- How Christopher West and his followers say we should handle concupiscence. Engage it, especially by confronting and indulging near occasions of sin (or what weaker minds would call near occasions of sin). If you see a naked person who is not your spouse, stare at him or her. (In Fr. Loya's memorable admonition, "Look at her butt! Look at her breasts!") If you're afraid that in doing so, your lust will be stirred, that's only because you're a coward. The only way through the purgative way to the illuminative way - the only way from beginner's spirituality to advanced spirituality - is to see naked bodies, to stare at them, and to transform your lust into love. This sounds sordid, but it's highly advanced and spiritual.
- How St. John Paul II says we should handle concupiscence. If we indulge concupiscence, we end up sinning, turning the prophetic language of the body into a lie: for the Theology of the Body is expressed by fidelity to your spouse if you're married and by continence if you're not, which fidelity to our vocations is both a sign of the original innocence of man and woman at creation and also of Christ's fideltiy to the Church, His bride, made perfect at the consummation of time. This is the "language of the body". If you're married, your job is to "reread in truth the language of the body" by means of a lifelong exclusive truthfulness to your husband or wife (both in the actions of your body and in your heart) and concupiscence is always and everywhere an enemy to that. Concupiscence does not lead to God, it leads to a lie, it leads away from God and the truth God intends for our bodies to express. And while we are not totally depraved victims of concupiscence, we are also never fully free of it. Nowhere in the Wednesday Audiences does John Paul II envision concupiscence giving way entirely to "mature purity" in this life, for, until we die, we are in a state where we are at the same time both fallen and redeemed (simul lapsus et redemptus). Therefore, man is not called to indulge concupiscence, Man is Called to Overcome Concupiscence by controlling it.
Which of these courses of action sounds more Catholic to you? West's or John Paul's?
The answer is obvious, for it is, of course, either disingenuous or naive (or simply sick) to pretend that indulging concupiscence can be a spiritually positive act.
Maybe this sort of spiritualizing of sex appeals to frustrated virgins at Catholic Youth Conferences. Maybe it appeals to guys who want to dabble in porn while telling themselves it's a kind of spiritual homework. Maybe it appeals to middle aged housewives who think Christopher West is cute.
But it doesn't appeal to me.
I don't know about you, but I know intimately and deeply the harm that concupiscence can do, the damage that infidelity can cause, the tribute that slavery to lust can exact. And so I don't have patience for the misreading of the Real Theology of the Body that West and his heterodox cohorts are peddling.
Guys in particular, you know how easy it is day to day to be untrue to your wife, to lust in your heart or to stray in your imagination, to think the grass is greener in your neighbor's yard and to fancy a little grazing outside your own fence would do you good. But we know what happens if we give in to those temptations, even in our hearts. We know the pain and death it deals. In fact, you may be tempted to despair, to think that the Old Man within you that keeps stirring up your discontent will never be put in his place. But the good news is this - as expressed by St. John Paul II.
Nevertheless in the sphere of the ethos of redemption the possibility always remains of passing from error to the truth, as also the possibility of returning, that is, of conversion, from sin to chastity, as an expression of a life according to the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:16).
In other words, we don't have to live like this. We don't have to lust after women who are not our wives, men who are not our husbands. We don't even have to long for emotional infidelity, for affairs of the heart. We don't have to tell ourselves that our stupid little sins are somehow special and are leading us to "the illuminative way". Every day, every moment, the chance of conversion presents itself to us. The grace is always there.
For another saint long before John Paul once spoke great words of truth ...
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, [i.e., He expresses the "fidelity" we all are called to] and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13)
Our sins are not special. They are not means of reaching God. They are not ways to make us more spiritual than our fellow Christians. They are common to man, and they can be overcome, through fidelity, so that our bodies and our souls can speak the language of truth.