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University of San Diego (USD) officials have rescinded a visiting fellowship for radical British theologian Tina Beattie that was scheduled to begin this month, according to a letter written to Beattie by USD President Dr. Mary Lyons, who cited Beattie’s public dissent from Catholic teachings.
Alumni for a Catholic USD and its leader, attorney Charles LiMandri, pressured Lyons to halt the fellowship. The cancellation is a major success for the alumni, who organized earlier this year in response to a drag show on campus. On her blog Marginal Musings, Beattie also blames The Cardinal Newman Society for the cancellation, because of the Society’s “influential” report on the USD scandal.
Beattie writes, “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.”
USD alumni and The Cardinal Newman Society pointed to Beattie’s support for legalized abortion, which she has argued using just war theory and the imagery of the Trinity. She has advocated sacramental same-sex “marriage” and women’s ordination.
Those positions apparently led Dr. Lyons to cancel Beattie’s visiting fellowship and lecture series with USD’s Center of Catholic Thought and Culture, according to Lyons’ letter which Beattie released online:
The Center’s primary mission, consistent with the intentions of those who have financially supported the Center is to provide opportunities to engage the Catholic intellectual tradition in its diverse embodiments: doctrinal, spiritual, moral, literary, artistic, and social. This would include clear and consistent presentations concerning the Church’s moral teachings, teachings with which you, as a Catholic theologian, dissent publicly. In light of the contradiction between the mission of the Center and your own public stances as a Catholic theologian, I regretfully rescind the invitation that had been extended to you.
On her blog, Beattie wrote that it’s not just the rescinded invitation that worries her, but she’s concerned about the message this sends about academic freedom at Catholic colleges in America:
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.
Beattie is presumably unconcerned about the scandal of her own musings. In defense of her pro-abortion rights position, Beattie wrote:
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.
In that latter piece, she also compared pregnancy to war, saying, “To acknowledge that there are cases when early abortion is the lesser of two evils is not to be pro-abortion, any more than to acknowledge that sometimes war may be a necessary evil means that one is pro-war.”
In The Tablet, she wondered why marriage couldn’t “become an inclusive rather than an exclusive sacrament?” She seemed to indicate that homosexual “marriage” might even be better because it doesn’t involve subordinating women. She wrote:
In these times of radical change in our understanding of sexuality and human dignity (especially the full and equal dignity of women in this life and not just in the life to come), maybe we heterosexuals need the marriages of our homosexual friends to help us to understand what marriage looks like when it’s not corrupted by traditions of domination and subordination.
Beattie isn’t the only theologian upset at the cancellation. According to The National Catholic Reporter, Jean Porter, the John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, said, “This is an insult to a well-respected theologian who I know, whose work I know and who I think has always been entirely appropriate in the ways in which she’s developed and expressed her views.”