Christopher West and the Theology of the Body
by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.
Christopher West was not always a spokesperson for the teaching of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Growing up, West often heard the "whats" of Catholic sexual morality, but not the "whys." A very passionate but not exactly chaste young man of 21, Christopher nearly left the Catholic Church because what he considered the repressed and antiquated teaching of the Church against contraception.
But before checking out of the Church of his youth, West decided to allow the Church a chance to explain herself. One of his sister's high school teachers, hearing of Christophers ideas, recommended he read Pope John Paul II's 129 Wednesday audiences on the theology of the body. "They changed the way I see the whole universe," said West. "I knew then that I would spend the rest of my life studying the pope's theology of the body and making it accessible to others."
Christopher West went on to study the Theology of the Body at the Pope John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Washington DC. He later was named Director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Denver where he spent four years building one of the more innovative marriage preparation programs in the USA. Subsequently, West served as adjunct professor of sexual ethics at St. John Vianney theological Seminary in Denver, visiting professor of the Theology of the Body at the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne Australia, and as Theology of the Body staff advisor to the Gift Foundation. In recent years, Christopher has kept a very busy speaking schedule, traveling all over the world bringing the Pope's message to people in words and images that they can understand.
Christopher West sees the Pope's theology of the body as a unifying vision that brings many topics together: "When viewed through the lens of the theology of the body, all of the 'hot-button' teachings of the Church -- contracetption, divorce, abortion, women's ordination--fall into place and make total sense. Each is an indispensable part of the whole. Remove one and the whole mystery eventually collapses."
Christopher is not content simply to lecture on the theology of the body. He first and foremost lives this mystery in his own marriage and family life. "My marriage and family are a kind of lab class," he says. "I can preach the mesage of the redemtion of sexuality not because it is a theory or concept. It is a profound reality that my wife and I live and experience."
Recently the Wests moved from Denver back "home" to Pennsylvannia, so their children could grow up closer to extended family. By the way, Christopher and his wife, Wendy, have three children, the eldest being named after none other than -- you guessed it!-- Pope John Paul II.
For more information on Christopher West videos, audio recordings, and books, visit The Theology of the Body resource page.
Christopher West - Theology of the Body for Beginners
People from all over the world have asked Christopher West what Pope John Paul II means by the "Theology of the Body." In "Theology of the Body For Beginners," Christopher West unpacks John Paul IIís Theology of the Body, translating it into a language everyone can understand.