The National Catholic Reporter is reporting that faced with a vote of no confidence Dr. Lyons, the President of the University of San Diego, has offered a compromise that would allow Prof. Beattie to lecture at the Frances G. Harpst Center of Catholic Thought and Culture.
‘Lyons responded to the Nov. 6 vote hours before Tuesday’s faculty assembly. In a letter to Floyd on Tuesday morning, Lyons wrote she would allow Beattie to speak at the university, so long as the theologian was not given an “honorary affiliation” with the institution, a reference to Beattie’s expected title of “visiting fellow” of the Harpst Center.
In the letter, Lyons wrote that she recognized that her decision to disinvite Beattie left “many very thoughtful and serious academics, students and others — including theologians — both on our campus and beyond questioning our university’s commitment to Academic Freedom.”
“In response to the Assembly’s request [of Nov. 6], I am endorsing that Dr. Beattie be invited by the [Harpst Center] to speak at USD, as early as the Spring semester, without conferring upon her an honorary affiliation with the University,” Lyons continued.
Gerard Mannion, the director of the university’s Harpst Center, told NCR Tuesday the general feeling of the faculty was that Lyons’ response was “too little, too late.”
“People just felt that it didn’t change anything,” Mannion said. “It didn’t apologize, as the assembly had asked. It didn’t right any of the wrongs. They just felt it was compounding the wrongs that had been committed.
Floyd said that Lyons’ Nov. 13 letter indicates “she believes herself to have the right to veto or approve visiting scholar appointments, which is itself a violation of academic freedom.”
Beattie, a professor of Catholic studies at London’s University of Roehampton, said she would have to consider before accepting a new invitation to speak at USD.
“The only thing that would make me feel inclined to accept it is I feel an enormous debt of gratitude to faculty and students at USD,” said Beattie, who also serves on the board of directors of the British Catholic weekly The Tablet and is a theological adviser to the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development, the Catholic aid agency for England and Wales.
While Beattie said she was “amazed” at the response she had seen in her case from others worried about academic freedom and freedom of conscience, she also said her experience has made her believe there are “real problems” with U.S. Catholicism.
“One thing I think that your bishops there need to be aware of, and your funders, is that from this side of the pond, why on earth would any British intellectual want to go through this?” she asked.
“I can’t see why anyone in my position would subject themselves to this in order to speak in America. Part of me thinks that you have a real problem with the politics of American Catholicism at the moment. And it’s really a disincentive to people wanting to get involved.”
Protect the Pope comment: We should feel a great deal of sympathy for Dr. Lyons faced with a vote of no confidence and receiving no public support from Catholic leaders for her stand against a dissenting Catholic theologian lecturing at a Catholic university. Again, the field has been left free for Catholic academics who defiantly reject the doctrines of the Church to write and say whatever they want without being challenged by those charged with the defense of the Faith.
Prof. Beattie appears disinclined to accept Dr. Lyons compromise, and her supporters seem to want nothing less than the abject humiliation of Dr. Lyons in their demand that she apologise to Prof. Beattie. Obviously they want to send the clear message to any other Catholic academic who dares challenge their dissent that they will be hounded and pilloried for defending the Faith.
And why should a Catholic university president take a stand when not one bishop or senior licensed theologian will offer public support? What’s happening at the University of San Diego is not merely an internal matter of the university but has implications for the authentic proclamation of the Gospel both in the USA and back here in the UK. Until this problem of unopposed dissent is faced and dealt with, the New Evangelisation and transmission of the faith with be undermined and distorted by the anti-Gospel being taught in some Catholic universities, and promulgated by some Catholic journals. Pope Pius IX, Saint Pius X, Venerable Pius XII, Blessed John XIII, and Blessed John Paul II. Pray for us. Deacon Nick Donnelly