Recently, in Winnipeg at least, there have been all sorts of people saying that Christopher West is teaching against Catholic beliefs on sexuality.
To fill you in, Christopher West has taken the Theology of the Body series of talks that Pope John Paul II gave early in his pontificate and has "dumbed them down" for easy comprehension. If you've ever read JPII, you'll know he wrote with a style filled with depth and detail - often resulting in the kind of paragraphs that you need to read three or four times because you get distracted by your frequent use of the dictionary.
It's very profound stuff once it's rendered in a simpler form, and I'm blown away by the levels of meaning found in our human form. If the Theology of the Body could be put in a nutshell, this would be it: God created man & woman in his image. We are a representation of a creative God. If God creates us in his image, then to fully participate in our God-imaging humanity, we too much create life in our image. This gives a deep meaning to sexuality, as we are participating in an act that connects us to God in a very mystical way. This also implies that sexuality, as beautiful and powerful as it is, is a mere shadow or glimpse of what God has planned for us in the fullness of our destiny.
You'll pardon me if I quote from C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity yet again:
The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now,would actually have been greater. I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure, were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body - which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any other religion: and nearly all the greatest love poetry in the world has been produced by Christians. If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once.
This is an essential beginning point of the late Pope's messages, which he presented in the late 1970's. Lewis, an Anglican, wrote this in the early 1940's.
Recently Winnipeg hosted a Marian & Eucharistic conference, and the organizers requested that no Christopher West materials be brought to the booths because of some controversy around his writings. Prominent figures in the local pro-life movement are putting out questions on the legitimacy of West's message.
From what I can tell, the controversy deals mainly with West's proclamation that the marriage act mirrors the Eucharist because both are a sharing in the very flesh of the spouse. As a man and woman consummate their marriage with sex, so do we as the Church, the Bride of Christ, seal and enliven our union with Jesus by fulfilling his command to eat his body. By both acts do we become one with our spouse. Sex, as great as it is, is the lesser of the two.
Some prudes turn fifty shades of red when you mention sex in any context, and I think that's where the controversy is found. Like Lewis said, Christianity has always taught that sex is good. If anybody was raised in the Church with an alternate perspective, the only conclusion is that they were improperly catechized. This calls for an effort within the Church to propagate the Christian understanding of sexuality, and that's exactly what West is doing.
If you're interested in receiving a free Christopher West CD for a deeper understanding of what he says, visit The Mary Foundation. Really, it's free (or shipping only, if you're outside the USA), it ships quickly, and there are no gimmicks. Or if you are in Winnipeg, you can borrow mine.