Dark Night Arrives

Finally, today, I had a box in my mailbox — I was hoping, and it turned out to be the box for which I have been waiting. The Fall catalog of Roman Catholic Books advertised this saucy title from Dr. Alice von Hildebrand:
dark night

It is precisely what it says:  a critique of the Theology of the Body movement afoot these days. I underline movement because there is at least three or four different things roaming our lands identifying themselves with that name.

  • First, there is the 129 wednesday audiences from Pope John Paul II — that is the actual Theology of the Body.
  • Second, there is a campy series of talks and lectures given by traveling speakers, most notably Christopher West, but others as well. It is touted as the cause celeb and many people claim to be experts after listening to an hour talk and buying a book.
  • Third, there is a movement comprised of people applying and misapplying what they wanted to hear at these talks.
  • Fourth, there is everyone caught in the headlights of this mess who don’t really know about it but think they need to support it because they think all of it is John Paul II, so they won’t suffer the appearances of critical discussion.

To get things straight, I recall seeing one of these talks years ago and laughing in my sleeve at it. It struck me as a cross between Anthony Robbins, an infomercial, and some sprinkles of Catholic words on top so that everyone got the idea that it was supposed to be Catholic. Nowhere in it did I encounter advice or practical tips that matched the advice I had received from older, wiser, and far better read priests in the years prior to the arrival of this circus show movement.

POINT ONE:  the practice of chastity begins with telling the truth. That’s easy to comprehend. I really meant it when I posted this article last year — the problem of chastity, even in instructing young people today, is one caused by the crisis of truth in people’s minds and speech. It’s an easy concept — to delve into the life of promiscuity requires internal lying, and a choice by the unchaste to accept and develop the lies. If lies are at the root, then telling the truth begins the remedy. Like all the virtues, it’s such an easy idea to comprehend, but that’s not so easy to practice.

POINT TWO:  there is no defect corrected by or grand discovery in Pope John Paul II’s lectures. His lectures were mostly expository of things known and well discussed in Catholic tradition, with some synthesis in modern terms — it was not new and unchartered territory (as is alleged by many in the movement). The very point of honesty and telling the truth, both with the tongue and with the body was a major assertion by John Paul II. In several places across many of the lectures, John Paul II makes the point that fornication is but one work of the flesh, that Purity begins in the heart, yet, says John Paul II:

“Impure works in the same sense are defined not only as adultery and fornication, and so the sins of the flesh in the strict sense, but also “‘evil thoughts…theft, false witness, slander.'”

False Witness and slander are lies. John Paul II makes this connection in many places — why? Because Catholic tradition has always made this observation of basic human nature!

I challenge you to find such in the “MOVEMENT” afoot today, however.

It follows that liars cannot be intimate with someone, because there will always be a false basis to the things shared between them. Thus, if a person habitually lies, they cannot, without reformation to truth telling, have a relationship with another person as God intended and made us to.

Even Dante’s Inferno makes this point by the stratifications of hell. The people with sexual aberrations are not at the lowest levels — no, the lowest levels of hell were for liars, cheats, frauds, and treachery. The fornicators and other pervasions are still in hell, but it should be obvious to anyone reading here why they aren’t down in the depths of depths with fraud and treachery.

I summarize a larger topic only to make the point that here is something so essential and fundamental to the topic at hand that is never discussed — telling the truth is key to human relationships, even those with sex (marriage). Only on this basis can there be true intimacy — and it follows then that the body will follow. Just as every other practice of virtue starts — errors (lies) are expunged from the mind that the mind can properly inform the will.

THE PROBLEM:  Academic discussion revolves around critical analysis. Ideas are worked out by debate and debate acts as the honing stone that chips away the error from the blade’s edge making it sharp. Have you tried to critically analyze Theology of the Body movements, though? You will be met with aghast looks disdain, shock, horror, and all sorts of other emotional response. Criticism is not welcome among the people who think it is a good thing. Over the years, I’ve come to suspect that such reactions are because most people don’t have actual knowledge of the subject and want to cheerlead. It’s not a satisfying discussion because the ideas are vague and misapplied. What’s worse, omissions are severe and terminally erroneous (such as overlooking the connection to telling the truth).

So how do you convince people that the ToB “movement” is washed up in silliness and doesn’t even cover the most fundamental point? You don’t – not on the mass movement scale at least. People like talking about sex, Hugh Heffner, porn, and perversions and how disordered they are. Telling people that they can learn chastity by telling the truth is like offering them castor oil — it’s not sexy.

Despite wanting ideas and topics that can withstand the strongest critical analysis, most of the cheerleaders resort to emotional fallacies to protect the concept. So there isn’t a good hearty discussion, just acceptance and books sales and a lot of hopeful self-made experts.

Somebody like Dr. Alice von Hildebrand can, however, get people’s attention. I expect I will scratch my head a few times and have to re-read a section here and there, but it will be worth it. This topic consumes so many around us, and a real, heartfelt, and critical discussion needs to happen — despite what is claimed by ToB cheerleaders, JPII didn’t suddenly overthrow 2000 years of Catholic understanding of human nature. So what’s going on?

It’s a short book — the Table of Contents is interesting to me:

dark night TOC 1

dark night TOC 2


I haven’t read it (yet) — but notice even the point where Dr. von Hildebrand arrives:  Chapters 11 and 12 are about truth.

Have you read this book yet? What about Theology of the Body? Have you read John Paul II’s talks themselves or just heard somebody mention it?

This article, Dark Night Arrives is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.
  • Excellent! Indeed, the Holy Father has recognized her excellent work as well. She has been named Lady Alice by Pope Francis:


  • well, Christopher West and the sort read ToB and went on the road to explain it, why don’t you read the Dark Night of the Body….DNotB and go on the road and explain it?

  • Jim Russell says:

    Hi, John–I was intrigued to learn of this title on this, the very day I offered a TOB post of my own with a sanjuanist theme. I certainly look forward to getting a copy of this–are copies currently available from the publisher, or is the release date still in future?

    • Jim Russell says:

      Just fyi–the book *is* available for ordering via Roman Catholic Books. Can’t wait to read through. As to Chapter 5, I certainly hope for a much more accurate critique there than was found several years ago in her co-authored essay on the same subject.

      • Jim,

        That’s not a fair description. Some of the material in the book is certainly things she’s said in other places. The material in the book is not directly available from one source and in a handy book. Rather, it would take piecing together a bunch of other materials.

        You’ve made it obvious that this is a pet topic of yours and that you don’t agree with Dr. von Hildebrand.

        For people seeking to get the book, this book is a great value for a clear succinct and first time in one place expression of Dr. von Hildebrand’s critique of the ToB movements (in other words, her comparison of what JPII said to what these movements teach in the name of JPII).

        • Jim Russell says:

          Hi, John–first, I don’t think “pet topic” is a fair description (or does that mean it’s a “pet topic” for you as well?), nor is it adequate to claim I “don’t agree” with Dr. von Hildebrand. I agree with a great many things stated in this book.

          I ordered the book in “good faith”, so to speak–thinking it was new material and not learning it was pre-existing material I had read before until after ordering it. I just wish the publisher had made it more clear up front for those already familiar with what she has said and published before.

          The “first time in one place” aspect is helpful, to be sure.

          And, this is a great resource for those wanting a glimpse into the Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand perspective on sexuality, purity, and intimacy.

          Yet, in my view, it’s *not* the “comparison” you suggest it to be. But it will be more manageable to outline that aspect in a forthcoming review of the book…

        • jvc says:

          I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I have to agree somewhat with Jim.

          It used to drive me nuts to buy a book from an author (usually a columnist) and find out that his or her book was nothing more than a collection of columns the author had written.

          As an AVH devotee, I’m glad she compiled the material. I think it is helpful to have it in one place. But the publisher could have been more clear that this was a compilation rather than new material.

          I’m not sure it’s entirely fair of publishers to present a book as new to readers as new material when it is entirely previously published material. These books are *never* presented as the compilations they are.

          Just my two cents.

  • […] Sciba, T&C The “Baptism of Desire” Heresy? – Jon Sorensen, Catholic Answers Dark Night Arrives – John B. Manos, Bellarmine Forum Catholicism and Miracles – Russ Rentler MD, Crossed the Tiber […]

  • Chris says:

    We already know what West and his supporters will say: “But that’s not what West teaches. Von Hildebrand has misrepresented or taken out of context what West has said, so her criticisms are not really valid.”

  • […] I have yet to start on Dr. Von Hildebrand’s book… Maybe […]

  • jvc says:

    The first half of the book is identical to the earlier white paper by Alice von Hildebrand on Christopher West.

    For someone who is literally obsessed with debunking Alice von Hildebrand, Jim Russell must be incredibly dense not to realize that the chapter he references is the same material.

    • Jim Russell says:

      So *half* the book is already available for free online? I just paid full price for the whole thing–but then those things happen when one is incredibly dense.. 🙂

  • As someone who has become a “TOB guy” by accident over the years, I think the biggest problem with a lot of West;s critics (and the TOB movement types), is they really ceded ground for far too long that he was being a faithful represenative of John Paul II.

    That started to change with Dawn Eden’s thesis, and I think nowadays the sphere of ideas is a lot bigger. People now realize not only is Big TOB not the only game in town, the game is a pretty one-trick pony one at that.

    Full disclosure, I run a bi-weekly column at Catholic Exchange that ignores the names in the controvesy (much to the chagrin of some!), and instead ask the question: what did John Paul II ACTUALLY teach about the Catechesis on Human Love, and how often is that message found in popular discussions on the topic? Interested commenters can check the link in my name

    • Jim Russell says:

      Anyone who cares to read the TOB corpus and compare it to the West corpus fairly and charitably will find that he is quite assuredly a faithful representative of Blessed John Paul II. It’s really unfortunate that so much energy is being spent trying to show otherwise merely by creating a narrative that has no basis in fact….

      We should be treating our fellow workers in the vineyard better than this.

  • Deacon Scott Dodge says:


    Thank you. This is post in of itself is a healthy corrective. I can only imagine what reading Dr. Von Hildebrand’s book will be like.

    Deacon Scott

  • Jim Russell says:

    Well, just got my copy of “Dark Night of the Body” and read through it. Among the top deep disappointments is that nowhere did the publisher make clear on its web site, catalog, or promo material (at least that I saw)that this is a “book” *entirely* comprising recycled content from three previously available sources–no new content from Von Hildebrand here.

    God bless her, but I just spent $14 plus $4 shipping cost on a volume of previously published material….

    • Piraeus says:

      That is stunning — borderline immoral.

      • Kevin says:

        Not really. This kind of thing is standard practice when it comes to people who write. A collection of their already released essays, letters etc. For those who prefer a hard copy and aren’t going around on the internet looking it up 10 years from now.

        That isn’t immoral. It’s not your cup of tea. There’s a huge difference. If you looked at the titles and didn’t realize that she had already argued this stuff copiously 3 years ago….. you either didn’t read it originally, so enjoy!

        Or you just weren’t paying attention and are feigning ignorance.

        A lot of West’s books are basically every speech or essay he’s already given on the topic. Doesn’t make it immoral if he compiles them for reference purposes. It’s actually pretty helpful for people like me who prefer to read the actual source material, not commentary on what someone said.

        So really, both of you, knock it off with the outrageous outrage. 😉

        • Jim Russell says:

          Where do you read that I was “outraged”, Kevin?

          I was *disappointed*–or am I the only one who was hoping for some new insights from AVH?

          As to whether it’s “standard practice” to release a new book by an iconic author without a more up-front acknowledgement that the material was previously available? Pretty sure it’s what used to be called “strategic ambiguity” back in the day when I was in the publications world full-time…

      • G Gimbleton says:

        Piraeus — it is difficult to understand if you agree with him or if you are saying he is borderline immoral?

        Jim, you keep saying that, but you always make everyone else do a bunch of leg work and list things or you don’t believe them. I have not seen everything that is listed to be in this book previously published myself, so why don’t you fly a kite instead of moaning and complaining here? I’m not sure what sort of scholar you think you are, but your review said nothing substantial. You did say you read the book and you think she didn’t say anything that the title implies. I think she did. But I don’t have have to prove my point, you do, because that’s the burden you put on everyone else. Good luck with that kite.

        • Piraeus says:

          I’m agreeing with Jim. To market a book on a topic that the publisher surely knows will draw a lot of attention and failing to mention that the book contains no original material is dishonest.

          • jvc says:

            In bad taste? Perhaps – even probably. Immoral? Not really. Publishers do this with writers all the time. They assume, correctly, that people will want a compilation of the writer’s work. A lot of people will actually buy books that are compilations. I have consciously bought several myself. (Others I have unconsciously bought…)

        • Jim Russell says:

          Hi, GG–the *main* title (“Dark Night of the Body”) appears nowhere else in the book, but the *subtitle* coordinates with the content–that’s what I had said. In any case, thanks for offering your two cents. Once I was able to “frame” the book in the right light, I definitely thought it worth the read–which is more or less the point of my review.

  • Jim Russell says:

    “Have you read this book yet? What about Theology of the Body? Have you read John Paul II’s talks themselves or just heard somebody mention it?”

    Since last commenting, John, I’ve both read the book and offered a review of it at Catholic Stand. Wondering if you’ve gotten to read it yet, too?

    • I’ve read this book several times already — I will review it when ready. Are you asking if I read JPII’s 129 wednesday audiences popularly referred to as “Theology of the Body”? I quote it in the article above… I’ve read all of them several times over the years, as well as read the works that preceded it (news flash: the audiences weren’t novel). That’s why I complain of the “movement” which leaves people with the impression that the Church didn’t understand sex, desire, and the birds and bees prior to Christopher West. I’ve heard people make this literal claim who were defending the movement… and I was mortified at the sheer idiocy of such thought seeing uttered in a manner that suggested the person was not speaking in jest. Yet, there are some who truly believe such tripe.

      • Piraeus says:

        “Are you asking if I read JPII’s 129 wednesday audiences popularly referred to as “Theology of the Body”?”

        No. He’s directly quoting you.

        • No he isn’t — there is no where that I write that I had not read JPII’s talks.

          There is a place where I say I have not read Dr. V’s book at the time I wrote the post.

          • Piraeus says:

            John B. Manos, are you honestly this daft? You wrote, “Have you read this book yet? What about Theology of the Body? Have you read John Paul II’s talks themselves or just heard somebody mention it?” Jim Russell then quoted you.

          • Piraeus says:

            “there is no where that I write that I had not read JPII’s talks.”

            And no one has accused you of saying such a thing. Quite sensitive aren’t we?

      • Kevin says:

        I guess what I find most interesting is the idea that if you disagree with “the movement” or Mr. West, that means you haven’t read TOB, and you are just being duped by what others said.

        That’s actually what the argument Janet Smith and friends made about Dr. Von Hildebrand: she was a kind but naive old lady duped by that vile woman Dawn Eden whose checkered past obviously disqualifies her from offering any commentary on the manner.

        It’s good to see that everyone is still staying classy in San Diego.

        • Piraeus says:

          The fact that she never quotes from the Theology of the Body audiences seems like a perfectly fair reason to criticize a book that claims to address the Theology of the Body audiences.

          • Kevin says:

            Considering she isn’t disputing the audiences, but rather pointing out how the presentation of many need to be reconciled with the greater Catholic tradition, it behooves her to spend most of her time on the greater Catholic tradition. Or are you implying that there is a rupture between the two? Do you believe that the Church was an immature infant on these manners before JPII, or that for 500 years the Church was in spiritual darkness on the truth of the body? Two of the biggest names in the TOB movement say precisely these things.

            But we also hear “this is nothing new.” If its nothing new, then there’s nothing wrong with the good doctor merely reiterating previous Church teaching and saying we need to read the previous teaching in light of it. But if it is something new….. well, that debate won’t end well.

          • there is no need to quote every speaker who says the things she discusses when she treats the ideas and concepts on their own merits. I suppose that you were hoping to see her wrestle?

          • Piraeus says:

            No, I was not hoping to see her wrestle. That doesn’t even make sense. I was expecting her to directly address the text in question, that is, the addresses delivered by the Pope John Paul II that make up the theology of the body. Apparently she does not do so.

            Let’s say Joe Blow goes around the country giving popular talks on the Summa Theologica. Let’s say I think his teachings are in error and decide to write a book saying so. It would be a little silly if I never quoted a single passage from the Summa or, indeed, made barely any reference to it at all.

        • Jim Russell says:

          If this refers to my comment above, then you’ve misunderstood. Above I quote John’s question to readers, answer it, and then simply ask if he’s gotten a chance to read the AVH book yet, too.

          As to the purpose of the book and the marketing of the book–it really is worth noting that the publisher is framing the content as a TOB corrective–yet none of the essays seem to make that claim about themselves. In fact, it is on p. 47 that AVH says “The purpose of this paper is to compare Dietrich von Hildebrand’s approach to the ‘intimate sphere’ and that of Christopher West.” So the entire first half of the book is explicitly “[caricature-of-]West” vs. “[accurate-description-of-]DVH”.

          Which entirely leaves out any possible demonstration that what West teaches is *not* found in TOB, largely because West [portrayed inaccurately and often through gratuitous assertion] is being compared to DVH, who himself is *not* the author of the TOB corpus. DVH is not JPII, just like CW is not DVH. Those are *three* different people with three different personalities and three different sets of insights regarding similar content.

          It’s Composition 101: If the purpose of your paper is to show how author one (CW) *differs* from author two (JPII), then compare/contrast what each says. Don’t insert author *three* (DVH) and compare/contrast *him* to author one (CW).

          AVH tells us what she’s doing–comparing (what she at least *thinks* is) CW to DVH (and she offers valuable insights on the “intimate sphere” along the way). So, why anyone else would frame it as a *TOB* corrective or as a demonstration of where CW misinterprets *JPII* is beyond me.

      • Jim Russell says:

        No, as noted below, I quoted your post and was wondering if you had yet read the new book.

        As to the claim you “literally” heard–what do you think the person who said it meant by “Church”?

        In any case, West himself would tell you that anyone who thinks *he* is personally bringing a previously non-existent “truth” to this subject is indeed believing in tripe. On that everyone can agree.

  • I am blissfully ignoring all of the comments on this post. Except to say this … http://www.thwordinc.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-emperors-new-lack-of-clothes.html

    • Jim Russell says:

      Hi, John—
      So, regarding the link above, I need to get something clear—first you opt to *delete* a link to a post (which I had in my first comment here) in which I actually let people know what I think about “mature purity,” and then you let stand the link above to a post that takes *half* of a comment I made elsewhere *entirely* out of context and which calumniously tells people what I supposedly mean (“He’s [meaning me] saying that in order to approach mystical union with God, one is required to look at naked ladies without lust. That’s your homework, in other words. Get to it.”)?

      Not only that, but you also add your *own* comment to that post? [“It all just sounds so familiar to me… ‘illumination’ ‘the body is evil and must be tamed’ ‘perfection is when one can separate one’s soul from the evil body’ gee, I can’t remember where I heard that before, though…”]

      It seems to me you’ve got it backwards—shouldn’t you delete the links that misrepresent a person’s views and *retain* the links in which the person speaks for themselves?

      • Jim Russell says:

        Put more simply, John: When a link in your combox forwards your readers to an accusation that a cleric is encouraging the faithful to “look at naked ladies,” wouldn’t you want to be *sure* that’s what the cleric is saying before letting the link stand *or* before commenting on the linked post?

    • Always good to ignore Internet comments. (Yes I am aware of the irony of writing this in an internet comment section.)

  • And another thing. People who would attack women to defend this nonsesne are cowards and cads. Really. Pit West against Von Hildebrand or Eden any day. Not only is this heterodoxy annoying, it is intellectually vapid.

  • AVH isn’t criticizing TOB though. Her main concern is that a lot of “movement TOB” types aren’t being consistent with the overall Catholic tradition.

    Again, this isn’t rocket science.

    • Piraeus says:

      Nor is it rocket science to understand why someone who says that the TOB is not inconsistent with the Catholic tradition while the “movement TOB” is would need to cite and reference the content of the TOB.

      Once again, if Joe Blow is misrepresenting Catholic tradition and using the Summa as his source material, it would seem to be incumbent on a critic to explain how the Summa does not actually match Joe Blow’s version of the Summa.

      • Chris says:

        There seems to be a straw man argument, here. AVH is focusing on a presentation of Catholic tradition, and at times comparing this with West’s ideas. West may claim support for his ideas in JPII and elsewhere, which is certainly disputed by scholars in the area; but that is another issue in itself- that West and others claim to be relaying, and faithfully, the content of “the Catecheses of Human Love.” Thus, an error that seems implicit here, and certainly what is open for debate, is the equation of West or anyone else with JPII’s material, such that a questioning of West is made to be a questioning of JPII and TOB at large, hence the claim that AVH should be citing JPII’s material. But this does not follow. One can even take it a step further and argue that people have used “TOB” as a cover or umbrella to really present their own ideas, and frankly as an excuse to talk about sex a lot. An example of this is the fact that little of JPII’s material is about sexual matters and the body, yet this is the almost exclusive focus of some popular TOB presenters, while some have turned it into a practical sexual manifesto. Hence, criticism of such trends doesn’t necessarily have to involve citations of JPII’s material, in the face of a false, a priori assumption that whenever someone talks about TOB they are talking about the actual content of JPII’s material, or at least accurately. (BTW, the term “TOB” itself is even reductionist and is not the term JPII wanted to be used when presenting the material, but “The catecheses on human love,” which is in fact the official title of the talks.)

        • Jim Russell says:

          Chris, you wrote:

          ****There seems to be a straw man argument, here. AVH is focusing on a presentation of Catholic tradition, and at times comparing this with West’s ideas.****

          The first essay of three—half the book—is AVH deliberately comparing CW to DVH. Right?

          ****Thus, an error that seems implicit here, and certainly what is open for debate, is the equation of West or anyone else with JPII’s material, such that a questioning of West is made to be a questioning of JPII and TOB at large, hence the claim that AVH should be citing JPII’s material. But this does not follow. One can even take it a step further and argue that people have used “TOB” as a cover or umbrella to really present their own ideas, and frankly as an excuse to talk about sex a lot.****

          I suggest you take this line of thinking to the publisher, Roman Catholic Books, as it is the publisher that is placing AVH’s work in the context of a TOB corrective….

          ***** (BTW, the term “TOB” itself is even reductionist and is not the term JPII wanted to be used when presenting the material, but “The catecheses on human love,” which is in fact the official title of the talks.)****

          Actually, Chris, no and not exactly. JPII says the exact *opposite* about the term “theology of the body”. It’s not that it’s “reductionist”—he says it’s actually too *broad* for his reflections. And those reflections did not receive “the catecheses on human love” as a title from JPII.

          TOB 133:1—“The whole of the catecheses that I began more than four years ago and that I conclude today can be grasped under the title, “Human Love in the Divine Plan,” or with greater precision, “The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage.”

          …. “The catechesis of the first and second part repeatedly use the term ‘theology of the body.’ This is in some sense a ‘working’ term. The introduction of the term and concept of ‘theology of the body’ was necessary to set the topic ‘The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage” on a wider basis. One must immediately observe, in fact, that the term ‘theology of the body’ goes far beyond the content of the reflections presented here. These reflections do not include many problems belonging, with regard to their object, to the theology of the body (e.g. the problem of suffering and death, so important in the biblical message). One must say this clearly. Nevertheless, one must also recognize explicitly that the reflections on the topic “The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage” can be correctly developed by taking as one’s point of departure the moment in which the light of revelation touches the reality of the human body (that is, on the basis of the ‘theology of the body’).” (end quote)

          So Chris, you see that JPII says that “Theology of the Body” is too broad for his catechesis, not too reductive. And his preferred and more precise title appears to be “The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage.” But because it took *four* years to roll it out, the “working term” presented throughout the text from early on became the label people could use even *during* the four-plus-year presentation. It’s by no means an erroneous or reductive term for the catecheses….

          • Chris says:

            Jim Russell,

            We are talking about the content of DVH’s book, not how the seller is advertising it, so that point is irrelevant. That was not piraeus’ point, either, to which I was replying. In regard to your comments about the term TOB, the statement that JPII did not designate this as the title is simply false. To address this and the point of the reductionist notion, I will quote the secretary for the pontifical council for the family, Bishop Jean Lafitte, who stated that the term: “…while not incorrect in a strict sense, does not typify the entirety of his Catecheses on human love. The Catecheses were originally what the Blessed Pope himself chose in 1985 to be the first critical publication made by the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome.” He also labels TOB as only involving a “partial focus.” The designation by JPII of this as the title is also clearly announced in the critical edition itself!!! And I’ll also go with Bishop’s Lafitte’s comments rather than yours, about the partial and untypical sense of the term TOB. And in case you doubt the quotes, see: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=1057. In this regard you also erroneously extend the limited use of TOB as a necessary working term to a designation of the material as a whole, but this is not what JPII himself does. That is precisely a view Lafitte is trying to correct.

            This also brings up another point: your English translation is just that, a translation, not the official text. Theology of the body is a term a translator chose to use as the title. People easily miss that kind of thing. The original text uses the term catecheses on human love many times (Catechesi sull’amore umano) although theology of the body is also used, but in very specific circumstances/places, as you note, and not as the overall title but only as a necessary working term.

          • Jim Russell says:


            The term “theology of the body” appears, according to my count, *103* times in the text composed by JPII.

            The term “catechesis [or catecheses] on human love” appears, according to my count, *zero* times in the text itself.

            The term “human love in the divine plan” appears, according to my count, *three* times in the text.

            The term “human love” appears, according to my count, *17* times in the text.

            Why are we debating this point again? Are you saying we *must* use “Catecheses on Human Love” and not “Theology of the Body” because the 1985 single-volume edition in Italian came out under the title “Man and Woman He Created Them: Catechesis on Human Love”?

            The term “Theology of the Body” is the most identifiable term that refers to the work, which is why I continue to use it alongside the term “Catecheses on Human Love”. I have no objections to either term.

      • Alice Von Hildebrand is not criticising Christopher West’s work by saying “It’s not truly TOB”. Rather she is looking at his work as it is in itself, and criticising it on it’s own merits. She does also acknowledge that he has done real good.

  • Chris says:


    May I point out that you are the one that made an issue out of the notion that TOB is reductionist and claimed that it was not JPII who gave it the title he did. If TOB is not typical of the content and most especially is not what JPII wanted to be used, then a question is why are people so insistent on using it and avoiding the actual title and what does it reveal: precisely that it emphasizes sexual matters/the body and tends to reduce the content of the material to that. It also reveals the disconnect between what JPII actually said and what people want to promote or interpret from what he said. It is not simply that this was the title that happened to be given, as though this was just as good as another or someone happened to stumble upon: it is what JPII himself expressly designated to reflect what the material was about and put it in its proper context.

    You arguably destroyed your credibility when you claimed that JPII did not designate the title as he did, for either you knew that and deliberately misrepresented the fact, or you are hardly the expert on the material as you claim, as that is basic knowledge! But you try to get out of this by saying that the term does not appear in your translation. But the whole point is that what you are reading is not, strictly speaking, “the catecheses on human love”, it is only a translation of it, it is not the text composed by JPII. The fact that a translator chose not to render the original and only official text into English with these words- whose meaning is somewhat apparent even without knowing Italian- does not mean that the term is not found in the actual text, just as the rendering of the title as TOB is not the actual title. People simply see the English translation and assume that this must be the original title, etc. As a simple example of this problem, other languages I’ve seen- Spanish, French- do not translate the title into their equivalent of TOB. This is basic theological methodology: for purposes of scholarship or debate about the meaning/interpretation of an ecclesiastical text- theological, canonical- the text is actually the critical edition, the editio typica, or what have you, not a translation. Approved translations- by the Holy See- are a step up, but that is still not the same.

    • Jim Russell says:

      I find it amusing that I have “destroyed my credibility” by quoting from JPII himself from the *text* itself, wherein he tells us what his preferred titles for the entire corpus would be (namely: ***“Human Love in the Divine Plan,” or with greater precision, “The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage.”***)

      And “TOB” not “typical of the content”??? Really? Then why did JPII use the term more than *100* times in the text, while never once using the settled-upon title from the *Italian* in the text?

      Here is what I think you are failing to realize: There is no “there” there on this one.

      During the *four* years in which the audiences were given, in which listeners would hear again and again the phrase “theology of the body” from the very lips of the Holy Father, are you *really* suggesting that putting this work under what he says is “in some sense a working term” (but NOT because it’s reductive but because his *audiences* do not adequately do justice to the term “theology of the body!) is somehow “wrong”?

      If so, why don’t we have any quotes from JPII *himself* stating that calling this corpus the “Theology of the Body” is somehow wrong? Maybe because that’s the term *he* used over the course of *four* years?

      When JPII used the term for four years, did *that* mean he was “oversexualizing” his material? that he was referring to his writing “reductively”?

      Again, why are we debating this point? If you really want to be *uber-strict* about what to call this, call it what JPII’s *preferred* and more precise title was as stated in the final audience: “The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage.”

      Or is that objectionable because it contains the word “body”, too?

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