A female Catholic theologian has been banned by the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh from speaking on Church property in his diocese.
Acting on instructions from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop Leo Cushley has ordered the Edinburgh Circle of the Newman Association to cancel an event at St Catherine’s Convent, Edinburgh, where Professor Tina Beattie was due to speak this month.
In his letter, seen by The Tablet, the archbishop wrote: “Professor Beattie is known to have frequently called into question the Church’s teaching. I would therefore ask you to cancel this event, as it may not proceed or be publicised on any Church property in this archdiocese.”
The archbishop also uses the letter – dated 11 July but only released this week – to rebuke the association for organising a talk by theologian Joe Fitzpatrick, who has written a book critiquing original sin and seeking to make Genesis compatible with evolution. “I wish to remind you that the Church’s teaching on Original Sin is a dogma of Catholic faith and it is not acceptable that it should be called into question at a public meeting on Church property,” the archbishop wrote, adding that to be told of these events by the CDF “is something of an embarrassment to me”. Archbishop Cushley then asked the Newman Association to take “more care” with their choice of speakers.
Soon after receiving the letter the association replied in writing to the archbishop stressing it is “most certainly not in the business of undermining the Catholic Faith”. The group has asked for a meeting with Archbishop Cushley but so far has only been offered one with diocesan officials including Mgr Patrick Burke, one the archdiocese’s vicars-general and formerly of the CDF.
It is not the first time that Professor Beattie, Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Roehampton, in south-west London, has been banned from speaking on Church premises. In 2012 the CDF instructed the Bishop of Clifton, Declan Lang, to cancel a lecture she was to give in Clifton Cathedral and later that year a speaking engagement at the University of San Diego was cancelled (although this did not involve the CDF). At the time of the Clifton cancellation Professor Beattie was told it was because she had been a signatory to a letter in The Times arguing that Catholics could support same-sex marriage in good conscience.
Professor Beattie, a director of The Tablet, wrote to Archbishop Cushley expressing her concern about his decision in a letter dated 2 September – she has yet to receive a reply. “You say that I am ‘known to have frequently called into question the Church’s teaching’. Known by whom, in what context and with reference to which of my published works?” she wrote. “Never in my published writings or talks have questioned any of the doctrinal mysteries of the Catholic faith. On the contrary, I have consistently argued in defence of even the most frequently challenged doctrines of the Church.” On gay unions, Professor Beattie said that she signed the letter at a time when Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop Cushley’s predecessor, was one of the “most vociferous opponents of same-sex marriage” and that she believes that Catholics could enter a “more reasoned and nuanced public dialogue” about the matter than the hierarchy allowed. The cardinal resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by fellow priests. Meanwhile in a letter to Archbishop Cushley written by Mr Fitzpatrick, a former priest of the archbishop’s home diocese of Motherwell, the theologian said that he had given talks on his book in the Diocese of Leeds and spoken twice to the Glasgow Circle of the Newman Association.
A spokesman for the archdiocese said: “While the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh must respect the requests of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the archbishop has offered to assist the parties concerned in contacting the CDF in the hope of reaching a fair resolution.”
Above: Tina Beattie