Full Knowledge: Abusing Theology of the Body


I first published this article in 2016 in response to Christopher West’s unapologetic public participation in the viewing of the pornographic movie, Deadpool. I am resurrecting it in direct response to the recent scandal at Franciscan University in which a professor disseminated blasphemous literary porn to his upper level student for the purpose of academic study.

In spite of his defense of academic freedom and the necessity of a well-rounded education, I maintain that there is no justification for exposing students of any age to pornography. The University did issue an apology, calling the material “directly pornographic and blasphemous” but the Catholic community is divided.

Frankly, I am stunned that faithful Catholics must even have this debate. I am alarmed at the confusion among people who otherwise know and follow the Church’s teachings. The core of this issue is not the petty squabbling over political agenda (where much of the discussion seems to have stalled) but a grave offense against Our Lord and Our Lady and a grave spiritual and material offense committed by a professor.

Below is further explanation (if really needed) about why we don’t need to read sacrilegious porn in advanced literature classes and also a quick refresher of why Catholics can’t morally dabble in porn.


Full Knowledge: Abusing Theology of the Body

I'll begin by making one thing very clear: I am not judging your soul. I - like you - have full access to the teachings of the Catholic Church. If I reference a moral absolute, it is her authority I'm leaning on, not my own. If you feel uncomfortable under her maternal gaze, it is not I who am making you uncomfortable... it is your conscience doing what it is supposed to do. 

This post is written largely in response to Christopher West's recent internet treatment of the movie Deadpool and the growing number of his followers (mostly men) who seem to be drifting away from the firm teachings of the Church on pornography. In short, West publicly acknowledges the pornographic content of Deadpool in one post and then posts again about how he went to see the film regardless. I am not judging souls... just sounding an alarm for an increasingly permissive approach to a matter which is (and always has been) a slippery slope to hell. 

I'm deliberately not linking West's Deadpool posts. I normally would but he includes details which might be a stumbling block for some and unnecessarily upsetting for others. He is direct about some of the worst content. The first time I read reviews on the movie, I was saddened and sickened. It's porn. It's deviant. That's all I wish I knew. I doubt this post follows St. Josemaria's guideline below precisely, but I'd like to stay as close as I can and hopefully convince readers to just stay the heck away:

"Never speak of impure things or events, not even to lament them. Remember that such matter is stickier than pitch. Change the subject or, if that is not possible, continue with it, speaking of the need and the beauty of purity — a virtue of men who know the value of their souls." {St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 131}

Moving on...

I married a moral theologian. Consequently, I am well aware of the complexities and nuances of in-depth theological thought. It can rattle the brain and my brain is easily rattled. I recognize objectively that the study and practice of theology is necessary and important and even recognized in the Catechism. Good theologians are very much needed. But I also know (and have witnessed many times) that the pursuit of intellectual excellence, without the hedges of obedience or proper formation, will often produce bad fruits in the soul and also harm others who rely on that "expertise."

To put it in my non-theological sort of way...

  • We don't need to be theologians in order to become saints.

  • We don't need to even be literate in order to become saints.

  • We don't need JPII's Theology of the Body in order to become saints.

  • We don't need Christopher West's interpretation of JPII's ToB in order to become saints.

  • We don't need Christopher West to go see a porn flick and then report back to us in order for us to become saints.

  • We don't even need access to a computer in order to become saints. 

  • We can be blown off the path of sanctity by consuming bad theology from people with good intentions.

God did not create such a complex system of moral nuances that we cannot become holy without having it filtered through a pop-Catholic professional. In fact, His design is so beautifully simple and accessible that even children can enter into the kingdom of heaven with no more than their simple, fervent, obedient love.

Obviously, the problem is more with us adults... who aren't content with that simple fidelity... and who are constantly seeking to justify our preferences and desires and restructure the moral universe accordingly.

Saint Maria Goretti didn't need Theology of the Body in order to cherish her dignity and to desire God's will. And to be frank, I can't imagine any circumstance under which she would have willingly been subject to the diabolical spiritual and emotional violence of a movie like Deadpool. In her simple faith, she would see the evil of the action on it's face and turn away.

"Purity of heart brings freedom from widespread eroticism and avoidsentertainment inclined to voyeurism and illusion." {Catechism of the Catholic Church 2525}

St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the greatest Catholic theologians of all time, and his defense of holy purity fierce. It seems unimaginable for him to have purchased a ticket to something like Deadpool or to have defended the idea of doing so. 

The great error that some followers of Christopher West (and perhaps West himself) regularly fall into is the idea that our level of spiritual maturity permits us a greater (God-approved) ability to tolerate such horrific displays without falling into sin. One doesn't need to be an intellectual powerhouse to know that simply choosing to sit through such a thing can be a sin in itself. Fortunately, our path to heaven will be by way of faithful and obedient love, not theological prowess. And for those of us who don't have any impressive degrees, we know that we only need fall back on basic Church teaching and the example of the saints to know the way to holiness. 

To clarify for those who are rusty in the basics...

The Church's definition of pornography can be found HERE {CCC 2354}.
In order for a sin to be mortal, there are three requirements that must be met:

  1. Grave Matter.

  2. Full Knowledge.

  3. Deliberate Consent.

That's straight from the Catechism. And that's really all we need to know about whether or not to see a pornographic movie like Deadpool. If you are reading this post, it is probable that the question of whether or not you should see that movie is easily resolved...

  1. Grave Matter? (Yes. Pornography is always grave matter. Period. Read the Catechism)

  2. Full Knowledge? (Yes. If you didn't know before, you do now! Deadpool is pornographic. And West fully agrees with that assessment, by the way.)

  3. Deliberate Consent? (Did you have a choice whether or not to watch? It will be the rare bird who doesn't. Certainly not the ToB fans - mostly men - who have so casually written about the movie all over their blogs.)

Again, I'm sounding an alarm not judging a soul. I have observed West's actions through his public writing and lament the scandal that he has caused by even purchasing a ticket to this movie knowing full well what it contained. The world does not need West to see movies so that we know what's in them. He did us no service. 

We don't need Deadpool in order to understand the beautiful mystery of of God's gift.
We don't need any movie in order to know the Church's teaching on the dignity of each human person and the scourge of pornography.
We don't need West to keep reminding us (through his consumption and sharing of diabolical garbage) that there are searching souls behind the bodies on the screen. 

The Catechism is clear. And our God of Mercy and Love has gifted us with a simple way to heaven that does not ever fit with the consumption of porn. Was West a "consumer" of porn" when he saw Deadpool? Absolutely. He knew it was there. Paid for it. Sat through it. Listened to it. Whether or not he was tempted by it is irrelevant to that discussion. It was wrong. Catechism 101. 

I am not interested at all in some complex defense of hell in the movie theater... even with personal testimony complete with disclaimers of head-hanging during the raunchiest parts. And I deeply resent the watering down of the clear, beautiful, freeing, and marvelously concise gift of sexuality given by the Catholic Church through such witness. 

Deadpool is diabolical. Avoid it. And if some theologian comes along and tells you that there exists a justification for any man to take part in that kind of evil... buy him a Catechism and rescind your dinner invitation. That's not the kind of guy you want bloviating in front of your children.

Quick note to readers who might be angry or confused...

To those whose lives have been positively impacted by Christopher West...
His human errors do not negate the power of God working in your lives. Nothing in this post can reduce the magnificence of what the Lord has done for you. I am addressing a particular error, not reducing the blessing and gift you have received. I rejoice with you over that blessing.

To those who think that Theology of the Body was invented by Christopher West...
It wasn't. The original Theology of the Body was written and spoken by Pope Saint John Paul II through a series of papal audiences. Christopher West's teachings are an interpretation of JPII's work. There are many differences, and a reading of both reveals inconsistencies in content and context. If you want to learn more about Theology of the Body, I recommend  reading the works of the original author. 

To those of you who think that JPII's Theology of the Body gives permission to view pornography in any form according to the individual conscience...
It doesn't. In fact, you will not even be able to find allowance for nude photography or modern nude paintings, let alone live actors. Please read this excellent article by David Clayton (co-author of The Little Oratory): Why JPII's Theology of the Body Says that Nude Figure Drawing is a Bad Thing.

To those of you who will send me nasty grams because I'm a "stupid prude" and "don't understand" Christopher West...
Count to ten. Then pick up the Catechism. Read it. And if you aren't able to find justification for purchasing a ticket to a porn flick (however cleverly disguised as a superhero movie), then save your energy for more noble purposes.