Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cancelled Visit to the University of San Diego

UPDATE - 6 November:

The American Association of University Professors letter to Dr Mary Lyons, President of the University of an Diego

Letter from members of faculty in the Theology and Religious Studies programme of the University of San Diego to Dr Mary Lyons

UPDATE - 5 November:

Statement by Professor Gerard Mannion, Director of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture, University of San Diego.

I think I should correct a slight misrepresentation in The Guardian's coverage of this story. Contrary to a claim that has been widely disseminated, it is not true that 'Tina Beattie calls on English bishops to defend her dissent.' I do not think bishops should be asked to defend dissent. Their role is to uphold the official teachings of the Church, and I fully respect that role. They would be failing in their duty if they did otherwise. That role is different from the role of an academic theologian, and the two should not be confused. Here is the relevant paragraph in The Guardian, with my actual words highlighted:
"I think it's a really important time for the Church in this country because we have so far been not divided by this kind of ugly rupture," Beattie told the Guardian, calling on the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales to show a "very strong united front" in the face of any attempt to stifle dissent. "There's been a creative atmosphere of people being able to hold different positions in this country without it causing this kind of ugliness and I really think it's vital that the Bishops collectively stand up to protect that now."
I did not use the word 'dissent'. I was appealing for our bishops to safeguard the unity in diversity of the Catholic community by affirming that there is legitimate space for informed and mutually respectful debate among Catholics on social, political and ethical issues, against those who are threatening to close down that space.

The Catholic community in this country is graced with an educated, informed and committed laity, with many dedicated and good priests, and with bishops who are generally wise and pastorally sensitive with regard to protecting the vitality of Catholic life and culture with its many different perspectives and opinions. I am suggesting that these are precious qualities which are under threat. I have not nor would I call on the bishops to defend 'dissent', whether by me or anybody else.

UPDATE - 4 November:

I am aware that there is concern among some of my fellow Catholics who perceive me as using my status to undermine Catholic teaching in destructive and irresponsible ways. Before making such judgements about me, please read the page I've posted here, in which I offer a reflection on the responsibilities and methods of theological reflection and debate in engagement with Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae. 

I have done everything within my intellectual ability to study and understand why the Church teaches as she does, before I have ever spoken out to question or challenge any teaching - and I have never done that in relation to core doctrinal teachings. When I feel I have something valid to offer during a time of radically changing values which inevitably challenge the Church to respond, I try to do so in a responsible and reasoned way. Having said that, I know that I have a flamboyant way of writing and speaking, and I don't deny that I could express things more carefully sometimes. However, my principle is that articulated in Pope Paul VI's Decaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, 7 Dec 1965:  

On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. (#3)

If you think I am wrong in some of my theological arguments, then you have a right and maybe a duty to put forward a different argument. However, when the people criticising me take their stand upon the most narrow and dogmatic possible interpretation of a theologian's responsibilities - namely, to parrot everything the current magisterium says without question - they betray the diverse and rich intellectual tradition of which they are a part, and make the Church look ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

Here is my response to a beloved friend - a Jesuit priest - who e-mailed me yesterday to offer his support, while also saying that "I consider that the term 'marriage' should  be kept for the union of a woman and man and that some other acceptable term should be used for the union of same sexes." I replied:
I know that many of my friends agree with you about marriage, and I find it an immensely complex issue. I would never come down dogmatically in favour of changing the law, but I have reflected very deeply in the light of natural law, scripture, the Church's teaching and my own wide experience of knowing so many gay people, from my young students to some of my ageing Catholic friends. I think their love and commitment would enrich rather than diminish the meaning of the word 'marriage', for those few who would want to get married. Many countries already legislate in favour of same-sex marriage. The real threat to marriage today is not from gay couples but from chaotic heterosexual relationships and the tragedy of so many children who are born into unstable and loveless relationships. That's a dark social crisis in the making.
Here is an interesting story, relevant to this:
A Catholic priest speaks up in favor of same-sex marriage
And the Archdiocese issues admonition against personal views from the pulpit.
End of update.

This is a version of an e-mail that I have circulated this morning. I am posting it on my blog and I am willing to publish moderated comments according to the following criteria:
  • Personally abusive and offensive comments will be deleted immediately.
  • Comments which show a level of willful ignorance about the norms and methods of the Catholic theological tradition will not be published.
  • If you have good reason to protect your anonymity I respect that, but I prefer not to publish anonymous comments and would encourage you to identify yourself if you are able to.
Links do not show very clearly in this new layout. Please hover over the reference to various documents and statements to follow the link if you want to read them.

"I was warned against writing this book,
People said: If one did not watch out,
It could be burned.
So I did as I used to do as a child.
When I was sad, I always had to pray ...
At once God revealed himself to my joyless soul, held this book in his right hand, and said:
'My dear One, do not be overly troubled.
No one can burn the truth.'"

 Mechthild of Magdeburg (c. 1260-c.1282/94), The Flowing Light of the Godhead

UPDATE: Here is the statement issued by the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture. It appeared briefly on the University of San Diego's website before being taken down.

Late last year, Professor Gerard Mannion, Director of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture at the University of San Diego, invited me to spend several weeks there as a Visiting Fellow. He and I liaised closely to put together a programme of public lectures and seminars, and I was also invited to talk at a prayer breakfast and to give the prestigious annual Emilia Switgall lecture. Last week, I received notification that my talk at the prayer breakfast had been cancelled ‘for pastoral reasons’. (Here is the text of my talk). On Sunday morning (28th October) I received a letter by e-mail from Dr Mary Lyons, President of the USD, saying that she was rescinding the invitation because I ‘dissent publicly’ from the Church’s moral teaching. I appealed to her to reconsider, and offered to work with her to find a positive outcome to this situation for all concerned. However, I received a short response on the evening of 30th October British time, saying that her decision was final. Professor Mannion poins out that "at no stage was I consulted about the decision to cancel your visit nor informed in advance. I learned at the same time you did. In fact I had received assurances from other senior administrators that the visit would go ahead because this was a question of academic freedom."

I do not know the exact reasons for the cancellation of my visit, but I have been the target of a blog campaign in recent weeks, which began with a concerted endeavour to have a lecture by me at Clifton Cathedral in Bristol cancelled. This was because I had signed a letter to The Times, along with twenty six others, saying that Catholics could, “using fully informed consciences, … support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.” Signatories included six priests and several other theologians, all of whom are highly respected. This is the most up-to-date copy of a statement I wrote, which includes the full text of the letter, names of the signatories, and subsequent correspondence. The Bishop of Clifton, Bishop Declan Lang, resisted pressure to cancel the lecture but the protestors contacted the CDF, who intervened to say that the lecture should not go ahead. My cancelled talk in the Cathedral was on Mary and Lumen Gentium as part of a series on Vatican II, and had nothing to do with any controversial or disputed issue. My proposed public lectures and seminars in San Diego were all similarly written with a broad audience in mind, and with a desire not to create problems for my hosts by provoking controversy in the currently febrile atmosphere of American Catholic politics. The Clifton Cathedral lecture is being published along with others in the series, which also includes a lecture by Cardinal Danneels. I know that my role in the diocese is valued and that I have the trust of Bishop Declan. He has reiterated his support for me this week, acknowledging that, while he does not agree with all my theological positions, he respects my right to say what I think in my ‘search along the pathway of truth’. He also strongly dissociates himself from the bloggers who are using his name to justify their campaign against me.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Roehampton, Professor Paul O’Prey, wrote Dr Lyons a lengthy and courteous letter in support of me and defending the principle of academic freedom, but that seemed not to affect her decision, nor did the many letters and e-mails of support that were sent to her by senior academic colleagues in Britain and America. Dr Lyons did not contact Professor O’Prey, my Bishop or myself before cancelling the visit. I therefore do not know what her sources of information were, other than the blogs about me. Had she contacted any of us, we would have been able to explain that the situation is more nuanced and positive than the bloggers are suggesting. (I suspect the most influential blog was that of the Cardinal Newman Society, which is ironic since I am in high demand as a speaker by the Newman Association and its various local groups in this country).

The cancellation of my visit is not the most important issue in all this. The real issues are academic freedom, the vocation of lay theologians in relation to the official magisterium, and the power of a hostile minority of bloggers (some of whom are ordained deacons and priests) to command the attention and support of the CDF. The latter is the most sinister development of all, and it is a cause for scandal which brings the Church into disrepute. However, it also shows how deep this crisis has become. As an employee of a state-funded university with the full support of my Vice Chancellor and with my academic freedom protected under British law, I enjoy a position of security which is not true of my theological colleagues in many American and continental European universities. I want to use that position responsibly to address issues that have now become absolutely critical for lay theologians and for the wider Catholic community. In view of the serious allegations being made against me on the internet, I am issuing a statement of my theological position with regard to the specific claims that are being made. I have written this reluctantly since I believe it is better to ignore the bloggers, and all my ideas and arguments are freely available through my publications and through links on my website. However, I feel I must set out my position publicly in a brief and accessible statement, given the extent to which they are distorting and misrepresenting my work.

While this story will inevitably provide more material for those who publicly humiliate themselves and others on the Catholic blogosphere, it is also an opportunity to raise the tone of the debate and to claim a space of theological intelligence, Christian charity and personal dignity, in order to demonstrate that sensitive issues can be discussed and disagreements can be acknowledged without abuse and insult. For those among you who are Catholics, let’s take as our guiding ethos the spirit of Vatican II which is so magnificently expressed in Pope John XXIII’s opening address to the Council – ‘Gaudet Mater Ecclesia’ – and in Cardinal Martini’s posthumously published interview, which is a lament for the Church he had served and loved all his life. Finally, please pray for all involved in this – the institutions and the individuals – that we might emerge from this crisis with strengthened faith, deeper understanding, and in such a spirit of reconciliation that those who are watching might still be able to say “See how they love one another”. (Tertullian)


  1. Thanks Tina. Please know you have my support and prayers. Blessings

  2. I see no Irony in "...of the Cardinal Newman Society, which is ironic since I am in high demand as a speaker by the Newman Association and its various local groups in this country)"

    The Cardinal Newman Society in the USA has no connection with the Newman Association in the UK, except the word “Newman”. Whilst the Newman Association has its origins in university graduate sections of Catholic Societies in the UK, I don't think you will find many recent graduates. My experience is that it has people who dissent from some Church teachings, so it’s not surprising you are in demand from them. This is very different from the American Newman Societies, which is full of young and mainly Orthodox Catholics. You may disagree with their position but they are a large and flourishing movement working with young Catholics, sadly unlike the Newman Association.

  3. Tina,

    I don't believe that the cancellation of one of your lectures is a 'crisis'.

    It's damaging to your public standing as a Catholic speaker, but most of the damage you have done to yourself, through your own writings which contain several statements at odds with the teaching of the Church.

    Still, may Our Lady and all the Saints bring you peace and consolation.


    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I do not agree with what appears to be your position on same sex marriage, yet I certainly agree with your right and freedom to express it. What horrifies me the most about the cancelled lectures is that you were not even due to speak on the controversial subject in question. Furthermore why does a small minority of self proclaimed 'orthodox' Catholics have the ability to bend the ear of the Vatican when most ordinary catholics find it difficult to get the attention of their parish priest.

    I think most ordinary catholics have given up bothering trying to be heard to be honest or have never even attempted doing so deeming it. It's not just 'liberal' catholics who are bothered by all this lack of freedom, but many thinking 'conservatives' too.

  5. Dr. Beattie.

    As an academic you are entitled to hold whatever views you see fit. However as a Catholic there are certain viewpoints which are simply incompatible.

    Unfortunately your dissenting views are likely to be a source of scandal for any Catholic affiliated body that invites you to speak.

  6. I have posted the above comments, although I wonder if they have really respected my request not to post anonymous comments. 'Petrus' and 'Hallam Catholic' - who are you, really? You know who I am. You may disagree with me very emphatically - I absolutely uphold your right to do so and to try to persuade me that I'm wrong - but why are you so ashamed of your opinions that you hide behind anonymity? At least I put a face and a name to what I think. Please help me to raise the tone of what happens on the Catholic blog, by being open about who you are. "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:1). Why are bloggers so afraid of being identified?

    1. Since I don't have a need to anonymous ill say this, I can't speak for in the UK but here in the states it has become imperative to not be "seen" online because it can impact ones job. Employers frequently check their employees online activity and what they're Political choices are, etc. There is even a man my own father has met recently who has stated after interviewing someone the first thing he checks is their online "footprint" and if they have a Facebook page or social media page he instantly disqualifies them as a choice. His feeling is what is important outside work will intrude into work! This has led to a great need for anonymity!

  7. Dear Dr Beattie as a fellow theologian only qualified at BA level can I offer my support that you have been caught up the fractious effect of Catholic politics in the USA. I would challenge the University`s understanding of `dissent`. I would advocate the work of the great Francis Sullivan in his work `Magisterium`. Your advocation of an alternative viewpoint from the episcopal magisterium is equal. From my reading of your work appears to be a mainstream Catholic theologian and not a radical as seems to be being made out by those who have blocked your work in the USA. I myself as a broad mainstream Catholic who is gay and is an advocate for the kind of approach of James Alison are being as being part of the hierarchy as extreme when for the majority we are advocating a path for the Church that is not radical but takes into account the changed understanding of Church that accompanies the Vatican Council. As someone as well who trained for the Catholic Priesthood I remember distinctly being told by Theo Davey the heart of Catholic marriage is the mutual love of the other if this is so same-sex marriage is a natural next step. I assure you that these blocks in the road are by people who are scared of where the Church is heading inclusive for all. Best wishes

  8. Benedict Jones
    Whiteladies Rd

    Professor Beattie,
    Faith and theology cannot be seperated, I presume you were not invited to either Clifton or San Diego simply because you are an academic theolgian but because you are a Catholic theologian. Surely we have a right to assess whether your Catholicism matches that of the Church, and surely the CDF have a duty to do that too, as do "bloggers (some of whom are ordained deacons and priests)".

    Surely you must realise that your letters in the press and other writings, at odds with the Magisterium, make you as an individual a less than credible witness to the Catholic Faith in both Clifton and San Diego, and though you are irremovable from Roehampton, you are a less than credible witness there too, the same with your involvement with Cafod and the Tablet. In fact your involvement seriously damages them as Catholic institutions.

    1. Truth. Authentic Catholic theologians are shown by their work and an oath of fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

  9. Tina: So sorry that you have been embroiled in this. It is a matter of great ecumenical sadness, as well as a wound within the Catholic community. Your response is a model of the "theological intelligence, Christian charity and personal dignity" that you espouse. Thank you.

  10. Dr. Beattie,

    The abrupt withdrawal of your invitation is unfeeling and harsh, as well as contrary to any sensible understanding of academic freedom.

    I look forward to hearing about the invitations which you are likely now to receive, from institutions here in the US, which are looking courageously forward into the new century and not fearfully over the shoulder at the narrow practices of centuries past.

  11. Don't take it personally. If you hadn't meant to stir up controversy you wouldn't have signed that letter to The Times. The best way to avoid being hoist with your own petard is not to light the fuze. The problem with having the reputation as a dissident is that those who try to follow the Church's teaching will be suspicious, or even dismissive, of whatever you say or write, which would be a pity.

  12. I feel I must speak up for 'Petrus' and 'Hallam Catholic.' Much as I abhor their views, I do think people have a right to anonymity, just as you have a right to be open about who you are. When I first went on the internet in 1991 everyone had a nickname and wouldn't have dreamt about using real names. I think it is only since the advent of the Facebook generation that people have started using their real names and my current viewpoint is that it is rather stupid. All my friends know who I am on Facebook, but strangers don't need to.

    Don't take to heart all the negative stuff that people say. I recognise that I am profoundly prejudiced towards people whose views I don't like. But this is where I'm at in this stage of my life - maybe I will be able to accept difference as I mature.

    I come via The Guardian, and am sincere protestant baptist churchgoer who is also gay. And so whilst I don't like or understand the RC church I am glad there are people like you in it and I pray you continue to act according to your conscience.

    PS. I have tried to make this post un-anonymous but when I sign in with Google it just says Unknown!

    1. Thank you for this, and please see my response to "Hallam" below.

      Best wishes,


    I am surprised to read that the summary withdrawal of a an academic residency is somehow characterized as a balanced reaction against someone who has offered a public comment on a matter of controversy. Aren't you merely offering a defense of those with enough power severely to punish dissent?

    1. No, but those who court controversy and play to the media as a way of raising their public profile do not usually enhance their academic reputation. And disinterring that hoary old chestnut the 'spirit of Vatican II' is hardly "looking courageously forward into the new century" - or have I missed something?

  14. Dear Tina, sorry for the length of this comment
    In an ideal world I would agree with you, that we should use our own names. At least having a blogger profile allows me a constant alias so people can see what I am saying.
    1. I presumed by no anonymous comments you meant no ‘anonymous’ profile comments, I have posted under a blogger profile. I have one profile on the internet and whilst this discussion is not likely to get me into bother, future comments on other subjects could have serious consequences to me.
    2. Due to my profession if I publically express some of the teachings of the Church, I would be at risk of not only losing my job but my entire professional career. I won’t list them but there are numerous examples of people losing their jobs etc for merely expressing an opinion such as on marriage, abortion etc.
    3. You talked about your academic freedom being affected, what about my freedom of speech, whether out of fear or a truly oppressive legal system, the effect is the same, we live in a society were some views aren’t tolerated. So I can either risk my job or I am disenfranchised from engaging with you about a subject I am legitimacy entitled to do so as a fellow Catholic.
    4. Knowing my name is irreverent. I can assure you that I hold no position in the Church etc relevant to this discussion. I am just a normal lay Catholic who is trying to be faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Church, which has His authority to bind and loose.
    5. If I had called myself James Smith you wouldn’t be any the wiser, but James Smith isn’t my name.
    6. I have been polite, and engaging in your discussion, I fully agree that nasty comments are seriously damaging. Trolling by so-called catholic’s is to wound the body of Christ, comments by some non-Christians about Christianity can be seriously scary due to their ignorance of Christ and people say the most awful things they wouldn’t say in public. Nevertheless I hope you can understand my position, it isn’t really out of choice but to protect myself.
    7. The most important way we can raise the tone of our debate is by what we say not what our profile is.

    Dear Unknown
    Whilst I acknowledge your support for my anonymity. I fail to see what there was in my first post to “abhor”. I was mealy pointing out how I disagree with Tina’s use of irony!

    1. Dear "Hallam",

      I am persuaded by your response, and also by "Unknown's" defence of "Petrus" and yourself. Your original posting was courteous, and I apologise if I was somewhat abrupt in challenging your anonymity. If you have read what some “trolls” are willing to put into the public domain under the mask of anonymity, you will understand that such anonymity sometimes provides cover for very nasty characters who claim to be Catholic. I believe such vitriol does enormous damage to the public image of the Church, and it destroys any possibility for dialogue and debate between Catholics who hold different points of view.

      I was moved but not entirely surprised to read why you prefer to keep your identity hidden. I know that there is a secular “liberal” ideology which now imposes itself with tyrannical force on religious believers in some sectors of British society, particularly in education, healthcare, the media and social services. I have been using for teaching purposes the current case in the European Court of Human Rights in which four Christians are challenging the ruling of the British courts with regard to various forms of religious self-expression in their places of work. The information is all available on the website of the ECHR, as well as a web recording of the hearings:

      I sincerely hope that people who find themselves vulnerable to such pressures are able to find support from people like me when their grievances are justified, even if we differ on some of the Church’s moral teachings. However, in order for that to happen we must move beyond the present confrontational rhetoric to a more mutually respectful and informed dialogue between and among Catholics who hold different points of view, without branding all such differences as 'dissent'. We betray the rich intellectual heritage and fruitful internal diversity of our tradition when we insist on narrow conformity to a single point of view. This is the effect of living under an excessively authoritarian magisterium which is exercising its power and extending the remit of its non-negotiable teachings in a way which finds little support in the theological tradition. (For more on this, you might be interested in the reflection I wrote yesterday on 'Debate, Dialogue and Dissent', which you can read by clicking the link at the top of this page). There are people who are excellent at defending the current official teachings of the Church in an informed and intelligent way without demonising or silencing those who disagree with them, and they make a rich contribution to the intellectual life and public presence of the Church in this country. The group 'Catholic Voices' would be an example of this. However, to condemn every attempt to open a debate on some of these teachings as 'dissent' simply confirms the prejudices of those who believe that Catholics are willing to sacrifice their intellectual freedom and their consciences in the name of absolute and unquestioning conformity to authority. That is why the cancellation of my visit to the University of San Diego is so shocking. It brings Catholic intellectual life into disrepute and plays right into the hands of the Church's enemies.

      Sorry about the length of this posting, but please know that I do sympathise and understand why you might find yourself in a difficult position, and I respect your need for anonymity. If others want to post here anonymously and their postings are courteous and informed, I shall publish their comments.

      Best wishes,

  15. Dear Tina,

    Having earlier read your thoughtful & challenging Doorways to Faith lecture & taken an active interest in following many of your considered contributions to maturer understandings of the Catholic Faith. I do hope that you will continue, undaunted by this mean spirited action, to offer your clear -sighted theological perspectives & commentary on Faith, belief and modernity.


    Mike Guilfoyle

  16. I am a senior student at the University of San Diego.
    The school's mission statement is: The University of San Diego is a Roman Catholic institution committed to advancing academic excellence, expanding liberal and professional knowledge, creating a diverse and inclusive community, and preparing leaders dedicated to ethical conduct and compassionate service.

    If the school were really "committed to advancing academic excellence, expanding liberal and professional knowledge, and creating a diverse and inclusive community" then it shouldn't matter if Beattie's views conflict with Catholic social teaching. The goal isn't to indoctrinate the students into Catholicism, but rather provide for them an education (and let me tell you, we pay enough money to deserve a decent one). If you believe that censoring which viewpoints we hear, or who we hear them from is right, then you do not understand the basic goals of an education.

    I, and MANY others on my campus, support Dr. Beattie. The President and administration of our university in no way speak for their students. This is wrong no matter which way you frame it and I personally feel as though my academic freedom is being hindered by my own university.

    Blake Freedman
    University of San Diego

    1. Why would you expect a Catholic university to allow on its campus someone who opposes or dissents with Catholic teaching? And as a Catholic why would you want that? The idea is to keep these universities and colleges as Catholic not to degrade them into secular thinking. Also if you aren't a Catholic why are you there?

  17. Dr. Beattie,

    My name is Arjan Jooyan and I am a senior here at the University of San Diego studying Political Science and Theology and Religious Studies. I worked in the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture with Dr. Gerard Mannion this past year and was hard at work to prepare for your visit to our campus.

    It is with a heavy heart that I am now reaching out to comment on the events that have transpired over the rescinding of your invitation. As an aspiring and pursuant theologian myself, I am greatly disappointed in the actions taken by the President of my university to stifle your voice in what we all had otherwise hoped was an academically free institution of higher learning.

    I wanted to reach out specifically thought to let you know that there is overwhelming student support here on campus for you. I have created a Facebook group "Toreros Stand With Beattie" which amassed over 100 student supporters overnight. I hope that the story of what has happened to you continues to be discussed here locally on our campus, nationally, and internationally.

    Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me moving forward.

    Thank you.

    Arjan Jooyan

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.


    2. (Please ignore the "removed" comment above. I realized I had made a small error which I've corrected and reposted my reply below).

      Dear Arjan and all those from USD who have posted comments here. Thank you more than I can say for your support. I am so sorry that this situation has arisen, and I believe it was entirely unnecessary. I had offered to liaise with your President, to take on board her concerns and to ensure that I did not create conflict or controversy during my visit, but she was not open to such negotiation.

      I think students and faculty should also know that, to quote from one of Professor Gerard Mannion's emails, "at no stage was I consulted about the decision to cancel your visit nor informed in advance. I learned at the same time you did. In fact I had received assurances from other senior administrators that the visit would go ahead because this was a question of academic freedom."

      Finally, I have received the following message from Professor Michael Davis, which you might want to circulate. He is happy for it to be made public:

      From: Michael Ryan Davis
      Sent: Friday, November 02, 2012 9:00 PM
      To: Michelle Camacho Walter
      Subject: RE: Knapp Chair public lecture
      Dear Michelle,

      In solidarity with Tina Beattie and the USD faculty and students who support her, I'm resigning my appointment to the Knapp Chair of Liberal Arts.

      There's little to be said since it's obvious that the University has been put under excruciating pressure by clerical reactionaries. But fighting back will be a terrific moral experience for students.


      Mike Davis
      Creative Writing
      U. C. Riverside

      "The Knapp Chair of Liberal Arts was established in 1995 by a generous endowment from the estate of Mary and Churchill Knapp of La Jolla, California, long-time supporters of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Diego. The endowment supports distinguished visiting scholars, who are appointed annually by the dean on a rotating basis from the divisional areas of the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics-computer sciences to support the vitality of liberal arts at USD."

      Best wishes,

  18. Dear Ms. Beattie:

    As the parent of a student attending the University of San Diego, I am deeply disturbed by these events. USD has a fine reputation for academic excellence and to have my son be accepted there this past spring thrilled us greatly. Now, though, I cannot help but feel a sense of dread that my son's education may come with caveats.

    I admit to being a disaffected Catholic, but that doesn't mean I would limit my son to a public education only. I have always considered a Catholic education to be a powerful one, to be truly catholic. My son learned of this situation in his Intro to Theology class this morning (Nov. 2). His professor expressed concern that her position may be threatened should she bring into discussion a random topic later found to be at odds with a heretofore unknown standard professed by the Administration.

    I have already sent a letter of support to Professor Mannion, Director of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture, as has my son. Please be assured that we will do whatever possible to continue addressing what we believe is the larger issue at play, ".... the febrile atmosphere of American Catholic politics" and politics in general.


    Margaret Bihr

  19. As a former student as the University of San Diego, I am appalled to learn of my institutions recent actions that have been taken against Ms. Beattie.

    During my years as an undergraduate, I took ethics classes, philosophy, sociology, etc. We debated issues such as abortion, drug legalization, birth control, gay marriage, and various other "Catholic" issues in each of my courses. We were allowed to have an open and honest dialogue, facilitated by our professors, about the subjects at hand. This, in my opinion, is the purpose of higher education. To expose oneself to differing thoughts, opinions, and viewpoints. To allow your views to be looked at, dissected, and torn apart. To allow for an open discussion in a safe environment. The point and purpose of USD, as stated by Blake before me, is NOT to indoctrinate students in Catholicism. Under the Catholic Identity section of USD's website, it states "As a Roman Catholic institution, the University of San Diego believes that faith and reason are compatible in education, and that true knowledge can only be cultivated in an environment that fosters intellectual freedom, personal development and cultural equity."

    It seems to me that USD, in rescinding it's invitation to Ms. Beattie, is going against the Catholic Identity it is trying to portray. I fully support Dr. Beattie and would have been honored to hear her speak at USD. I believe, along with many others, that the administration and the President do NOT speak for the student body at USD, and I am ashamed that my alma mater is hindering the personal development and intellectual development of it's students in such a way.

    Renae Lewis
    University of San Diego Alumna

  20. Dear Ms Beattie,
    Your musings in "The Guardian" the other day were nothing short of Protestant.( not for the first time) It is therefore hardly surprising that lectures are being cancelled as they would be misleading to the faithful. I think much prayer is needed.
    Kenny Purdie( Greenock!)

    1. Hello Kenny,

      Good to hear from you! Do you mean the article about me on The Guardian website? Do you read The Guardian? That would make three things we have in common - bolshy Scottish temperaments, a love of Fins Restaurant and Guardian readers as well.

      I suppose the problem is I was raised in the finest intellectual tradition, being a Prebyterian with that long Scottish heritage of religious freedom and Enlightenment philosophy behind me. In all my years as a Catholic I've yet to hear a homily which beats a good Presbyterian sermon. So I don't apologise if the Protestant in me occasionally raises her voice.

      Good to see that Fins is back in business afer a brief closure.

      Warm wishes,

    2. Hello again Tina,
      Yes it was by Lizzie someone, in which you urged the Bishops to stand together against the stifling of dissent.A bit naughty. As if they needed any encouragement in dissent, well most of them in E&W anyway. Oh God no, I do not take the Guardian, just dip into the website now and then, I find it bad for the blood-pressure not to mention the soul, a bit like the "pray tell" website which no doubt you admire!?. So just Fins and the bolshy Scots in common so far then.
      I have to say I like your attitude on here and you come across as warm and ready to listen. Though I doubt we would agree on very much, and certainly not on the proposed re-definition of marriage.
      Its not that I always agree with the Church either but I stand in awe of 2000 years of tradition and knowledge led by the Holy Ghost. I consider myself a poor Catholic , but I try, and, whatever about in private, I would never dissent in public and I think that would hold even more for a public figure such as yourself.
      As to a good Presbyterian sermon, I have heard few, but yes, they can be solid. But I have heard many good Catholic ones too, In Brompton Oratory, In Saint Kevins in Dublin, and even now and then in my own Parish in Greenock!Surprise!
      I must get down to Fins again soon.
      All the best, God Bless.

  21. Dear Tina,

    As a recent ex-student of yours, I can only say that USD have lost the chance to hear an engaging and informative speaker. I understand that your lecture was unrelated to the issue that is the subject of the controversy. I feel I can speak with authority in respecting your skill as a lecturer, even if I didn't always agree with you.

    From a personal point of view I wish I'd had the chance to speak to you on equal marriage in an academic setting.

    Sue Brown is my writing pseudonym.

  22. The reason the Catholic church has historically supported every totalitarian and fascist regime it could is because they are nothing but fascists themselves.

    1. I am publishing this because it needs to be noted that Catholic bloggers have no monopoly on bigoted ignorance. This is an example of the kind of posting I shall not give space to again. There is still in this society a simmering anti-Catholicism which is exemplified by comments like this. You should be ashamed of yourself.

      I am not denying that the Church has failed miserably in some of its political alliances through history, and its present role in American politics would qualify as one such failure. However, it has also motivated people to great acts of resistance and freedom, it is a major provider of health care and education to the poor, and it has inspired some of the greatest artistic and intellectual achievements of western culture. I am proud to be a Catholic and I love the Church.


  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I removed an anonymous comment which said "Catholic thought = oxymoron" and my own ungracious reply, to the effect that I'd decided to post it because "why should God have all the best bigots?" I decided I was succumbing to the temptation to provide space for uncharitable and unhelpful comments - my own and those of others. I really want to keep this blog free from that, so please don't waste your time posting puerile or ill-informed comments that I shall simply delete.

  24. I am a blogger myself. I often receive hate comments and extremely bigoted ones. I am able to moderate them yet I often choose to publish them because they often make the argument itself just by virtue of the vitriol. Usually these people makes great fools of themselves. It also helps the readers to see what one is up against. I find that when haters reveal themselves they usually further the argument made in the article in question.

  25. This comment from Melanie Nathan seems to have disappeared (the mysteries of the blog or my late-night fumblings with the delete key), so I'm re-posting it here:

    I have the utmost respect for one who understands that so many more people than those who belong to the Catholic Church or believe in its teachings live in this world. we are all equally subject to the civil laws of a society in which we all co-exist. Religious freedoms, academic freedom and the imperative freedoms contained in parity under the civil law of a particular country must find its harmony. What better than to receive such commentary from teachings within the realm than from outside of it. It is a shame that Prof Beattie is excluded in this fashion - because her understanding of the separation of civil law vs religious belief goes both ways - it also fosters the notion of the freedoms that have served the Catholic Church in the context of its existence in civil society. Well done standing up for the separation and how it impacts all our freedoms.

  26. Dear Tina
    Thank you for your response
    1. Yes there is a tradition in Christianity of a discourse of ideas, but this is not without limits or proper context. Some of your writings I have read quite frankly seem so way out of any tradition of Catholic intellectual debate I can’t see how they fit into Tradition. The beauty of Catholicism is that it all make sense, each idea is connected to another.
    When you talk about “current official teaching” it is as though the teachings can change. The deposit of Faith that the Church holds can’t and doesn’t change, it may develop in understanding but simply can’t change. Some of the things you say seem to be arguing for a change in the teaching of the Faith, which is in every regard is incompatible with the Church.

    2. I also don’t understand where you place your regard for the authority of the Church. Authority has to have prime place because Christ gave His authority to the St Peter.
    Even in the Church, let alone outside the Church the vast majority of people have no philosophical training. They don’t learn to form, make and exchange in philosophical debate. Most people live a very straight forward life and don’t have time, inclination or even ability to consider philosophical argument. One could say that is why Christ instituted the Church. He didn’t have to institute a visible hierarchical church with magisterial teaching authority, but He did because He knows us better than we know ourselves. We need the Pope because we are incapable of each being our own Pope.

    3. As a young Catholic adult I don’t see the Church as having an “excessively authoritarian magisterium which is exercising its power and extending the remit of its non-negotiable teachings in a way which finds little support in the theological tradition.” In this tumultuous world, where anything goes, the Churches authoritative magisterium is actually liberating, especially the hard bits. I find this view quite common amongst my generation of ‘active’ Catholics. Being under the authority of the Church gives me a foundation to my life, I can then concentrate on the worship of God, attempting to live a good holy life and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, however imperfectly. I am not an academic lest of all a theologian, I live most of my life in that day to day mundane way. To be honest I am not interested in challenging the teachings of the church, life and being a Catholic is challenging enough.

    4. There is also though the issue of where and how you say some of what you say.
    There is a whole world of difference between discussing a teaching of the Church in an academic religious setting and rejecting Church teaching when publishing letters and articles in the media. Whether you’re a Catholic Theologian or a Theologian who is Catholic (and I understand the technical difference), the deference is indistinguishable to all but a few. You therefore have a duty to speak publically as a Catholic in line the Church’s teaching.
    Taking academic discourse outside of its proper setting of Catholic academia and taking it into the public square is the problem. People don’t understand what the difference between debate, dialog or dissent or “the rich intellectual heritage and fruitful internal diversity of our tradition” is, I'm not sure I full do. Your writings are bound to be met with a degree of “confrontational rhetoric”. This response by orthodox Catholics is because they see you as attacking the Church; they are rightly defending Holy Mother Church.

    5. I will leave it up to you whether to publish this comment as it is getting ridiculously long, which I think eloquently illustrates the problem. Academic debate is long and nuanced; it follows twists and turns as we seek the Truth. It may be appropriate to discuss your ideas in a “fruitful internal” setting but to present your ideas publically in such places as the Times or the Tablet etc in our sound bite and Twitter obsessed culture causes confusion and damage to the Church.

    1. Hallam Catholic,

      Of the many responses I might offer to your comment, I will limit myself to but two: (1) here in the US, as in Britain, the hierarchy of the Church has entered the public arena to campaign against the civil rights of even some Catholics, to say nothing of citizens who are not Catholic; by no stretch of doctrinal reach, ought non-Catholics be required to follow the teachings of the church in their most intimate lives. I am referring to the campaign against civil marriage equality. You suggest that any and every Catholic must be silent in the public sphere, if such a one holds a differing view than the bishop on a question of civil liberty - even after the bishop has ventured into the public arena - AGAINST and not for - an extension of civil liberties; silence in this immediate context is not a responsible posture for a citizen who happens to be Roman Catholic, and who thinks civil rights are a fundamental good and their extension is likewise a good. (2) You have neglected to square your vision of the timeless, unchanging truths of the Church with the actual event at issue - the rude withdrawal of an invitation to a residential academic position, with no reasons given; it is as if you have the mis-impression that Dr. Beattie received an angry letter or some other hostile reaction, equally inconsequential.Clearly (to me) the hierarchy of our Church is both more fearful and more punitive than, say, 50 years ago, towards the expression of ideas that are deemed, somehow, to fall outside accepted but invisible boundaries. Clearly, too, it matters not to our hierarchy whether the offending idea is expressed in an academic context or in the public square; either sphere is off limits for dissent and a dissenting academic can expect to be sanctioned; why? Your answer: the bishops say so, that's why. I cannot think of a country on earth where that's good enough, these days.

    2. Dear Richard
      My comments were principally directed at why so many orthodox Catholics here in the UK have reacted the way they have, I don’t know if you read the UK Catholic Blogosphere, but most blogs have commented on the issue, which I think is significant. I deliberately didn’t comment on the rights or wrongs of the particular withdrawal of Prof Beatties invitation as I don’t know enough about that situation. I think you may not be fully aware of the background to this.
      To answer your first point,
      1. This is not a civil rights/liberty issue; however you want to portray it, you are making a category error. Ask yourself this question – why does the government traditionally involve itself in marriage? Does it want to regulate love? That would be a bit creepy if the government was regulating “their [our] most intimate lives”. The government is interested in marriage because it wants to ensure the stable continuation of society through supporting its building blocks, the family. Marriage is principally about creating a family and children, since homosexual people can’t procreate together, they can’t get married. Love is very important but it isn’t the principle reason for marriage.
      2. This is not an issue of oppressive, mean bishops, they are just proclaiming the very clear and unambiguous Catholic teaching on marriage, whether you agree with it or not, that is their vocation.
      3. The Truths we hold as Catholics aren’t relative, they are not just for us, they are for all of humanity. Do Catholics only feed and clothe other Catholics, No, we help anyone we can. And it isn’t just Catholics objecting Jews, other Christians, Muslims and others have all voiced an objection to any change.
      4. I can’t speak for the US but in the UK there is no “civil” marriage and “religious” marriage. In UK law marriage is marriage, the voluntary union of one man and one woman. Aidan O’Neill QC a respected human rights lawyer has produced a document on the consequences of a change in the definition of marriage, it will affect every area of life and there will be no way to opt out of it or not be affected by it.
      5. Particularly for Catholic public figures if they dissent from the Faith they are excommunicating themselves, it’s nothing the Church has to do, although there are rightly sanctions such as Canon 915. This is in relation to intrinsic evils; it is a separate matter where prudential judgement is required.
      6. I wish some of the English bishops would speak up more, they have been conspicuous by their absence, north of the border in Scotland, Cardinal O’Brien has been courageous in speaking out on the issue. Even gaining an award for his efforts, “bigot of the year” thanks to Stonewall, you can see the puerile, bullying tone of some of the Homosexual lobby.
      Your second point I think I have answered in my first paragraph.
      Overall your comments seem to portray an understanding of the Church quite at odds with what the Church is. Fine disagree with the Church, but don’t try to make out the Church to different from what it actually is. This is the monumental failure of Catechises in the Church over the “last 50 years”. But I fail to see your caricature of the bishops 50 years ago as a bunch of easygoing, anything goes liberals. Your great Ven. Card. Fulton J. Sheen would have a thing or two to say about the issue of marriage, I’m sure! The way you use the word “bishop” or “hierarchy” at least 6 times is interesting, why? This seems to try to portray the otherness and oppressiveness of the Churches shepherds; there authority is not of that nature. We are all part of one Body, each with different parts, so there is nothing other about the bishops. They have a very hard vocation to follow and we should support and pray for them in their efforts.

    3. Hallam,

      In a lengthy post you write - "I deliberately didn’t comment on the rights or wrongs of the particular withdrawal of Prof Beatties invitation as I don’t know enough about that situation."

      The sole point at issue is the withdrawal of the invitation from a Catholic university to a professor at another institution. This event ought not become an occasion for bystanders to engage in abstract speculations or critiques of the worth of some ideas or notions, imputed to someone or other.

      So as not further to risk "purest faith unhappily foresworn" or "gulded honor shamefully misplaced" (WS #66), please accept my withdrawal from this sterile field.

    4. "The sole point was the withdrawal of the invitation", precisely
      1. If you actually read my comment (4th November) my "sole point" was to point out why so many orthodox Catholics have been reacting to Prof Beattie. This is highly relevant to the invitation withdrawal because it is seen by many to be the "sole point" for the withdrawal in the first place!
      2. Why then did you start attaching the Bishops and going on about so called gay marriage? I didn't bring it up, that was you.
      I will just ignore your Shakespeare quotes as that is also entirely irrelevant, except to seek to close down debate.

    5. Well put Hallam! The Bard need not be bothered with our pettiness! My question is and will always be why is she still considering herself a Catholic? If her only belief being that The Christ is her Lord and Savior who died for her to live eternally, well then any number of Christian faiths fit that bill. As you have pointed out by publicly disagreeing with multiple church teachings she has effectively ex-communicated herself. Which has comically given me a mental picture of Priests checking "ex-communication" posters hanging in the vestibule before Mass so they know who not to give communion to!

  27. Dear Professor,

    Your statements here and elsewhere imply that the Church's authoritative magisterial teachings do not include any teachings about morals. Is that your view?

  28. Your questions as a Catholic about your own faith is disturbing to say the least! I am a former cradle Catholic who left the church and became a practicing Pagan. My question to you would be how can you question the very teachings that make the Catholic Church Catholic? If you no longer believe what the church teaches then leave and find a faith that aligns with your conscience and belief, but do not seek to change the Faith tht others hold true and that make the church, well Catholic! I would never seek to change a faith that is a comfort to so many and take that from them. Also being an adopted child born after the passing of Roe v Wade I consider myself a survivor of a most heinous of Holocausts. The one against life itself! And your argument that you make here is simply erroneous in its logic, and offensive to me as a women:

    "The idea of ensoulment serves as a reminder that the coming into being of a human person is not an instantaneous event but a gradual process, not only in terms of the biological process of fertilisation, implantation and cellular division, but also in terms of the developing consciousness of the mother and her relationship to the child.

    Given that in Christian theology the understanding of personhood is fundamentally relational because it bears the image of the Triune God, it is hard to see how an embryo can be deemed a person before even the mother enters into a rudimentary relationship with it. As many as one in four pregnancies may spontaneously abort during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, often without the woman knowing that she was pregnant. As some Catholic ethicists point out, the logical corollary of this position is that a woman should baptise every menstrual period – just in case."

    This argues that as long as a woman has no knowledge of being pregnant then there are no mental damages or lasting effects. The moment a woman becomes aware of being pregnant there begins a relationship between the mother and child. And as for you calling it a "fetus" that tells me that you do not hold one of the most basic tenets of Catholic teaching, that life begins at conception. Which again begs the question of why are you a Catholic? Also if as many as 1 in 4 pregnancies abort spontaneously then the argument is again made for Catholic teaching that all life is in Gods hands and only HE has the right and ability to end that which he has created. NOT MAN!
    We are well past the inquisition or the Burning times, which allows me to leave or stay in the church if I so choose, but I support the churches right to be Catholic. No one screams heresy any longer, or even worse "hang her she must be a witch". Also the argument of Baptising every menstrual period is absurd as the old thinking of a child unbaptised is in Limbo is no longer valid Catholic teaching anyway and simply becomes dramatic on your part. All innocents are welcome in Heaven, just as someone who has never heard of The Christs message can be allowed into Heaven because he could not turn away from that which he does not know! This is Paraphrasing the Holy Fathers words so forgive the inaccuracies. My thought is that you are more afraid to look at yourself and your own faith and so spend your time pointing the finger trying to change the very thing that you think is "wrong" when it is only being that which it is. Being unhappy with 1800 year old teaching is like being angry with a leopard for having spots! The fact stands that as a Catholic University the school has the right to decline any speaker not totally in line with Catholic Doctrine. Our time is much better spent building our own relationship with God instead of trying to change how others relate to Him. Also the very definition of the Church is to be unyielding and steadfast in its beliefs, not to sit around and think how can we evolve today to societies standards!

  29. Dear Professor.

    Keep up the good work. You are indeed in good company. The institution is most often afraid of thoughtful debate, insightful questioning. Persist. They have quit burning heretics, and they have even admitted that a goodly number were burned in error.

    Jim Patterson, Presbyterian Minister


Comments and contributions are welcome so long as they respect the rules of courtesy and respect, which is not to inhibit robust disagreement.