24 September 2014, The Tablet

Correspondence reveals reaction to Scottish archbishop's ban on female Catholic theologian

The Catholic theologian Tina Beattie 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.

Soon after receiving the letter the association replied in writing to the archbishop and 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.

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. 

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. 

Read the correspondence below:

Letter from Tina Beattie to Archbishop Cushley

Letter from the Newman Association to Archbishop Cushley

Letter from Mr Joe Fitzpatrick to Archbishop Cushley

What do you think?


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User comments (9)

Comment by: orzel
Posted: 06/10/2014 17:35:04

When Cushley was appointed it was noted that he was a diplomat who could bring this to bear on the situation in the Archdiocese. Diplomacy was not what we needed. We needed openness and engagement not someone 'diplomatically' smoothing the unacceptable over. and he does not appear to be a very good diplomat either!

Comment by: Maryk
Posted: 29/09/2014 09:34:29

Yet another woman 'gobbled up' by the CDF and this time a man as well, just to show they are not misogynists. Archbishop Cushley has not covered himself in glory with his initial letter and subsequent discourtesy in not replying.

Comment by: Bob Hayes
Posted: 27/09/2014 13:13:40

It is worth noting Pope Francis' observation on the role of theology:

'[T]heology cannot consider the magisterium of the Pope and bishops in communion with him as somehow extrinsic, a limitation of its freedom, but rather as one of its internal, constitutive dimensions, for the magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity.' (Lumen Fidei, 36)

It should be no surprise then that theologians who seek to undermine the magisterium are no more welcome on Church premises under this Pope than under any other.

Comment by: pippabonner
Posted: 26/09/2014 21:35:54

I believe that Prof Tina Beattie and Joe Fitzpatrick, both theologians and working from within the Catholic Church as Mass goers, committed to speaking to local as well as international groups and as educated lay Catholic theolgians, have expressed the issues in their eloquent, deeply felt letters. I cannot add to what they have said other than ask Archbishop Cushley and the CDF to listen and reflect on their actions. Particularly so on the eve of the Family Synod. How do their responses sit with Pope Francis' request for more dialogue and involvement of lay people? Dialogue that is responsible and open, without fear of censorship and unilateral silencing. Where do we go from here?

Comment by: Francisofassissi
Posted: 26/09/2014 15:52:51

Well done to Archbishop Cushley. As a member of his flock I am glad he is shepherding the faithful from the wolves of organised dissent from the teachings of the Church. Those who seek to undermine the teachings of Christ are met with a leonine response.
Thank you archbishop Leo!

Comment by: GS
Posted: 26/09/2014 09:17:04

The malign influence of the conservative uber-traditionalist Catholic blogosphere again. The depressing aspect of this news is that the scapegoating and cyber bullying of liberal Catholic scholars reaches the CDF who act punitively and invite no dialogue.
Those who appreciate and value Professor Beattie's writings look forward to future talks and, paradoxically, are grateful for the publicity, which reflects badly, not on Dr Beattie, but the hierarchy.

Comment by: ChrisMorley
Posted: 26/09/2014 00:23:32

It should not be beyond the wit members of the Newman Association/Society, acting as private individuals, to ensure Tina Beattie can speak in Edinburgh to those that wish to hear her.
The Edinburgh Quaker Meeting House is very central, fully accessible, has full facilities and is inexpensive. This venue is not within the Archdiocese's control http://www.quakerscotland.org/edinburgh-central/room-hire
Edinburgh Divinity School staff or students might be persuaded to front, on behalf of Newman Association members acting as private individuals, the organisation and publicity for the meeting.
Where there's a will there's a way.

Comment by: Chris McDonnell
Posted: 25/09/2014 21:49:33

How sad that once again the CDF is imposing a limitation on academic discourse. It is only through honest and open debate that a pilgrim church can evangelise in a secular society. Will we be following the instruction given to the Sisters leadership group in the US that they submit names of speakers to their meetings for prior approval? I sincerely hope that this is not the case. The loss of such honesty would be a matter of regret. Asking questions in good faith and seeking answers in accordance with the Gospels is a responsibility that falls on all of us. Professor Tina Beattie deserves our support.

Comment by: agnes
Posted: 25/09/2014 17:04:44

this is another example of the hierarchy ignoring the message of Christ and being wedded to power.

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