The Theology of the Body Debate: The Pivotal Question

When the public conversation about my work unfolded following my appearance on Nightline last May, I did not think it was wise for me to respond until I had submitted the matter to my local bishops.  Now that Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop Kevin Rhoades have issued a statement, it seems appropriate for me to offer some reflections as well.

First, I want to thank the many men and women — former students, married couples, catechists, theologians, seminarians, priests, deacons, religious, and bishops — who contacted me to offer their encouragement during this time.  Your prayers and support were a tremendous gift to me.  I would also like to thank those scholars and teachers of the faith who wrote in support of me, especially Janet Smith, Michael Waldstein, Michael Healy, Father Thomas Loya, Matthew Pinto, and, of course, Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Rhoades.  Your willingness to speak out on my behalf remains a profound consolation.

Second, I want to thank those of you who offered thoughtful critiques of my work and helpful suggestions on how to improve it.  I have taken them to heart.  Indeed, I have always weighed my critics’ observations carefully and prayerfully.  They have helped me refine my approach a great deal over the years and I remain very grateful for that.

That said, much of the criticism that appeared after the Nightline interview significantly misrepresented what I teach.  Rumors were repeated so often that subsequent commentators simply treated dubious accusations as fact.  Although I do not intend to respond point by point to the various criticisms, it seems I would be remiss as a teacher of the Theology of the Body (TOB) not to reflect briefly on what seems to be the pivotal point of the conversation.  It is “pivotal” in the sense that people’s perspective on this point pivots them in very different directions when evaluating my work.  This point is also critical in as much as it leads us to what I, and many others, consider to be “the pearl” of John Paul II’s TOB.

I offer these reflections in a spirit of humility and love for all those involved, not in an effort to “defend” myself.  I am well aware that those looking for flaws in me will always be able to find them.  I, like every interpreter of the Pope’s thought, bring my own personal perspectives, gifts, and shortcomings to the table.  That’s why I remind my readers and students often to “test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21).  The same applies to what follows.

Of Which Man Are We Speaking?

The pivotal question as I see it is this: What does the grace of redemption offer us in this life with regard to our disordered sexual tendencies?  From there, the questions multiply: Is it possible to overcome the pull of lust within us?  If not, what are we to do with our disordered desires?  If so, to what degree can we be liberated from lust and how can we enter into this grace?  Furthermore, what does it actually look like to live a life of ever deepening sexual redemption?

It is abundantly clear from both Catholic teaching and human experience that, so long as we are on earth, we will always have to battle with concupiscence – that disordering of our passions caused by original sin (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 405, 978, 1264, 1426).  In some of my earliest lectures and tapes, I confess that I did not emphasize this important point clearly enough.  The battle with concupiscence is fierce.  Even the holiest saints can still recognize the pull of concupiscence within them.  Yet, as John Paul II insisted, we “cannot stop at casting the ‘heart’ into a state of continual and irreversible suspicion due to the manifestations of the concupiscence of the flesh…  Redemption is a truth, a reality, in the name of which man must feel himself called, and ‘called with effectiveness’” (TOB 46:4).

Many people seem to doubt this “effectiveness” and thus conclude that the freedom I hold out is beyond the realm of man’s possibilities.  From one perspective, these critics are correct.  “But what are the ‘concrete possibilities of man’?” John Paul II asks.  “And of which man are we speaking?  Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ?” (Veritatis Splendor 103). For those dominated by lust, what I hold out is impossible.  But those who enter the “effectiveness” of redemption discover “another vision of man’s possibilities” (TOB 46:6).

The Cry of the New Evangelization

I humbly invite all those who question what I teach about liberation from concupiscence to take a closer look at the teaching of John Paul II on the matter (see especially TOB 43:6, 45:3, 46:4, 46:6, 47:5, 48:1, 48:4, 49:4, 49:6, 58:7, 86:6-7, 101:3-5, 107:1-3, 128:3, 129:5).  It is a point of utmost importance.  Indeed, in a very real way, debates about what we are capable of in the battle with concupiscence take us to the crux of the Gospel itself.  “This is what is at stake,” John Paul II maintained, “the reality of Christ’s redemption.  Christ has redeemed us! This means he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence” (Veritatis Splendor 103).

Oh, what a powerful proclamation!  If we listen carefully to it, it seems we can almost sense John Paul II’s participation in the potency with which Christ proclaimed the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, … to comfort all who mourn, … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61: 1-3; see also Lk 4:18-19).  John Paul II, it seems, was precisely the herald “anointed by the Lord” to bring the good news of liberation to our sexually enslaved world.  Let all who are thirsty come – come and drink the water of life (see Rev 22:17).

What is the alternative to an effective sexual redemption?  If man remains bound by his lusts, is he even capable of loving with a pure heart?  Marriage, in this view, comes to be seen and lived as a “legitimate outlet” for indulging our disordered desires and the celibate life comes to be seen and lived as a life of hopeless repression.  And we end up “holding the form of religion” while “denying the power of it” (2 Tim 3:5).  “Ne evacuetur Crux!” — John Paul II exclaims, “Do not empty the Cross of its power!” (see 1 Cor 1:17).  “This,” he said, “is the cry of the new evangelization.”  For “if the cross of Christ is emptied of its power, man no longer has roots, he no longer has prospects: he is destroyed” (Orientale Lumen 3).

Mature Purity

The teaching of John Paul II is clear: liberation from concupiscence — or, more precisely, from the domination of concupiscence (John Paul II used both expressions) — is not only a possibility, it is a necessity if we are to live our lives “in the truth” and experience the divine plan for human love (see TOB 43:6, 47:5).  Indeed, Christian sexual ethos “is always linked . . . with the liberation of the heart from concupiscence” (TOB 43:6).  And this liberation is just as essential for consecrated celibates and single people as it is for married couples (see TOB 77:4).

It is precisely this liberation that allows us to discover what John Paul II called “mature purity.”  In mature purity “man enjoys the fruits of victory over concupiscence” (TOB 58:7).  This victory is gradual and certainly remains fragile here on earth, but it is nonetheless real.  For those graced with its fruits, a whole new world opens up — another way of seeing, thinking, living, talking, loving, praying.  But to those who cannot imagine freedom from concupiscence, such a way of seeing, living, talking, loving, and praying not only seems unusual – but improper, imprudent, dangerous, or even perverse.

Why, we should ask ourselves, does such a cloud of negativity and suspicion seem to hover over the realm of sexuality?  The distortions of sin are, of course, very real.  But through the grace of redemption, can our sexuality not become in our practical, lived experience the realm of the sacramental and the holy?  Can it not become the realm of a truly sacred conversation?  “To the pure all things are pure,” St. Paul said (Titus 1:15).  But to those bound by lust, even the pure seems impure.  Oh, how tragic when we label as ugly that which is beautiful!

Some people say the redemption of the body is something reserved only for the resurrection at the end of time.  While it is certainly true that the fullness of our redemption awaits us only in the final resurrection, John Paul II insists that the “‘redemption of the body’ …expresses itself not only in the resurrection as victory over death.  It is present also in the words of Christ addressed to ‘historical’ man … [when] Christ invites us to overcome concupiscence, even in the exclusively inner movements of the human heart” (TOB 86:6).

And here we enter the tension of what theologians call the “already – but not yet” of redemption.  The not yet aspect means we must be cognizant of the many distortions of our fallen nature and the ease with which we can be lured into temptations.  The already aspect means there is also a power at work within us which is able to do “far more than we ever think or imagine,” as St. Paul said (see Eph 3:20).  Both truths must be held together.

When it comes to questions of sexuality, it seems that many teachers and spiritual advisors focus almost exclusively on the not yet.  We can hear so much about the “dangers” of sexuality that we conclude there is no escape from the ever present risk of sin.  John Paul II is very critical of this kind of “determinism in the sexual sphere,” as he called it in a pre-papal essay.  Such determinism tends “to limit the possibility of virtue and magnify the ‘necessity of sin’ in this sphere.”  John Paul II’s approach, however, entails “the opposite tendency,” as he himself wrote.  It upholds “the possibility of virtue, based on self-control and sublimation [which means to raise up, make sublime]” (“The Problem of Catholic Sexual Ethics,” Person and Community, p. 286).

The Journey of the Interior Life

Virtue, however, in the full Christian sense of the term, is only possible as we journey through the “purgative” way of the interior life and into what the mystical tradition calls the “illuminative” and “unitive” ways.  It is here, in these further stages of the journey, that we discover “mature purity.”  In the purgative stage, purity basically means “avoiding the occasion of sin” by “gaining custody of the eyes.”  This is a very important step on the journey.  But it is an essentially “negative” step, John Paul II says, in as much as it involves learning how to say no to lustful passions and learning how to abstain from unchastity.  John Paul II, in keeping with the authentic tradition of the Church, teaches that there is much more to the virtue of purity than this.

In the language of St. Thomas Aquinas, a person who can successfully restrain himself from sin is “continent” but not yet virtuous.  Continence falls short of virtue since virtue presupposes a right desire, and this is lacking in the continent person (see Summa, Prima Secundae, q. 58, a. 3, ad 2).  As the Catechism observes, “The perfection of the moral good consists in man’s being moved to the good not only by his will but also by his ‘heart’” and even “by his sensitive appetite” (CCC 1770, 1775).   Human virtues do not suppress or tyrannize our passions.  They “order our passions… They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life” (CCC 1804).

“The task of purity,” as John Paul II observed, “is not only (and not so much) abstaining from ‘unchastity’ and from … ‘lustful passions’.”  In the illuminative and unitive stages of the journey, we discover “another function of the virtue of purity… another dimension — one could say — that is more positive than negative” (TOB 54:3).  In this “positive” dimension, we come to experience “a singular ability to perceive, love, and realize those meanings of the ‘language of the body’ that remain completely unknown to concupiscence itself” (TOB 128:3).  We “come to an ever greater awareness of the gratuitous beauty of the human body, of masculinity and femininity” in such a way, John Paul II wrote, that other people “not only regain their true light… but, so to speak, they lead us to God himself” (Memory and Identity, p. 30).

This is “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21) to which Christ invites us all.  Admittedly, it is a very different vision than that with which many Catholics are familiar.  Perhaps it’s simply that “unfamiliarity” that causes some to doubt its authenticity.  For those who have been formed to think primarily in terms of the “dangers” of sexuality and the “constant risk of sin,” I invite you to meditate prayerfully on the following hope-filled words of John Paul II.  Of course, they refer not only to the sexual sphere, but are certainly inclusive of that sphere, as he indicates.

With the passage of time, if we persevere in following Christ our Teacher, we feel less and less burdened by the struggle against sin, and we enjoy more and more the divine light which pervades all creation.  This is most important, because it allows us to escape from a situation of constant inner exposure to the risk of sin – even though, on this earth, the risk always remains present to some degree – so as to move with ever greater freedom within the whole created world.  This same freedom and simplicity characterizes our relations with other human beings, including those of the opposite sex… Christ, supreme Teacher of the spiritual life, together with all those who have been formed in his school, teaches that even in this life we can enter onto the path of union with God… [This union allows us to] find God in everything, we can commune with him in and through all things.  Created things cease to be a danger for us as once they were, particularly while we were still at the purgative stage of our journey (Memory and Identity, pp. 29-30).

In Conclusion

One of the most common responses I receive when I present this beautifully challenging and hopeful vision of human life and sexuality is this: I’ve been a Catholic my whole life – why haven’t I ever heard this!? The truth of the matter is that it is rarely taught, a fact that only underscores the urgency of sharing this vision with the world.  But we cannot give what we do not have.  As Pope Paul VI said in his apostolic exhortation on evangelization, “The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 15).

The fundamental message of the TOB is nothing new.  In essence, it’s what the saints and mystics have been telling us for centuries about the “great mystery” of Christ’s infinite love for his Bride, the Church.  Yet John Paul II has penetrated that same Mystery with new clarity, new insight, new depth — giving us a new language with which to reach the modern world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Still, relatively few in the Church know enough about John Paul II’s “new language” to employ it in their efforts to communicate the faith.  It is my hope that the Nightline interview and the spirited debate it triggered will spur us all on as Catholics to study the TOB more intently, “receive” its contents more deeply, and share its liberating message more effectively.

I encourage those who find John Paul II’s text difficult to turn to those teachers and authors whose approach you find most helpful in making it accessible.  There are so many fine books and resources now available on the TOB, all with valuable contributions to make.  I certainly do not claim to be the definitive voice on the subject.  Thank God that there are different people and organizations doing this important work!  For the approach of others will reach people I never will, just as my approach will reach people theirs never will.  What is important is that we make a concerted effort to reach people.  The world is starved for the banquet presented in our late Pope’s teaching.  Woe to us if we do not take it up, make it our own, and share it with the world.

Mary, star of the New Evangelization, pray for us!

Christopher West


Christopher West is a Catholic author and speaker, best known for his work on Pope John Paul II’s series of audience addresses entitled the Theology of the Body.

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  • Thank you, Mr. West. You are presenting what the world needs to hear: hope-filled, practical answers to the overwhelming problems that humanity faces. We are called to lead lives of pure desire devoid of fear and sin–and it is a way of life that is possible to find, even this side of the New Creation. Thank you for helping to provide a map.

  • momof5kids

    Dear Mr. West,
    Thank you for this response which shows great humility and prayer. Testing by fire is what we all must go through and you will come out stronger. So have all of us who have gained from your teaching. My husband and I have been helped greatly by your work and we try to share it in our own small way with others.
    Our prayers are with you and are always lifted up for our lost society, that God’s grace will bring about a renewal in our understanding of sexuality and the purpose God has for all of us.
    God bless!

  • noelfitz

    There is a lot of food for thought in this post. I am not aware of all the details on controversies around the issues raised. David Schindler, who was Christopher West’s teacher is critical. But Christopher West has been supported by Janet Smith among others. I was a member of a group with Prof Smith and I have great respect for her opinions. Also Michael Sean Winters has been critical of Christopher West. Thus within the Church there does not seem to be unanimity.

    I would like here in CE to see an overview of what the Theology of the Body is. There are many references to it in CE, but I am unable to find a clear and concise definition of the topic.

    Did John Paul II introduce anything new into our beliefs about marriage and sexuality, or did he only explain what has been held by Catholics always, everywhere and by all (semper, ubique et ab omnibus)? My spiritual director holds that JP II did not introduce a new theology, but has been faithful to the perennial teaching of the Church.

    So could someone please tell me what is the Theology of the Body and how does one get a clear insight into it. How does it differ from traditional Catholic teaching?

  • Dear Mr. West,
    I’ve had the pleasure of hearing you speak and reading your work. I’ve also done a study on the Theology of the body. That being said, I’m in agreement with the contention that the orgasm is a small (miniscule) foretaste of heavenly sensation, however, I question some of your positions on certain sexual practices.

    If we understand that we are made in the image of God, and that woman came from Original man which means the nearest we get to that image of God is through sexual intercoarse then any deviation or interference with our sexuality would be a distortion of this image of God.

    If the human trinity (husband, wife, and creation of child) reflects the Holy Trinity then any human sexual practice that neglects or obstructs the creation of a child (third person of human trinity) would be blasphemy.

    The obvious denials of reflecting the image of God through human sexuality are contraception, abortion, homosexuality, masturbation, rape, incest, and oral and anal sexual practices. Abortion, even though the sexual act was able to reflect God in creating a third person, is the worst of the defiant grouping because it goes to the extreme of willfully destroying the image of God. It should be of no coincidence that the Church has historically stood opposed to the group of sexual perversions.

    We should consider how often humanity showcases to God that it prefers to not reflect His Image through our sexuality.

  • Terri Kimmel

    Gregory Popcak has written some great TOB stuff, too. My husband and I have a growing library of West and Popcak in our bedroom. It has revolutionized our marriage. I can’t claim to have fully overcome the world in regards to sex, but our marriage is full of a life, hope and vibrance it has never had before. We’re on our way! I also apply TOB to my pro-life work in reaching out to women and facilitating their understanding of how refusing contraception and abortion are freeing and reverent of their femininity.

    Personally I think TOB may some day make JP The Great a doctor of the church.

  • cmacri

    Our marriage, too, has experienced what Terri Kimmel describes. For a long time, I was amazed at the beauty of TOB, but felt a disconnect between my intellectual appreciation and the actuality of our marriage. Fortunately, God has blessed our marriage with a trememdous grace and we now know what it is to experience Theology of the Body with our bodies.

    I don’t see why sexual concupiscence is like any other form of concupiscence. It CAN move from merely white-knuckle resisting temptation to virtue. There is a difference between working to have to avoid stealing when an easy opportunity presents itself to automatically handing back the extra 20 the cashier gave you without a second thought.

  • kent4jmj

    Very nice.

  • anniec

    If anyone wants an excellent summary of the Theology of the Body, go to the Theology of the Body link at Catholic Exchange (at the top). Go to the CE Video spotlight and look for “Christopher West: How Can the Body Have A Theology?”.
    The Theology of the Body is not new. All of the Truths necessary for salvation (aka “the deposit of faith”) were revealed by Christ to the Apostles. Nothing new doctrinally was revealed after this point in time. Often the Church will proclaim a dogma of the faith but what this means is that She is pronouncing (with a “you need to believe this to get to heaven” solemnity) a truth that needed clarification. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is such an example.
    It is easy to worry about what is authentic teaching and what is false in this day and age. Christ gave us the best way to discern:You will know them by their fruits. If something is doctrinally sound–it has an imprimatur on the title page–does not deny the basic truths of the Faith and leads people closer to Christ then it is good. Christopher West’s books satisfy all of these requirements.
    I would like to point out that the criticism of Christopher West by Prof Schindler was undertaken in a very public manner, caused much damage to Mr West’s reputation and, I am sure, great personal suffering. Imagine if your city newspaper printed a critical story of you? How do you defend yourself against so public an attack? If Prof Schindler had an issue with Mr West and what he was teaching in his Theology of the Body courses, why did the Prof not discuss this personally with his former student or bring it to the attention of Mr West’s bishop? I think these questions need to be asked and considered thoughtfully if one desires to find the truth about this situation.
    John Paul II’s Theology of the Body was a heaven sent gift to a culture that is both sex-saturated and puritanical. JPII gave us a clear road to follow by showing us that the body is holy and redeemed and its “feelings” are not something to be feared–they are to be lived in accordance with virtue. Christopher West has done a wonderful work in bringing JPII’s highly philosophical teachings to us everyday folk.

  • momof5

    As a youth minister I have spent some efforts on introducing TOB in the realm of teens and faith. It has such a positive message about our bodies and being made in the Divine Image. They absolutely gravitate and grab onto that teaching and it makes sense to them in light of the opposing message of the culture. I will continue to spread this message as I too continue to grow in understanding of the depth of it’s teaching.
    My personal thanks to Christopher West who opened my eyes,(and God who opened my heart) to this teaching over eight years ago.
    In my diocese it is now part of a new nine month marriage prep starting Jan 1 and includes the full NFP course as well. My heartfelt thanks to Bishop T. Olmstead for his decision and support to incorporate this awesome teaching into all marriage preparation in the future.

  • noelfitz

    I am still a bit confused. What exactly were Prof Schindler’s reservations? Is TOB the views of JP II or Mr West? Some of the suggestions in TOB seem “contra naturam”, to use the phrase of Thomas Aquinas. Does either JP II or Mr West approve of sodomy in marriage?

  • lauersilva

    Thank you, Holy Father! Thank you, Mr. Christopher West! Concupiscence is disordered passion. I am assuming that this refers to disordered passion for food as well. Gluttony is as hard for me now as lust was when I was younger. All of the principles of Theology of the Body and freedom “so as to move with ever greater freedom within the whole created world” apply here as well. God bless you, God bless us all.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    Noel: the best place to get an overview of the principles that John Paul II developed into the Theology of the Body is JPII’s Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, written early in his pontificate (, goes to the Vatican website). Note that this is an expansive document, focused on the family. As such, it includes a presentation of the principles of the Holy Father’s thoughts on marriage and sexuality, which latter will touch on some of what is meant by Theology of the Body.

    The deep dive is in the series of John Paul II’s Wednesday audiences from 5 September 1979 to 28 November 1984. When people say, “Theology of the Body,” this is what they refer to. EWTN has a page that compiles all 129 audiences: . The Vatican publishes all of JPII’s audiences (Wednesday and otherwise) at . You’ll have to pick through the material at the Vatican website, and they are not all translated into English, but you can at least check the source materials with the original there.

    Christopher West’s work and the work of others has been to present the Holy Father’s work. As Mr. West notes in this article, his presentation has both its successes and shortcomings, but it is the honest work of a gentleman presenting the authentic teaching of John Paul II. There are many others doing similar presentations of JPII’s Theology of the Body, notably Mary Beth Bonnacci (; Jason Evert (; Fathers Richard Hogan and Dan McCaffrey (; and others.

    Your question also seems to go at whether the Theology of the Body is something brand new or if it has history in the Church. In fact, it is both. TOB is soundly rooted in Natural Law, a point you can understand by reading Familiaris Consortio. Another work to peruse if you want a really deep dive into the JPII’s thinking before he formally presented Theology of the Body is Karol Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility (ISBN 0898704456). John Paul wrote this around 1960 as bishop of Krakow, and it influenced Pope Paul VI’s writing of Humanae Vitae.

    Now whether TOB is an authentic doctrinal development or merely a re-presentation of what the Church has always taught is a matter for more learned minds than mine to decide. The fact is that it is rooted in Natural Law, so the thoughts JPII presents in TOB will not contradict the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. If you see such contradictions, check your understanding of what has been presented to you. Then, you might offer a charitable explanation to your presenter, who may have made an honest mistake.

    That some people misunderstand TOB as contradicting Natural Law simply indicates the confusions that exist in human society due, of course, to concupiscence, and perhaps even moreso, due to limitations of humans in expressing theology to others (as Mr. West alludes to in this article). What comes through loud and clear for one person is a muddle for another. That is why we need many, many presenters in order to reach all people.

    But TOB, like the human personalism that John Paul articulates in Love and Responsibility swings on a dual hinge: it is both rooted in Natural Law and in the theological idea of Man as a living image of God, which latter is the subject matter of the first three chapters of Genesis. Indeed, the first several of the Wednesday audiences that would become TOB are spent examining these first three chapters and seeking to understand why Jesus returns to “the beginning” when articulating His teaching on the permanence of marriage (Matthew 19). John Paul also presents the human person as something of an inseparable duality: each person is simultaneously and indivisibly an object and a subject, both in the philosophical sense and the real sense. JPII’s introduction to Love and Responsibility goes into great detail here, but a summation is that each human person is the object of actions done by another and an actor whose actions affect others. This is one of the most significant philosophical roots of TOB. It is also one of the primary sources of TOB confusion. John Paul spends a great deal of time speaking of the human person as a subject, which is a departure in presentation from the object-centered language often associated with St. Thomas’s philosophy. Thus, there is a tendency in certain circles to dismiss TOB as subjective, but this is false. There are TOB presentations which overemphasize the reality of the human person as subject, but if you are to be a proper student of TOB, you must keep in mind that it is both deep and broad — and that only Jesus can present the entire Truth all at once (and do so in his very Person). The rest of us are stuck in presenting the Truth a bit at a time, and so we might get hung up on one part of it (like the human person as subject) without ever dismissing other simultaneous aspects of the Truth (as in the human subject never ceases to be an object as well).

    But I am already diving deep into philosophical language. Object here is not “thing” but the reality of a living image of God who receives the actions of other subjects (who are themselves objects of his own actions). Subject here is not “subjective” or “utilitarian” or “relativism”; rather it refers to the fact that every human person is necessarily an actor whose actions are also directed at other human persons as objects of his actions. And now, I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a bind on this matter. Better to leave my muddling and go ready JPII’s introduction to Love and Responsibility.

    Suffice it to say that Theology of the Body has been compared (by Father Hogan) to St. Augustine’s work, The City of God and to St. Thomas’s work as a synthesis of philosophy and theology. Where Augustine relied on the philosophy of Plato and informed it with Scriptures and teachings of the Church. Thus, Augustine unified the good of pagan philosophy with the revealed Truth to come up with what Fr. Hogan calls a synthesis. St. Thomas did a similarly expansive synthesis, still relying on the Scriptures and teachings of the Church, but the philosophy that informed his work is that of Aristotle. In composing TOB, John Paul also relies on the Scriptures and teachings of the Church, but the philosophy that explicitly informs his synthesis is phenomenology, from which JPII gets many of his philosophical notions of subject. But TOB goes further than this, incorporating the Thomistic notions of Natural Law and even the Augustinian notion of Original Sin. Thus, there is a lot to study when looking at TOB.

    That also can help explain the length of this post, which barely scratches the surface of what there is to learn.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    And if you wish to read Prof. Schindler’s reservations, you can peruse them at (among other places).

  • esquiremom

    Thank you Mr. West for your heartfelt witness in this most important mission.

    “For those dominated by lust, what I hold out is impossible. But those who enter the “effectiveness” of redemption discover “another vision of man’s possibilities” (TOB 46:6).”

    This is so true. I have discovered in my own coversations with people about TOB that they have a hard time distiguishing between lust and admiring the beauty of God’s creation of the human body. Many have told me that TOB is an “ideal” that is too hard for the average person to live out. How sad! TOB may be the very thing that brings love back to a loveless marriage, or hope back to a promiscous young person, or life to those yet unborn! It is a life-filled and love-filled presentation of church teaching that speaks in modern language what it means to be sexual from God’s persepective not man’s. For those with eyes to see, and ears to hear, open your hearts to this most beautiful and life- changing world view.

    Oh, how I wish I would have heard this message when I was young!

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  • keenforgod

    Dear Mr. West,

    I remember reading “Good News about Sex & Marriage” when I new converted to the Catholic faith. I loved it and wanted to read JPII’s original work because of your inspiring book. I’m reading it now and am discovering many things about TOB that are deeply profound and moving. I posted my thoughts on Original Unity recently ( and am currently working on a draft on Original Nakedness.
    Again, thank you, Mr. West, for the inspiration. I will look for more of your work elsewhere online.