Newly appointed consultor to Holy See writes in support of Prof. Beattie

Prof. Paul D. Murray, the newly appointed consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the  President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain (2012-14), has written a letter in support of Prof. Beattie and protesting the cancellation of her fellowship at the University of San Diego:

‘Dear Dr Lyons,

You will have received many letters in the last week or so expressing concern and sadness at the decision that you have felt it necessary to take in cancelling the invitation to Professor Tina Beattie to hold a visiting fellowship and to speak at the University of San Diego.

Some of these will have acknowledged the very difficult position you have found yourself in, subject to strong forces and seeking to balance a range of responsibilities. Whilst operating in a significantly less charged and less polarised atmosphere than prevails in the US Catholic context, as Director of the only Centre for Catholic Studies in the UK university system and as the current President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain, I want first also to acknowledge these very real difficulties. Catholic leadership can be an exposed and challenging vocation wherein prudence, courage and discernment are needed in equal and full measure.

With this I want also to share with you something of the context and habitus of committed Catholic scholarship and theological conversation in the United Kingdom, out of which Professor Beattie operates. My hope is that doing so will help you better to appreciate both Professor Beattie herself and the vital importance for the health of Church and world alike of our beloved Catholic community showing what it means to have a mature capacity for conversation that transcends the destructive and disordered polemic marring too much of contemporary social, political and religious culture. This must surely be central to any significant Catholic presence in the university world.

Professor Beattie, herself a devout and personally committed Catholic, is a respected member and former President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain, of which I am the current serving president. The association exists “to promote the study of theology and in particular of the doctrines and tenets of the Roman Catholic faith” through appropriate conversation, exchange, mutual challenge, and scholarly analysis; always in pursuit of the further discerning and living of Catholic truth within the Church. Professor Beattie’s former role and continuing standing within the association by no means suggests any formal endorsement of all the positions she personally explores, nor general membership’s agreement with her on some of these points. Rather, it represents due recognition of her integrity, commitment, learning and distinction and, with that, recognition too that the way in which theology serves the Church and thereby the world is through robustly charitable conversation (cf. the classical role of disputatio), confident that the Spirit is leading the Church always into the total truth of God in Christ.

May the Lord guide us all as we seek to live this vitally challenging vocation in the university world and may our institutions show forth the health and wealth of Catholic conversation for the good of Church and world.

Paul D. Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain (2012-14)’

Protect the Pope comment:

a mature capacity for conversation that transcends the destructive and disordered polemic marring too much of contemporary social, political and religious culture.

‘‘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.’

‘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.’

To read Prof. Beattie’s article go to:

‘In the early Middle Ages, the focus of the Mass was not just the sacrificial death of Christ but the incarnation as a whole; in the late Middle Ages, it came to be understood more explicitly as a sacrifice; today it has become an act of (homo)sexual intercourse. Previously, women could not represent Christ on the altar, not because Christ’s death had sexual connotations, but because it was the death of a perfect human being who is only imaged in man, since the female body is an incomplete or defective version of the same thing. In our own age, however, the female body is recognised as equal but different and is still incapable of representing Christ, because Christ’s kenotic self-giving has become implicitly associated with the male orgasm, with all the pagan overtones that this implies.’ Tina Beattie, God’s Mother, Eve’s Advocate, p.80.

23 comments to Newly appointed consultor to Holy See writes in support of Prof. Beattie

  • Gurn

    This guy needs to go, I’m sick of hearing stories like this. Tina Beattie is an absolute disgrace.

  • Independent

    Compared to this the new Archbishop of Canterbury would appear to be rather orthodox.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    “conversation, exchange, mutual challenge, and scholarly analysis” says Professor Murray. But that is not the issue. Dr Lyons withdrew the invitation to Mrs Beattie because of the letter to The Times in which she specifically advocated that Catholics could support same-sex marriage. That is not the kind of conversation, exchange and mutual challenge that one might expect within the walls of academia but a very public challenge to the very clear teaching of the church. As for scholarly analysis the letter deliberately misrepresented the position of the late Cardinal Hume by omitting a crucial sentence when he said same-sex marriage was against the teaching of the church. I would have thought that misrepresentation alone would have been sufficient to undermine her academic credibility.

    If Professor Murray thinks that that kind of conduct has any place within a Catholic institution then he had better think again. Are we not getting rather tired of these self-defining “Catholic” theologians?

  • Londiniensis

    Why does the natural home for these sorts of people always seem to be that child of the 60s “Justice and Peace”?

    • kfca


      And the latest report on Chiesa concerning the memoirs of Fr. Piero Gheddo(who worked on the texts of both Ad Gentes and Redemptoris Missio) is highly instructive regarding this key aspect of the diabolical disorientation that followed in the wake of the Council. For instance:

      “Already in the immediate postcouncil, nonetheless, the dream of a new missionary Pentecost gave way to the opposite tendency. Fr. Gheddo recalls:

      “The religious obligation to evangelize was reduced to a social commitment: the important thing was to love one’s neighbor, to do good, to give the witness of service, as if the Church were an agency of assistance and emergency aid to remedy the injustices and the scourges of society. The ‘scientific’ analysis of Marxism and of third-worldism was acclaimed. Completely false ideas were proclaimed as true, for example that it is not important that peoples convert to Christ, as long as they accept the message of love and peace of the Gospel.”

  • Mike2

    Who will rid us of these turbulent theologians?

  • Daniel

    This just shows that the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain is to Catholic theology what The Tablet is to Catholic journalism.

    Paul D. Murray has shown by his ill-judged support of Dr Beattie that neither he nor the organisation of which he is President has any credibility.

  • Lynda

    It is unacceptable that such people who are neither committed to the Catholic Faith nor the truth, generally, are permitted by the Church to abuse her theology to attack the Faith and endanger countless souls in the name of Catholicism. For the relevant authorities in the Church to allow this to go on, unhindered, is to be complicit in this evil. And the letter by Dr Murray is nonsensical blather. Not a coherent point, no internal logic.

  • Joseph Matthew

    Birds of a feather : Paul Murray, Tina Beattie, Eamon Duffy etc. If Beattie were the only problem. we would not be in this mess.

  • Ioannes

    Compared with the publicity-seeking Beattie, Murray is an academic heavyweight, holding a chair at England’s third oldest university. Of the 27 signatories to the infamous August letter to The Times, Beattie was the only one I had heard of, thanks to her frequently and irritatingly being wheeled out by the BBC who seem to think The Tablet represents mainstream Catholic opinion. The rest were nonentities. However a glance at Murray’s CV on the Durham University website shows clearly where he’s coming from. The bishops, for obvious reasons, will keep their heads down; but I sense a closing of the ranks amongst liberals (who still hold positions of influence) in the face of what they perceive as a threat, not to academic or religious freedom (that’s a smokescreen) but to their own cherished nostrums.

  • Cora

    I must be thick or something:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church


    2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

  • If you say something often enough, people will believe it. The Bigger the lie, you simply need to say it more !

    Are we, the Catholic Church in the UK, heading over a precipice as we are being led there by “nice” people ?

  • “Professor Beattie, herself a devout and personally committed Catholic…”

    Just off to the pub to get a few of what Prof Murray’s been drinking.

  • Robin Leslie

    I think the best light that can be cast on this is that Professor Beattie practices theological enquiry within a particular context and set of circumstances and uses the appropriate language game for in that particular context and circumstances. What is practiced in the context of theological enquiry and the circumstances of middle-class academics is not necessarily reasonable when understood in the circumstances and the common-sense realities of daily life.
    Investigation, enquiry and argumentation are specific and particular kinds of practice as are the people who do this kind of work. Just as we cannot reduce the realities of life to conceptual knowledge so neither can we reduce the particular practitioners, in this case theologians, to the texts and contexts of their particular practice.
    Whilst Professor Beattie is making provocative statements, we must ask ourselves what kinds of statements these are stated as though they were facts viz. ‘women could not represent Christ on the altar…..because it was the death of a perfect human being who was only imaged in man’
    or again ‘the female body is still incapable of representing Christ, because Christ’s kenotic self-giving has become implicitly associated with the male orgasm, with all the pagan overtones that this implies’
    I personally cannot find any support for this position among Catholic feminist theogians. According to Francis Schussler Fiorenza Benedict XVI and his liturgical position is continuous with La nouvelle theologie and particularly with Henri de Lubac whose criticism of the post-Vatican II liturgical changes were shared by Pope Benedict in respect of the orientation of the priest at the altar and the misconception of the Eucharist as a meal as distince from its
    orthodox and patristic understanding as a sacrifice, therefore the Cross is the attentive focus of the gathered congregation and not the priest nor the gathering nor the meal.
    Professor Beattie is labouring under the common misconception of the Eucharistic gathering as a human circle (see Joseph Ratzinger: The Spirit of the Liturgy)
    From my own point of view the popular misconceptions of the Eucharist emerged with the increasingly middle-class population of the Church after the Council and its individualistic
    certifications of forms of ‘scientific experimentation and investigation’ in theological academia.
    The Church needs to look outwards to a world in the process of degradation and destruction
    and not so obsessively inwards to its own rationality. In other words it needs to practice the Love out of which it was born and to which it owes its existence. Professor Beattie is apparently taking an ersatz line in the Theology of the Body, and not one that I find any sympathy with!

  • Robin Leslie

    Where feminists read back into the Eucharist as ‘agape’ they are interpreting the past in terms of the present, viz. reading history backwards and defining it in terms of the present and a particular language game. what seems to have happened after Vatican II is that the celebration of natural abundance and its distribution of ‘goods’ at the heart of ‘flower power’ and ‘self-expression’ that began in the 1960s during the Council (1962-1965)had by the time ideological consumerism arrived in the 1980s become an unquestioned and ‘sacred’ entitlement. Amongst feminist theologians like Fiorenza and Susan Nowak the Eucharist was not seen as a sacrifice but a meal, a ‘love feast’ in which priests were inconceivable. They view the self-giving of Jesus as a celebration and not as ‘a violent death’ exposing our own violent complicity, hence the perpetual need for the visibility of the Cross in our redemption. The meal was the background not the centrepiece. I can understand where Tina Beattie is coming from but the perpetual war against patriarchy is hardly viable today, and Renee Girard is not going to rescue feminism from its cul-de-sac.

  • Tricia

    Tina Beattie should not be “a respected member….of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain” (Paul Murray)or that organisation needs to remove ‘Catholic’ from its title. I am distressed that both Paul Murray and Eamonn Duffy have been outspoken in their support for her dissent. I have recently been supporting lectures arranged by the Centre for Catholic Studies in Durham including a recent one by Professor Duffy. This will now cease and I hope that the Vatican silences them all so that the Catholic faith is no longer endangered.

  • Robin Leslie

    There can be no question of ‘silencing’ anybody where argument, discourse and thinking are concerned, we are not in an ecclesiastical dictatorship.
    However where a theologian has audiences and fellow collaborators who are Catholics, they do have a responsibility to the Church
    and by implication to the legitimate authority in the Church for observing Catholic teaching and Tradition. They also have a responsibility to discharge their role as a Catholic theologian in
    such a way that it does not cause unreasonable doubt or harm to the faith of their audiences. Finally they have a direct responsibility and obligation to their own faith, their consciences and the excellence required by their vocation as an intellectual.
    The secular is constantly trespassed by all Catholics daily, and is
    an area where faith must be practiced with not only Catholics in mind but others too, non-believers, atheists etc.. All of us must stay in touch with those we oppose, otherwise we will find that the faith we embrace is simply reduced to talking to ourselves or like-minded people, and that is not a living faith.
    Nevertheless as Eamonn Duffy reminded us (Duffy E: The Stripping of the Altars) it was the intellectuals in the Church and their alliance with mercantilists and the Court
    who undermined the faith and rites of the ordinary faithful and brought about the Protestant Reformation. There is much of the ‘trahison de clercs’ around today.

  • Josemaria Paulo Jeromino Martin Carvalho von-verster

    Wasn’t He the Professor who Proposed Married Priests in Last Month’s Synod?

    • Deacon Nick Donnelly

      No, I think you’re referring to Prof. John Haldane, who proposed married priests in The Tablet around the time of the Synod. Deacon Nick

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