discuss what "Catholic Tradition" might have to say regarding our response to *other* forms of temptation?

For example, how would a person who is blind address the temptation to sin brought about by, say, the voice of his employer, which he finds triggering his disordered appetites?

What would he do to avoid temptation to lust in that situation?

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Wade--we've done pretty well to avoid "heat" and focus on "light"--let's continue that trend with charitable discussion. Thanks.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Deacon Jim, the fact is that you are the one using mental gymnastics. And as far as generating heat rather than light, you really think it's fair to be smug with Wade for being a former seminarian who isn't mature enough to understand how to handle temptation?

I have deleted your comments here because I'm sick of the way you proof text and read things out of context for the sake of making your point - a point that is clearly at odds with Church teacing - and do so with a smug attitude toward your opponent, claiming he's the one being unfair with you.

To think that you are taking this much time to defend engagement in near occasions of sin is mind boggling.

dcs said...

Sometimes we can't avoid occasions of sin. Sometimes we can, and when we can, we should. Otherwise our words when we pray the Act of Contrition are a lie.

That is the teaching of the moralists. We must avoid near occasions of sin as far as we are able; if we are not able to then we must try to render them remote occasions of sin through prayer, fasting, the Sacraments, etc. But that is not the impression that one gets from West.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

No, you've deleted my comments because they don't support your effort to assassinate the character of a fellow Catholic.

Shame on you.

Deacon Jim Russell

Kevin O'Brien said...

For those who want to judge for themselves, at least on this papal document, you will find it here http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_25031954_sacra-virginitas_en.html in its entirety.

Deacon Jim, I've saved your comments elsewhere and may or may not publish them as I see fit. They struck me as dangerous, giving clerical weight to a serious misreading of Church teaching. Your use of proof texts to contradict the plain sense of words is mind boggling. You tried to do the same thing with the Catechism in our previous Debate, and with that history in mind, I have removed your comments.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

BTW, Kevin--prooftexting is when you delete paragraphs from the *same* document you rely upon for smearing a fellow Catholic because the paragraphs show the proper context of the original.

You deleted the words of *Pius* in 48, 57, and 58 without ever *addressing* them.

Sure, delete my words if you want. But to "look away" from the words of Pius himself, deleting them without comment on them?

That's prooftexting.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Meanwhile, I shall stand fast with another "dangerous" cleric giving "clerical weight" to the truth found in West's work--your Archbishop and mine.

Nonetheless, I thank you again--I have been illuminated by my conversation here--I now know that for 20 years Christopher West's long-term goal has been to get people to stand around naked in Church.

Thanks and God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Kevin O'Brien said...

By the way, here's a taste of what Deacon Jim was doing in the comments I deleted.

He was claiming that paragraph 48 of the papal document in question encourages "fighting" rather than "fleeing" temptation, which in the context of our discussion on West means "staring at a naked lady other than your wife" rather than "averting your eyes".

Deacon Jim says of paragraph 48, Hmmmm....stirring on his *soldiers* to the prize of.... *purity*....."let
him who can".....FIGHT, conquer and receive his reward."

Pope Pius using St. Jerome. Soldiers. Purity. Fight. Conquer. CATHOLIC TRADITION."

This is a prime example of a terrible misreading. Pope Pius and St. Jerome are talking about commiting oneself by vow to lifelong virginity. They're saying that such a commitment will challenge one's powers to remain pure and to avoid temptation. They are exhorting consecrated virgins and lifelong celibates to fight for their purity. In no sense is St. Jerome encouraging someone to "fight and conquer" by engaging temptation by staring at naked bodies.

Deacon Jim is arguing that Wade's position "flight is better than fight" when encountering sexual temptation is contradicted by his misreading of this paragraph, and that his misreading of this paragraph amounts to proof of West's errors in Catholic Tradition.

To turn around the words of this simple paragraph is not the kind of thing I will let a clergyman get away with on this blog.

Here's the paragraph in question:

48. Hence, perfect chastity demands, first, a free choice by Christians before they consecrate themselves to God and then, from God, supernatural help and grace.[71] Our Divine Redeemer Himself has taught us this in the following words: "All men take not his word, but they to whom it is given. . . He that can take it, let him take it."[72]

[Note that Pius is quoting Our Lord encouraging lifelong celibacy, not deliberate engagement in near occasions of sin. The paragraph continues ... ]

St. Jerome, intently pondering this sacred phrase of Jesus Christ, exhorts all "that each one study his own powers, whether he can fulfill the precepts of virginal modesty. For of itself chastity is charming and attractive to all. But one's forces must be considered, that he who can may take it. The Lord's word is as it were an exhortation, stirring on His soldiers to the prize of purity. He that can take it, let him take it: let him who can, fight, conquer and receive his reward."[73]


Kevin O'Brien said...

And now Deacon Jim is saying that paragraphs 57 & 58 of "Sacra Viginitas" support his position that "fighting" is better than "fleeing", meaning in the context of this debate that engaging in near occasions of sin is better than shunning them.

Reader, here are the two paragraphs in question. Judge for yourself if Pius is encouraging us to engage occasions of sin or to flee from them.

57. All the more reason why the young clergy, because they are to be trained in the spiritual life, in sacerdotal and religious perfection, must be separated from the tumult of the world before entering the lists of combat; for long years they must remain in a Seminary or Scholasticate where they receive a sound and careful education which provides them with a gradual approach to and a prudent knowledge of those problems which our times have brought to the fore, in accordance with the norms which We established in the Apostolic Exhortation "Menti Nostrae."[100] What gardener would expose young plants, choice indeed but weak, to violent storms in order that they might give proof of the strength which they have not yet acquired? Seminarians and scholastics are surely to be considered like young and weak plants who must still be protected and gradually trained to resist and to fight.

58. The educators of the young clergy would render a more valuable and useful service, if they would inculcate in youthful minds the precepts of Christian modesty, which is so important for the preservation of perfect chastity and which is truly called the prudence of chastity. For modesty foresees threatening danger, forbids us to expose ourselves to risks, demands the avoidance of those occasions which the imprudent do not shun. It does not like impure or loose talk, it shrinks from the slightest immodesty, it carefully avoids suspect familiarity with persons of the other sex, since it brings the soul to show due reverence to the body, as being a member of Christ[101] and the temple of the Holy Spirit.[102] He who possesses the treasure of Christian modesty abominates every sin of impurity and instantly flees whenever he is tempted by its seductions.

Wade St. Onge said...

I would like to reprint a few excerpts from St. Alphonsus.


Gaze not upon another's beauty; for from looks arise evil imaginations, by which an impure fire is lighted up.

"If," says St. Augustine, "our eyes should by chance fall upon others, let us take care never to fix them upon any one."


The saints were particularly cautious not to look at persons of a different sex.

St. Gregory states that the temptation, to conquer which St. Benedict rolled himself in thorns, arose from one incautious glance at a woman.


St. Jerome, though living in a cave at Bethlehem, in continual prayer and macerations of the flesh, was terribly molested by the remembrance of ladies whom he had long before seen in Rome. Why should not similar molestations be the lot of the religious who wilfully and without reserve fixes her eyes on persons of a different sex?"

Brother Roger, a Franciscan of singular purity, being once asked why he was so reserved in his intercourse with women, replied, that when men avoid the occasions of sin, God preserves them; but when they expose themselves to danger, they are justly abandoned by the Lord, and easily fall into some grievous transgressions.

From these examples may be seen the folly and temerity of some religious who [look] upon every object that presents itself, even on persons of a different sex. And notwithstanding their unguarded looks, they expect to be free from temptations and from the danger of sin.

Wade St. Onge said...

Anyone who cannot see the contradictions between what St. Alphonsus teaches and what Christopher West teaches is being dishonest.

jvc said...

Deacon Jim,

What does "fight" consist of? What would someone in a situation of temptation do that would consist of proper "fighting."

In case it isn't obvious, the hang-up with this "strategy" by West-opponents is that "fight" seems to consist of "having watched enough TOB material to become enlightened enough to enjoy the view." Is there something else that would properly be called "fighting"?

Kevin O'Brien said...

I am deleting Deacon Jim's comments because I know from the Lying Debate how he has the ability to argue irrationally, and while he hasn't descended to that level until now, he's fully there now.

For example, Deacon Jim commented ...


Kevin, Wade's position is that "there is NO fight, only flight".

My position is that there is both.


This is not at all Wade's position. And you know the context of this. The argument here is not merely "fighting" by "resisting temptation", the context is your equivocation on what this "fight" consists of.

This "fight" does not consist of deliberately engaging near occasions of sin. It does not consist of testing your mettle or the "maturity" of your "purity" by openly gazing on naked women. That is what this argument is about, but you keep trying to slither around and twist the terms.

Deacon Jim takes a swing at me: "Kevin, you have decided, once again, to abandon honest and open discussion of an engaging and important topic by deleting posts and twisting words and concepts to support your view once it became clear that you could not respond to a claim without losing ground in the debate."

He continues: "I challenge you once again to confront the clear inconsistency being raised: namely that you say that God gives the necessary grace to a med student to look at nakedness without sin, but *not* to a ToB student--and
please don't twist the assertion beyond recognition as you did before by substituting 'dirty old man leering at Playboy' for 'ToB student' in my question.

Man up."

Hope this is man enough for you, Deacon Jim: if you can't see the distinction between an EMT trying to save the life of a naked burn victim and a Christopher West "TOB student" gazaing at a naked lady, there's something wrong with you. If you think you can compare someone thrust into a life or death situation with someone seeking prurient titilation, there's something wrong with you. If you think God would give grace to you so that you can look at naked pictures on the internet because He gives grace to a first responder putting his life on the line to save another, there's something wrong with you.

For the time being, I will be moderating all comments. Deacon Jim's will not be posted. He is banned again, and this time he won't be getting back on.

Kevin O'Brien said...

A reader sends this along ...

"In temptations against chastity, the spiritual masters advise us, not so much to contend with the bad thought, as to turn the mind to some spiritual, or, at least, indifferent object. It is useful to combat other bad thoughts face to face, but not thoughts of impurity."

-St. Alphonsus Liguori

Scott W. said...

Deacon Jim's will not be posted. He is banned again, and this time he won't be getting back on.

You have been a more patient man than I would have been.

jvc said...

I dunno, I get the sense that the deacon was hanging himself pretty well with his contorted statements.

And I was really hoping he would reveal to us the special knowledge required to become enlightened.

Ah, oh well. I suppose that, like all special knowledge, the content consisted of the fact that there is no secret knowledge.

Kevin said...

As DCS said....

When one can avoid occasions of sin, one should. Yet one cannot always do so. God indeed rescues man from the lion pit, but that doesn't mean we should go jumping in there.

Yet I repeat, all of this is not a fruitful discussion. The real question is this: of what benefit does the "redeemed" man acquire by doing as Deacon Russell says?

Wouldn't a "redeemed" man feel rather embarassed if he accidently walked in on a friends wife disrobed? Heck, even the "unredeemed man" feels a bit of embarassment. Furthermore, if he continued to stare, claiming he "was not lusting" would not said disrobed wife probably find something to hit him with and call him a pervert?

That's what I don't get here. How does gazing upon some random woman naked help enhance purity or our understanding of her as a human person?

Wade St. Onge said...

Someone who will go unnamed private messaged me with the following quote from JP2's TOB: "In mature purity, man enjoys the fruits of victory over concupiscence". I was asked, "Wade, what do you think this means?"

The implication he was trying to make was clear: "JP2 is saying the man who has achieved mature purity need not practice custody of the eyes because he can look at naked women and not lust".

Of course, there was no attempt to engage what St. Alphonsus said, although that did not surprise me.

Thanks to one non-contextualized quotation from John Paul II, we can not only dispense with everything that all of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church taught with regards to custody of the eyes, but we can re-define the scriptural and patristic notion of "spiritual warfare" to mean that we continue to look upon scantily-clad women rather than looking away because the latter can in no way be classified as "fighting temptation".

When will this TOB madness end?