“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

July 28, 2010

Do you ever feel like telling someone to shut up and sit down?

That's basically what canon lawyer Edward Peters did the other day to Steve Kellmeyer, though he did it temperately, which I'm sure gave his message all the more impact. Dr. Peters reacted to Kellmeyer's vituperation against Dr. Janet Smith, a widely respected professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, and one of Christopher West's defenders in the recent imbroglio over the latter's "Theology of the Body" methods and message. Kellmeyer has been a fierce and persistent critic of West, as Mark Shea recently observed with great bemusement.

(Note: Legitimate criticism of Christopher West's methods is not the problem. Plenty of thoughtful Catholics have come down on both sides of that controversy. Rather, the problem is the acrimonious way in which some, such as Steve Kellmeyer, have prosecuted the issue.)

I cannot say that I know Dr. Smith well, though I have had brief conversations with her, here and there over the years, and my wife and I once shared a very pleasant private meal with her in Munich after a conference at which Dr. Smith and I spoke. I have nothing but respect and admiration for her and her long history of excellent service to the Catholic Church, and thus it pained me, as it obviously pained Edward Peters and, I'm sure, her many friends and admirers, to see her unjustly attacked. That's why I'm glad to see people come to her defense, especially Dr. Peters' response to the canon law argument which Steve Kellmeyer unwisely employed in his recent foray against her.

As for Steve, I've known him for many years, though not well, and my impression of him has always been that he is a highly intelligent and gifted man with a sincere desire to explain, defend, and promote the Catholic Faith. To the extent he uses his gifts prudently and charitably to accomplish that goal, I applaud him and wish him all success, especially of the spiritual variety. But to the extent that he undermines that worthy goal by being gratuitous, mean-spirited, petty, and querulous (as, sadly, he has been toward people like Janet Smith and Christopher West) Peters, Shea, and the others who are telling him, essentially, to shut up and sit down are rendering a much needed service. Not everyone who is nice to you is a friend, and not everyone who is harsh with you is an enemy. I hope he heeds their admonitions, cools down, and then resumes his work calmly and without the acerbity from which it currently suffers.


  1. Patrick,

    I'm kind of confused on this one. So is she qualified to teach the subject matter? And who is Steve Kellmeyer. Reading his rant makes him sound not so Catholic at all and more like a disgruntled Catholic who is looking to pick a fight. Just for my edification. Thanks!

  2. I don't know enough about the subject to stand on either side of the debate. Though from the little I have learned through Christopher West and the great good it has done me and my family I tend to think the arguments against him and his teaching on the petty side.

    But on a completely different point, the info on this canon only makes me wonder how many dissidents have been "qualified" and spread error. I would like to see some effort made to follow the canons and some kind of correction or dispensation made out of respect, awareness and obedience. It is not prudent that they be overlooked by any bishop.

  3. Carol -

    You should read Dawn Eden's master thesis, available at dawneden.blogspot.com/2010/06/papists-pick.html. Now, it costs $10 (to offset the cost of her doctorate education) but it is worth every penny, and then some. There are some problem's with West's presentation on TOB, and he has already modified his presentation several times due to previous criticisms. Eden's criticism is the most thorough to date, IMO. If you base alot of your personal Catholicism on TOB, then I would highly suggest you read Eden's work.

  4. I too have read Dawn's thesis. She was not condescending and stuck to a few key issues. What she discovered (document) about looking at the Paschal Candle as a "phallic symbol" was very interesting. I would be interested in Chrisopher West's thoughts on that specific piece of documentation that he may not be aware of. She also went into great detail about the story of the two bishops, used in his talks. Dr. von Hildebrand, in her recent essay, only mentioned it, but if you look carefully at the bottom of the original essay at Catholic News Agency by Dr. von Hildebrand, she references Eden's thesis. To understand where Hildebrand is coming from, it is helpful to read that thesis, then go back to what Dr. vH is saying. Dawn is well familiar with his works, and I thought she was respectful in her critique (people can assess this themselves). Sadly, there are some who will never see any kind of critique of this material as charitable - a phenomenon we see with many controversial issues.

    Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and real fruitful dialogue will begin. People on all sides need to remember that authentic Catholic orthodoxy must include the virtues, chief among them, charity. We must be mindful of the dignity of those with whom we disagree.

  5. Steve Kellmeyer is jealous and desperate, period. He lost his job in a Texas parish earlier this year (because of performance or the economy, I don't know), he has to self-publish his stuff, and I've no doubt that his uncharitable online demeanor and dreadful treatment of people online has diminished his appeal as a potential speaker. He doesn't understand that he's not helping himself by lashing out like this. I don't care how intelligent he is. He seems like an awful person, not for daring to criticize Christopher West (whose work has many problem and who was wise to take a sabbatical), but for his clearly ego-driven flailing.

  6. I've read Eden's thesis and I think it is weak. The scope of the project (a comprehensive overview of West's work) is too broad to deal with adequately in a master's thesis. She picks out what she calls 10 major themes in his work, but doesn't explain her criteria for selecting them. Some of them seem tangential to me, while more important ones are left out.
    Consequently, in my opinion she doesn't present West's work in a way that corresponds to what he is actually saying, nor is it contextualized.
    I was disappointed in the thesis.

  7. Thanks for making this point, Patrick. I myself have just come under attack at Steve's blog. I suppose I should consider it an honor to be in the same group as Janet Smith, George Weigel, Dr William May, and Christopher West.

  8. I would probably like Smith if I met her but she often sounds like a broken record and doesn't respond to arguments. Like West and Wiegel, she's had a free ride for a long time.

    TOB may very well become an odd footnote rather than something that gets "unpacked" for the next 500 years.

    And the protests from Shea remind me of the pot calling the kettle black. Probably a nice guy but a cyber bully

  9. Dawn Eden's critique of West's theology is phenomenal.