A British theologian who was one of 27 Catholic signers of a letter supporting the freedom of Catholics to support marriage equality, which was published in The Times of London in August, has been disinvited to give a lecture at the Diocese of Clifton Cathedral in Bristol, England.
Professor Tina Beattie, who teaches theology at the University of Roehampton, in London, was scheduled to be part of a lecture series on the legacy of Vatican II. Her talk’s title was “Mary: Mother of God and a model of a pilgrim people – Lumen Gentium.” (“Lumen Gentium” is Latin for “light of humanity,” and is the tile of Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.”) Beattie was scheduled to speak on September 18th.
According to London’s Catholic Herald newspaper, the diocese issued a statement explaining the decision, which, in part, said:
“In the light of the controversy over a recent letter which appeared in the Times, signed by Professor Beattie and 27 others, about proposals to extend marriage to same-sex partnerships, in discussion with Professor Beattie, Clifton Diocese has decided to cancel the lecture.”
In her response to the decision, Beattie was steadfast in her position about the freedom to support marriage equality, while at the same time, understanding of the diocese’s decision to cancel her talk:
“I was delighted and privileged to be asked to contribute to this distinguished series of lectures, and I was deeply saddened when the lecture was cancelled. However, I understand that this was a difficult and painful decision, and I accept the reasons for it.”
In regard to her signing the letter and her role as a theologian, Beattie said:
“As a result of my signing that letter, I understand that representations were made to Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton Diocese by various parties, which resulted in the cancellation of my lecture. While standing by the contents of the letter, I deeply regret any personal embarrassment I may have caused Bishop Declan. He is a wise and pastorally sensitive leader who has earned the respect of many of us in his diocese, and I hope that I shall be able to continue to contribute towards the educational life of the diocese as I have for many years.
“As an academic theologian and a practising Catholic I try to maintain a difficult but important balancing act – deeply rooted in the Catholic tradition – between upholding the revealed doctrinal truths which are part of the timeless and unchanging mystery of our faith, and entering into reasoned and informed debates about issues of morality, society and values which are contingent and capable of being adapted to different cultures and contexts. I do not believe that an informed theological contribution to issues of public interest is detrimental to the interests of the Church. On the contrary, I believe such debate bears witness to the theological vigour and social dynamism of Catholic Christianity, and allows us to draw on a long and rich intellectual tradition to play an active role in society today.”
She also cited the recently deceased Cardinal Martini, who in the last interview before his death, called for greater discussion in the church, particularly on sexual issues:
“However, as Cardinal Martini observed in his final interview before his death, ‘In the Church today I see so much ash covering the embers that I’m often overcome by a sense of impotence’. The Cardinal also warned that ‘the Church must recognise her own errors and must pursue a radical path of change’, which includes ‘Questions about sexuality and about all the themes connected to the human body … We have to ask ourselves if people are still listening to the advice of the Church regarding sexuality. Is the Church still an authoritative point of reference in this field or is it just a caricature in the media?’ “
Beattie is obviously a consummate teacher. She has been able to turn this sad decision into a teachable moment for the good of the wider church.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
Previous Bondings 2.0 posts about Tina Beattie:
August 13, 2012: British Catholic Leaders Support Marriage Equality Legislation
March 11, 2012: The U.K.’s Marriage Equality Debate Heats Up
January 14, 2012: Sex, Marriage, and the Church, Part 1