Prof. Tina Beattie’s US lectures cancelled because of her public dissent from Church’s moral teaching

Prof. Tina Beattie, Director of the Digby Stuart Research Centre for Catholic Studies at Roehampton University, has announced that her planned lectures at the University of San Diego have been cancelled by Dr Mary Lyon, President of the University, because of her ‘dissent publicly’ from the Church’s moral teaching.

Prof Beattie has made  a public statement about the cancellation of her lectures and has also made Dr Lyon’s email to her available on-line. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Lyon’s email:

‘It has come to my attention that an invitation was extended to you to be a Frances G. Harpst Center of Catholic Thought and Culture Visiting Fellow at the University of San Diego and, in that capacity and as a Catholic theologian, to deliver public lectures.

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 which you, as a Catholic theologian, dissent publicly.

In the light of the contradictions 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. I hope you understand the difficulties associated with this decision, one to which I arrived with great and thoughtful consideration…’

Dr. Beattie has given the following response to this latest cancellation of her lectures:

‘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 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.

To read Prof. Beattie’s full post go to:

The US Cardinal Newman Society has an interesting background post:

Protect the Pope comment:  This is very welcome news that the University of San Diego has rescinded its invitation to Prof. Beattie to give public lectures as a Frances G. Harpst Center of Catholic Thought and Culture Visiting Fellow.

No one questions Prof. Beattie’s right to academic freedom and freedom of conscience, but more and more Catholics are challenging her right to call herself a ‘Catholic’ theologian when she publicly dissents from many teachings of the Catholic Church.

(If readers of Protect the Pope want to express their thanks to Dr Lyon and support for her decision please write to her assistant Elaine Atencio: )

Prof Beattie says she wants to use her academic position ‘responsibly to address issues that have now become absolutely critical for lay theologians and for the wider Catholic community.’

In what way was Prof. Beattie acting responsibly when she wrote the following flippant statement in The Tablet in her article about abortion?

‘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.’

As a father whose only children have died through miscarriage I repeat what I posted on Protect the Pope:

‘Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of sacramental theology knows that the sacrament of Baptism cannot be administered to a dead child. In the tragic circumstances of a miscarriage or stillbirth the child has already died. For Prof. Beattie to write that a ‘woman should baptise every menstrual period – just in case’  not only indicates a lack of basic knowledge of sacramental theology on her part, but also displays a shocking insensitivity towards Catholic parents who are suffering the grief of miscarriage or stillbirth.’

To read Prof. Beattie’s article supporting abortion go to:

Protect the Pope will be covering Prof. Beattie’s statement of her theological position in a later post.

Here is a selection of previous Protect the Pope posts on Prof. Tina Beattie:



11 comments to Prof. Tina Beattie’s US lectures cancelled because of her public dissent from Church’s moral teaching

  • Bob Hayes

    Excellent news! This is not an attack on freedom of speech; Professor Beattie is at liberty to express her views, but must come to appreciate that her very public dissent from Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium will inevitably have an impact on the invitations she receives.

  • Pravin Thevathasan

    I too hope that personal attacks do not get in the way of investigating robust magisterial teaching. What is troubling is that Dr Beattie wishes to differentiate between revealed truths such as the Trinity which must be accepted and moral teachings which, according to Dr Beattie, are effectively negotiable. Do these include abortion? Euthanasia? Where do you draw the line?

  • Paul Smyth

    I read a lot of blogs especially those of “ordained deacons and priests” – I suppose the have to be ordained tobe deacons and priests but she is the theologian – I certainly can’t recall any questioning her “academic freedom” only her right to describe herseld as “Catholic”.
    Of course a Catholic who is a theologian does by that very fact of being Catholic curtail their own freedom, love of the faith might suggest they realise their place within and subject to the Magisterium.

  • Karla

    Good news. Perhaps this will be a wake up call for her and she will stop her dissent

  • Joseph Matthew

    We also learn that Bishop Lang had to be nudged into action by the Vatican.He seemingly wishes to give Dr Beattie the freedom to dissent on significant issues.

  • Mike2

    Prof Beattie says: “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.”
    Just what about these issues is ‘absolutely critical’? If it is the fact that a large number of Catholics are seen to dissent from the Church’s teaching on these issues then it would be equally justified to call for a change in Church teaching on such doctrines as the Real Presence. Similarly, if it is the fact that a large number of people in the world at large do not agree with the Church’s teaching on these topics then it would be equally justified for a ‘Catholic lay theologian’ to call into question such things as the divinity of Christ or the Resurrection. It seems to be a bit too common these days for people to convert to Catholicism and then tell the Church to change its teachings. But if people spend much of their time not only dissenting from Church teaching but also trying to persuade others to do the same thing they can hardly be surprised if people who are loyal to the Church do not agree with them and alert others to the danger of listening to them.

  • Joseph Matthew

    Just noticed that Eamon Duffy has condemned the ” Sovietisation” of Catholic intellectual life following the cancelation of lectures by Dr Beattie. Duffy is a solid historian with,alas, liquid orthodoxy. Trust him as a historian. Do not trust him as a Catholic.

  • Susie Paulik

    “No one questions Prof. Beattie’s right to academic freedom and freedom of conscience, but more and more Catholics are challenging her right to call herself a ‘Catholic’ theologian when she publicly dissents from many teachings of the Catholic Church.” Can this website clarify how many is “many”? Is there a number of teachings one must accept to be “Catholic” in your definition? Which teachings? Or is it all or nothing? Is the number of teachings to be accepted different for theologians? Priests? Bishops? Laypeople? Just trying to understand.

    • Bob Hayes

      How many is ‘many’ is a question you ask of the website, thus it is for the moderator to answer your specific question. For me – if I may take the liberty – any dissent is dissent. Raising theological questions is par for the course, using a state-funded teaching post to attack the Church is quite another. Thus any complaint is quite legitimate.

  • Neil Walker

    It would appear that at last the boot is now on the other foot and the will of the Pope is starting to mean something to ever more people in positions of authority.
    What amused me was the fact that Tina was horrified that some ordained ministers actually have the temerity to challenge her and appeal to higher authorities. Like so many others Tina wants to be a Catholic but only on her terms – perhaps she should join forces with Richard Williamson, Hans Kung and the sad and aging groups of members of Catholics for a Changing Church and We are Church. Once seen as tomorrow’s people they are, like Tina, yesterday’s news. Whinge over.

  • Professor Beattie’s original post began: “This is a version of an e-mail that I have circulated this morning. I am posting it on my blog … ”

    I have been sent a copy of the email which has a curious sting in the tail:

    “From: **************************************************************
    Sent: 01 November 2012 11:09
    To: ***************************
    Subject: FW: Cancelled visit to San Diego because of ‘dissent’

    …that those who are watching might still be able to say “See how they love one another”. (Tertullian)

    My apologies that this e-mail repeats information that I have previously sent to a small number of you, and my profound thanks to those of you who have in the last few days written so eloquently, courteously and supportively to President Mary Lyons urging her to reconsider.

    With best wishes,
    Tina Beattie

    P.S. By way of a relevant aside, you will see from my signature below that the name of our research centre has recently changed from The Digby Stuart Research Centre for Catholic Studies to the Digby Stuart Research Centre for Religion, Society and Human Flourishing. This change has nothing to do with the recent controversies around my public position. The management committee of the Centre (all Catholic academics, including two priests) has been discussing it for some time and agreed on the change several months ago. The decision was made in recognition of the need to reflect more accurately the widening scope of research and public outreach activities that the Centre represents as its influence expands – for example, in the highly successful conference we organised at the University of Roehampton in September on ‘Women, Authority and Leadership in Christianity and Islam’. We retain our close links with Digby Stuart College and with the Society of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ), and the term ‘human flourishing’ acknowledges the extent to which our activities are informed by Catholic social teaching.”

    I was interested that the term “‘human flourishing’ acknowledges the extent to which our activities are informed by Catholic social teaching”.

    I was more interested that a group of Catholic academics including two priests have the authority to change a Centre of Catholic Studies into a something else, however informed by Catholic social teaching (and with the implication that in catholic social teaching we have all that matters in Catholic studies).

    (It is ironical that she then forgot to change the name of the Centre in her signature block, but hey ho – it has been a busy few days.)

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