The Obligatory Tina Beattie Post

It seems everyone is blogging about Tina Beattie.

There's some great stuff out there, and, to be honest, I'm not sure I have much to add. It does seem ironic that this happened at the same time that I had written about Fr. Kevin Hegarty's article in the Mayo News. It seems to me that many of the issues are the same: a person in a privileged position in terms of audience, speaking about something in a misleading way.

I am very interested in what's going on though, so I thought I would provide you, dear reader, with my own synopsis of the best bits of the story so far.

Basically, Tina had planned lectures at the University of San Diego, but they have been cancelled by Dr Mary Lyon, President of the University, because of her ‘dissent publicly’ from the Church’s moral teaching. (yeah!).

Now Tina isn't happy about this, and has written a response:
‘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.”
She's also written a piece in the Guardian where she decries what she terms the 'sovietisation of the Catholic Church' whatever that is supposed to mean. As Caroline Farrow points out, this is not a question of her academic freedom as she claims, but simply a question of whether she should be given a platform by Catholic institutions to promote her views. The problem is, that if Tina is invited to speak by Catholic institutions, it lends her orthodoxy and authority. An authority which Tina then tends to use in order to launch dissenting views. Of course, Tina can discuss and expound her theological position at any public venue or institution, however if she is welcomed by Catholic institutions, it looks like the Church is giving credence or even endorsing her blatantly heretical views.

Caroline, inciteful as ever, points out that one of the results of Tina being given a platform ends up being that:
'Those who are faithful to the magisterium are accused of being “ultra orthodox” or “fundamental’ and as a ‘Catholic theologian’ Tina Beattie’s words are used as proof that not only is one in error, but also the Church itself and that Tina Beattie is actually far more representative of the majority of the faithful.'
The Catholic blogasphere has been a great revelation in this regard, in fact, there are millions of faithful Catholics out there.

Mulier Fortis comments on Tina's 'sovietisation' remark, stating that the fact that bloggers have written posts decrying her opinions and expressing relief that she will not be given a platform at Catholic institutions to air her opinions does not constitute the "sovietisation" of the Church. Rather:
'This is what happens when faithful, orthodox Catholics (who are, quite frankly, totally hacked off at having her personal opinions touted as being compatible with Catholic teaching) get to demonstrate their democratic right to exercise free speech. That's what blogs are for - they allow those of us who wish to do so (without the benefit of friends in the mainstream media to give us a platform) to express our views to a wider audience.'
Father Z fisks the response of the National Catholic Reporter—which I think is the American equivalent of The Tablet. In typically acerbic form, he describes the "spittle-flecked nutty" the NCR (which Fr. calls 'the Fishwrap') is having "about the decision in San Diego not to let the wacko speak in a Catholic institution."

Over at the Muniment Room, Ttony feels guilty that he can't claim responsibility for Tina's rejection by the University of San Diego! he goes on to say:
'She has constructed a wonderful structure in which she is a theologian who is catholic rather than a Catholic theologian, at a College with a catholic foundation in which she teaches theology, rather than a theology prof at a Catholic institution, and then points out (repeatedly? obsessively?) that as a teacher in an English University, nobody can get rid of her just because she is teaching tosh they disagree with her.

Part of me feels desperately sorry for her: she has been feted and lauded, and has gradually begun to think of her magisterium as being the equivalent of anybody else's, and the intellectual-formationally challenged Hierarchy has encouraged her because she is challenging, and they have come to believe in a Guardianista view of the world in which "challenging" is an absolute virtue. She makes me think of Tracey Emin, who has lost the power to shock, and whose efforts to shock induce pity rather than anger, and whose genuine talent was lost behind her status as enfant terrible.'
The wonderful Fr. Ray Blake notes that Tina calls the bishops to dissent in her article in the Guardian. His piece is (as always) both inciteful and worrying as he states:
'What she is really doing is setting herself up against the Pope who said to the bishops at their last Ad Limina visit, "It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate" it is on my sidebar.
I am sure she has more contact with our bishops than me but I simply cannot understand how she might have gained the impression that they might actually be in favour of dissent. Is it the contact she has with the paid professional of Ecclesdon Square, are they giving this intelligent women the impression they are on the side dissent, or is it her contact with Cafod or the Tablet? Somehow she has gained this impression that the bishops are actually on the side of unorthodoxy, this is a very grave charge and should not only be rebutted but also the reason for her believing what she does abou them really does need investigating.
It is very worrying.
I am told that Bishop Egan is the only bishop with a doctorate, it is about time we took the intellectual life of the Church in E&W seriously, to think Professor Beattie is the counted as a leading Catholic theologian is a sad relection on the state of learning in Catholic England.'
I am always scared that this might be true, that dissent might run further up through the ranks than one might think. It would go a long way to explaining why the Church seems so bad at self promotion here in the UK, why we seem so reticent to actually teach the faith, why places like Maryvale aren't lauded from every pulpit.

CCFather has a brilliant perspective on this. He believes that she considers that she is ‘speaking truth to power;’. That she sees herself as a woman confronting the patriarchy, mysogeny even, of an autocratic male-run Church. The main thrust of his post is here:

'Professor Beattie claims the right to speak ‘her truth.’ That is to pursue her theological musings without let or hindrance. However, she also claims the title Catholic theologian. That title, it seems to me, if it is to mean anything at all, must limit, if not her private musings, at least her public declarations. It is no good to claim to be a pacifist and then pick fights with people, fire weapons at them and so on: that is to make language meaningless. 
The truth that she claims to speak includes such gems as: ‘This is a perverted publication written by and for people with a perverted understanding of the meaning and reality of sexual love in all its joys, struggles and ambiguities;’ a comment on a CTS booklet which teaches the Catholic understanding of love, marriage and (the impossibility of) divorce. What has riled Professor Beattie here is its insistence on the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception. 
Notice that she doesn’t confine herself to disagreeing, but also characterises both the writer and readers who accept the Church’s teaching as having a ‘perverted understanding.’ Given that understanding is derived directly from Gaudium et Spes and Humanae Vitae, that is a worrying claim. 
That is but one sample of her brand of ‘truth.’ There are many others, equally offensive to Catholics who believe what the Church teaches, documented on various blogs.
Which brings us to the bloggers. Perhaps most assiduous in speaking his truth to her power is Deacon Nick Donnelly, who runs the blog Protect the Pope.

His truth-speaking (and that of all the other blogs I have read on the subject) consists largely of quoting Professor Beattie’s words, and contrasting them with Catholic teaching, and raising the question: should she be allowed to claim both to be a Catholic theologian and to dissent, publicly and stridently, from so many of the Church’s doctrines?
She thinks the Church uses its power abusively; Deacon Nick, and I, and many others, think that she uses her power abusively. 
She thinks she is speaking the truth; we think the Church is. 
It's all a matter of perspective: and naturally, I think it is hers that is perverted, and she thinks it is mine. 
As Catholics, of course, we submit to the judgement of the Church - or not, as the case may be.
NB This has nothing to do with academic freedom. It has to do with intellectual honesty. She can teach, say or write whatever she wants. What she may not do, we believe, is pass off her anti-Catholic views as Catholic. That is dishonest.'
I thought that was brilliant!

Finally, the very funny Eccles and Bosco blog shines a light in the ridiculous reality of Tina's theological position.

I think it is interesting that this is typical of what is passed off as the liberal agenda these days. They are free to make all kinds of...well, in Tina's case, frankly disgusting remarks about Catholic teaching, but if anyone (i.e. Catholic bloggers) start to object, or point out the inconsistency in her position, they are attacking her. She is being victimised. She is the victim of a hate campaign. To be honest, I haven't seem any hate, just people who love the faith sticking up for it and prepared to point out where they think Tina is wrong. 

I do think she is wrong. Very wrong. And what's more, I don't think there's much Catholic about what she says. Therefore, I don't think she should be afforded the associated credibility. She should be allowed to say whatever she likes, but it shouldn't be passed off as Catholic in any sense. Anti-catholic more like!


  1. Prof Beattie says she doesn't know the exact reasons why her visit has been cancelled, and also publishes the letter from Dr Lyons which clearly states that it is because she publicly dissents from the Church's moral teachings. Beattie herself admits that she disagrees with "some" of them. Where, then, does the confusion lie?

    Also, the Church is not a democracy. If she does not change absolute values because millions of dissenting Catholics would like her to, then one Bishop is hardly going to cancel a lecture because a handful of bloggers express their disquiet at the views of one dissenting Catholic.


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