Theologian uninvited to U of San Diego

The University of San Diego, a Catholic institution, has rescinded an invitation to a British theologian due to pressure from conservative Catholic groups, including the Cardinal Newman Society. From Inside Higher Ed:

The University of San Diego has rescinded an invitation to a British theologian who had been asked to spend several weeks at the Roman Catholic university as a visiting fellow because of her views on social issues, including her public support for gay marriage.

Tina Beattie, director of the Digby Stuart Research Center for Catholic Studies at Roehampton University, a public university in London, had been invited to be a visiting fellow at the university’s Center for Catholic Thought and Culture. The invitation -- which included a speech at a prayer breakfast and a lecture as part of a university series -- was challenged by the Cardinal Newman Society, a group that seeks to hold Catholic colleges and universities accountable for activity on campus that it considers un-Catholic. Three days later, the university’s president, Mary E. Lyons, disinvited Beattie.

Beattie, a practicing Catholic, has published extensively on gender issues and the church.

You can read the Cardinal Newman Society’s blog post here and Lyons’ statement here

Over the past few months, I’ve spent some time interviewing students, faculty, and staff at Catholic colleges and universities throughout the US about how their campuses approach issues of gender and sexuality. Several people I interviewed said that Catholic schools have an obligation to explore these sensitive issues openly, honestly, and without fear. Many said that critical dialogue is not only an essential part of higher education, but of the Catholic faith that guides these schools. Bowing to pressure from dogmatic watchdog groups will not further our understanding, but create a climate of fear and resentment.

Amy Ho-Ohn
4 years 9 months ago
It is very rude to invite somebody to give a seminar and then, after she has made all her arrangements and the seminar has been announced, disinvite her. If she is not fit to give a seminar on a Catholic campus, somebody should have noticed it before she was invited. (And I can't help noticing that this insulting public disinvite rigamarole seems to happen disproportionately to women.)

It seems obvious this woman is beyond the border between dissident and kook. I have not read her books, but the excerpts available at the CNS site are pretty generously endowed with kookiness.

This is the sort of thing that makes it hard to believe that theology is a serious academic discipline. Why does this never happen in real academic departments? It's like the music department invites a visiting artist to give a master class, then, at the last minute, cancels it, saying "Oops, we thought we had hired a violinist, but it turns out she's a yodeler."
Craig McKee
4 years 9 months ago
From the Newman Society website:
'' On November 8th, Beattie will speak on “Visions of Paradise: Women, Sin and Redemption in Christian Art.” On November 12th, she’ll speak on “Women in Catholic Education since Vatican II.” And on November 29th, she’ll speak about “The Catholic Church and Human Rights: Debates, Dialogues and Conflicts.”
These topics pose a THREAT to whom? Why? 

The REAL Blessed Henry Cardinal Newman and his male lover must be spinning in their shared grave! (Oh wait, Holy Mother Church dug him up to cover up that inconvenient truth just before the beatification, didn't they?)
David Smith
4 years 9 months ago
I suppose it's possible that the scandal, if there is a scandal, is that universities are doing insufficient research before making these invitations in the first place, not that they're withdrawing them when they prove problematical.  Academic freedom shouldn't be confused with academic foolishness.

Vince Killoran
4 years 9 months ago
That's not why my parents and grandparents "scrimped & saved"-not to create some Catholic madrasa.

If your faith can't stand some scrutiny, some engagement with different perspectives then it is a shallow one indeed.
Kang Dole
4 years 9 months ago
What kind of rinky-dink theology departments have the catechetization of undergrads as their top job?

Amy, the fact that you think Hans Urs von Balthasar is a "marginal and insignificant figure" kind of shows that maybe you don't have the knowledge base that supports your writing these dismissive comments.
Amy Ho-Ohn
4 years 9 months ago
Um, did somebody mention von Balthasar? Are you on the wrong thread?

Put away the bottle, Rosie-Twiggy. Purim is four months away.
Jeanne Linconnue
4 years 9 months ago
#15  ''... they never would have given a dime. ''  That works both ways.

I have long supported my Catholic undergrad university scholarship program as generously as feasible. I was a scholarship student, and received an excellent education. Part of that education was learning that we were expected to think, not just regurgitate. We knew what the church taught and the ''why'' of it. We were expected to know and understand the teachings - and be able to explain them. But,  since most of our professors were thinking people, theology was as open to questioning by students as many other disciplines. If you pushed the boundaries, or disputed something, you had to be able to defend your own questions, doubts, analysis, conclusions. You did not have to be''right'' - but you did need to be able to defend your questions/analysis/conclusions. Once I was able, financially, I began giving to the scholarship program, to give a hand up to others whose families cannot afford the costs of private higher education. Not much, but something. A lot of little somethings add up. In recent years, with  no more family college expenses, I upped my donations.

BUT - if my Catholic undergraduate university begins to shut down thinking, if it demands that  theologians who question, explore new interpretations, offer new insights or possibilities STOP thinking, stop questioning and stop offering new possible understandings and insights based on what we know now of science, the human condition, history etc - not on what was believed a century ago or five or twenty centuries ago - then I will no longer, as you put it, give them ''a dime.''

 While hardly a ''big'' giver in absolute terms, I am among a group of somewhat higher than average alumnae givers. So instead of just an envelope in the mail, or a phone call from a student volunteer, I am contacted by the head of development personally during fundraising time, which is now. And I have already told him that if they follow USD's example and deny academic freedom in the theology dept in general, or un-invite an invited theologian based on the complaints of a handful of very  rich and very conservative Catholics, they will never get ''another dime'' from me, and the small bequest that is in my will for their scholarship fund will be re-directed to those whose quest for truth is not closed, but open and honest.

I don't ''buy'' every ''new'' thought or interpretation of current theologians - but if they are serious theologians I do consider what they have to say. Closing off thought is not part of any legitimate search for ''Truth'' - which the RCC claims to ''own''.  Yet even a cursory and superficial study of Catholic church history and ''development of doctrine'' illustrates the fallacy of believing that the Roman church has an exclusive patent on ''Truth.'' By definition, fallible human beings will never fully understand absolute ''Truth'' - we can only continue to look for it,  attempt to understand. Shutting off thinking is not part of a search for Truth. And those who believe that any human being or group of human beings can ''infallibly'' intrepret God's thinking are in danger of committing idolatry.

The only reason to choose a Catholic college or university instead of a secular or public college (at considerably less expense) is to expose young adults to serious religious and theological thought, to give them a solid foundation in the development of christian thought for the less two thousand years, as well as a solid foundation in the understandings of the other world religions that have stood the test of time - christianity is relatively young when compared to others. There are many shared ''truths'' in the world's great religions and christians can learn from others. A Catholic higher education should give students tools they can internalize (we hope) on how to think about moral and ethical matters throughout their lives. But, while providing the foundation, at the university level, the emphasis must be on  ''how to think'' rather than ''what to think''. The point is to educate, not simply indoctrinate

Education that does not demand thinking rather than passive acceptance of the status quo is not a very valuable education - in any field, but most especially in religion and theology.
A Judy
4 years 9 months ago
In an apparent admission that some of its original allegations were misrepresentations of Prof. Beattie's work, the CNS blog has now removed portions ''pending further study''. To their credit they have even apologized - although not to the extent of removing the pejorative ''radical'' in referring to the theologian.  Unfortunately, this comes too late to avoid double damage to the reputation of USD. For not only does its president look spineless, but the education of it alumni appears deficient in critical thinking and questioning. USD would be well advised to re-invite the speaker. Perhaps they could even become a model that is sorely needed in Catholic circles these days - a institution that knows how to publicly admit when it blunders badly.
Vince Killoran
4 years 9 months ago
Tom-do you really pine for the 1950s Catholic university?! What a dreary thought.

Can you imagine any institution of higher education taking as their only goal the "transmittal of knowledge"? Goodbye to medical advances, philosophical insight, new mathematical theorems, etc. What a waste of our God-given brains.

Catholic theology departments were mostly intellectual desserts-at least on the surface.  Historians of American Catholic thought in the 1945-65 period have uncovered a kind of "intellectual underground" of critical scholarship that would blossom with Vatican II.

Mike Brooks
4 years 9 months ago
What if the speaker intended to speak against papal infallability or transubstantiation or confession; should the University be obliged to have her speak?  Of course not.  The nature of faith is that it requires one to dispense with reason; we require faith precisely because logic and reason will not provide the answers we seek.  No one can scientifically prove what God thinks about homosexuality; our faith is that men and women were designed to form couples.  Thus, the only good that can come from this speaker is to raise doubts amongst the faithful; whereas what should be encouraged is to strengthen faith through deeper understanding of where our belief comes from7. 

Yeah, we know homosexuals want to get "married" and that Catholic teaching gets in the way of that.  So use the usual political avenues to make your claims, but don't try to dress up this social propaganda as theology with the intent of destroying others' faith.  At least the Protestants decided to create their own religion rather than try to destroy ours.  This woman should go speak at one of the dozen or so Episcopalian institutions that might be interested in having a deeper understanding of why their faith believes sodomistic relationships are equal to reproductive unions, aside from emotional arguments that ignore the differences between men and women.
Tom Maher
4 years 9 months ago
It is a hoot to read  Dr. Beattie say that the questioning and rescinding of her invitiation to be honored and to speak at San Diego University is an issue of academic freedom.   

What about the broader free speech rights of the public in this internet age to object to Dr. Beatties radical ideas and the universitiy honoring and promoting Dr. Beattie's ideas? 

Fortunately the internet does exist and the Cardinal Newman Society does monitor who and what is being presneted at Catholic Universities and does object when the themes are not Catholic.  Beatitie ideas on abortion, are radically at odds with the Church teahings.  For example Beattie actually advocates making same-sex marriage as part of the sacrement of marriage.  But any  sacrement is instituted by Christ.  Christ insistued marriage only between a man and a women.  Beattie ideas are political and make no sense as Catholic theology.   

The Cardinal Newman Society website "Campus Notes"  says the following: 

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.

Thomas Piatak
4 years 9 months ago
The purpose for which prior generations of Catholics, far poorer than we are, scrimped and saved to build Catholic schools was to transmit the Faith.  Those Catholics expected the schools they built to turn out students who understood what the Church taught and who lived by what the Church taught, and they expected those who taught in the schools they built to pass on the Faith and to defend the Faith.  If they had known that their money was ultimately going to be used to maintain comfortable lifestyles for privileged and pampered dissidents who spend their time attacking the teachings of the Church, they never would have given a dime. 
Jeanne Linconnue
4 years 9 months ago
The post numbering changed while I was writing (interrupted several times). The #15 in my post refers to Tom Piatak's post, which is currently #13.
Jim McCrea
4 years 9 months ago
I think it is past time that these Catholic schools of higher learning restrict their instructors and student bodies to those who can pass the orthodoxy test.  Theology course should only teach from the CCC.  Then the little hot-house kiddies will graduate well indoctrinated without having to go though the messy process of critical thinking!

That's just like it was when I was a kiddie attempting to grow up.  Luckily I spent a couple of decades aways for Orthotoxy and have developed the skills to decide which of the foods being served in the cafeteria are good for my health and which aren't.

But we really can't allow that any more, can we?
4 years 9 months ago
To Vince, #20 and Sandy, #21.  Thank you Sandy, for your comments on women's education at women's colleges in the 50's.  I am another one of those graduates that you mentioned.  The college I attended is in the midwest and is now the largest wonen's college in the country.  At the time I attended, we graduated with minors in theology and philosphy.  The content of the courses we took encompassed the work mainly of St. Thomas Aquinas and also a history of philosphy that included Plato, Aristotle and those philosphers who came after these geniuses.  The nuns were powerful role models and expected excelence from their students.  The college was founded over 100 years ago with the active support of the Bishop.  It is now in the process of bolstering its Catholic identity. 

I frankly don't know how or what is taught in Catholic colleges at the present time.  It seems to me a matter of discernment as to whom you invite to your college as a theologian.  It is all well and good, as the nuns taught me, to consider various points of view and be able to defend your own.  But, if the theology is of a marginal or questionable or radical point of view, there may be prudence in looking for a theologian of greater substance and recognition. 

An essentail part of our experience at the women's college of the 50's was a robust Catholic faith that was expressed throughout the years.  The beautiful liturgies, religious celebrations, music, art and architechure that came from our incarnational faith were too much taken for granted.  The aftermath of Vatican 11 was painful for many of us, who, by the way, have adapted!  Sometimes I still long for the beauty of past liturgies. Gregorian chant, beautful churches.  Ah well..................
ed gleason
4 years 9 months ago
Michael B says "speak against papal infallibility or transubstantiation or confession;"
are these 'heresies' equated with SS marriage in the city hall basement Michael? 

Why does  Micheal Brooks most likely think  everything that happens in the basements of City Hall is a crock of - except he cares that SS marriage there  will cause the end of western civilization.?????
Kang Dole
4 years 9 months ago
It's been a bad year in terms of so-called institutions of higher learning throwing scholars under the bus due to pressure from donors and just about anyone who isn't actually part of the school's education process.

And it's barely November.
ed gleason
4 years 9 months ago
Imagine paying $40K a year tuition and then add in board, room, books, fees, transportation at U of San Diego. And what does mommy and daddy get for $ 65 thousand a year? a Catechism/ bible school with a lot of pretense. That's a lot of mortgage loan and student loan default in someones future.  If this keeps up say a long  goodbye to Catholic education. I pray the Jesuits and their lay advisors see the handwriting on the wall and ignore the episcopal know-nothings. .  
Amy Ho-Ohn
4 years 9 months ago
The most visible thing departments of theology do is teach undergraduates basic catechism. That's a boring, thankless job, because anybody who didn't learn it in high school probably isn't going to learn it in college either. It's like freshman composition in an English department or physics for pre-meds, the kind of class you off-load on graduate students and adjuncts. She obviously wasn't being brought across the globe to do that.

Another thing theology departments do is "research" on the theological literature, just like other research literature departments do. They publish journal articles and books about who said what when and what he meant, etc. All of these departments suffer somewhat from the temptation to give too much attention to marginal and insignificant figures. Beattie says (CNS page) she did not herself compare the HSotM to homosexual intercourse, but was only quoting somebody else who said it. That's plausible. It's like when a professor of classical literature publishes a study of third-century pornography; he can be blamed for a poor choice of thesis, but not accused of being a pornographer himself.

But another thing professors of theology like to do is theologize, like professors of English who also write novels. A professor of Catholic theology does not necessarily theologize Catholicism, just as an English professor whose native language is Russian may write novels in Russian. Most professorial theologizing is notoriously inane, which is not surprising; novels by English professors are usually terrible and it is a well-known observation that very few noteworthy philosophers were ever professors of philosophy. (On the other hand, faculty performances in university music departments are often outstanding and almost always free, one of the huge benefits of living in a university town.)

Beattie's "reflection" is online at NC Reporter. She actually seems to be quite good at theologizing. It looks like she was hired to do a sort of theological performance. So one question is should Catholic universities require that guest theologians theologize only within the Catholic tradition? And another is, suppose she intended to leave the kookiness at home and say only unscandalous things in San Diego: would that have been OK with the donors/parents/CNS watchdogs?

But it is also a fact that, as Tom Maher (#5) suggests, many academic departments, especially in the "social sciences" but also in the liberal arts, are just public advocacy dressed up in academic garb. If USD theology is like that, it is reasonable for CNS, the donors and the bishop to treat her like a visiting politician, like inviting Ahmedinejad to speak at Columbia. Many dioceses have policies that govern those sorts of speakers, and most of those policies would disqualify Beattie.

Kang Dole
4 years 9 months ago
Cute.  But if you've failed to understand why I brought up von Balthasar while sober, then maybe some drinking would actually help you. Go and read the material again.

Again? I'm guessing you didn't do it in the first place. For your convenience, Beattie's statement is linked in Michael's post. Go and read it.
Vince Killoran
4 years 9 months ago
It's never a good sign when guest speakers are "uninvited." It's a failure of intellect, a way of cheating our students.  It's interesting to note that the USD, while not under direct diocesan control, depends on the local bishop for it's continuing designation as "Catholic."

Universities exist to transmit knowledge but also to interrogate received knowledge and create new knowledge.  The JNA works against the idea of the university.
Thomas Piatak
4 years 9 months ago
Mr. Killoran,

I hardly think that Fordham, Georgetown, and Notre Dame were madrasas in the 1950s, yet each of them then still saw their primary mission as transmitting the Faith, and none of them would have allowed someone with Tina Beattie's views to speak on campus, much less employ someone with those views to teach theology.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 9 months ago
Jim#19 - a literal definition of ''cafeteria catholic'' in your post.

The primary purpose of a theological department in a Catholic college or university is to understand, explore and present the faith at a deeper level than the Catechism or than in high school, in a more intellectually rigorous way. But, it still must be the full orthodox truth, like a medical school who teaches biology or physiology at a higher level than in high school. It would do no good to have a quack homeopath come to an orthodox medical school and try to present his/her ideas as part of established medical knowledge. Or to have a science fiction writer try to pass off his/her imaginations as demonstrated science. That is not academic freedom, but a license to defraud the audience.

I think it is fine for non-Catholic views to be presented and discussed in Catholic colleges, as long as there is truth-in-advertising. The problem is that some speakers pretend that what they are advocating is Catholic when of course it is their own decidedly non-Catholic ideas, even anti-Catholic ideology, subordinated to the secular fashions. 

Amy has it right way back in #2 that it is unseemly that an invitation has to be later rescinded. But I put it down to insufficient homework or inadequate theological insight on the part of the invitor. Glad we have the Cardinal Newman Society to correct the error.

Sandi Sinor
4 years 9 months ago
#20 and #22.  I have a couple of friends, older than I am, who graduated from college in the late 1950s. Vatican II was over when I was in college. Like many of those of us who came of age in the early post-VII years, these friends have been horrified at the backward turn of the church in the last 30 years - back to the 40s and 50s church - often described as ''pay, pray and obey''.

 They attended Catholic colleges in the 50s, where, as one puts it, ''the winds of Vatican II were already blowing''.  Unlike Tom's descripton of the men's Catholic universities of that era, they told me that they were taught ''how to think, and not what to think''.  They were pushed to question - pushed to think.  What is interesting is that these women attended all women's Catholic colleges.

Women were not admitted to Fordham, Notre Dame and Georgetown in those days - the big name all-male Catholic universities. They attended small liberal arts colleges operated by women religious. These women were often brilliant, pioneers who had to fight the overall discrimination against women in those days. PhDs were rarely awarded to any women then since they were discriminated against in many universities PhD programs.  It seems that the women religious who ran these colleges were way ahead of the men in the 40s and 50s in terms of offering higher education that offered intellectual  openness and encouraged real thinking, rather than elementary-school style catechesis, as though theology was something to be spoon-fed to students be memorized, sort of like the multiplication tables. 
Vince Killoran
4 years 9 months ago
 "[T]he only good that can come from this speaker is to raise doubts amongst the faithful; whereas what should be encouraged is to strengthen faith through deeper understanding of where our belief comes from."

There, there now college students-don't worry your little minds about these things. They've all been figured out for you and you needn't ask questions, refine your understanding, form your conscience, etc.   Please check your brains at the entrance gate to Old Catholic U.

p.s. Faith or Reason?  Why one or the other? How about a reasonable faith?!

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