Saturday, 30 August 2014

Red Card: Tina Beattie

Tina Beattie gets a Red Card
On Wednesday, The Guardian published an article by Tina Beattie, Professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton University entitled "Pope Francis has done little to improve women’s lives" in which she claims "Women do not seem to have a place in the pope’s vision of a Catholic church that cares for the world’s poor people". [1] Professor Beattie's article appears to be a vehicle to demonstrate her perfectly liberal rejection of Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception, justified as a solution to the appalling maternal mortality rate in the world's poorest countries - laying the blame at Francis' feet appears to be ploy for headlines rather than a serious accusation. 

Professor Beattie lambastes the lack of discussion of maternal mortality in official papal encyclicals but one suspects she is being disingenuous in this accusation as a Professor of Catholic Studies should know that papal encyclicals do not directly address specific issues in such a manner. There are no papal encyclicals on AIDS, drug abuse or alcoholism but one cannot conclude that the Church has no position on theses issues nor does anything to try and alleviate them. Sure, she may not address these issues in the manner a liberal minded Professor would like but she has a stance on them nonetheless. Likewise, the church addresses maternal mortality through the prism of it's social and moral teaching and it's encyclicals on motherhood, marriage and the family and economics. Professor Beattie suggests that "the international community must focus on poverty alleviation and the education and empowerment of women and girls, not only because justice demands it but because it has been shown to be the most effective way of tackling the population crisis". As the Catholic Church plays a vital role in the education and care of women in most poor countries throughout the world and has consistently worked towards the alleviation of poverty and an end to exploitative economics, it is disappointing that Professor Beattie did not choose to constructively engage with those aspects of it's mission.

I don't know enough about Professor Beattie to know if she is a Catholic - one does not need to be one to be a Professor of Catholic Studies but one would assume it might help [2]. Aside from the subject of maternal mortality, the major issue her article raises for Catholics who wish to remain loyal to the authentic teaching of the Church is how to deal with such prominent cases of Catholic dissent. Professor Beattie's case is particularly pressing because of her status, her position and her platform. @themunimentroom has suggested that given the censure of, "it's up to everybody reading this to give it the widest possible dissemination.  Let's make sure our Hierarchy knows what Professor Beattie thinks!". [3] Such dissemination won't do any harm (and maybe this post will contribute to that end in a small way) but given Joseph Shaw's analysis of how like minded bishops within our hierarchy appear to handle dissent, it seems unlikely to do any good. [4]

Though I had reservations about the way in which Deacon Nick pitched his articles and don't think he did himself many favours in the way in which observed his "period of prayer and reflection", I recognise that was fulfilling a very useful purpose in making challenges to the authentic teaching of the Church known to those who would wish to defend it. [5] Whilst not exactly a conspiracy, I do believe that parties in addition to Bishop Campbell brought about it's censure. Such a recognition of role of Protect the Pope however is a rather damning indictment of our own hierarchy, theologians and educators. Surely it is their vocation to "be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks [us] to give an account for the hope that is in [us]" [6] and to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God"? [7] True, some bishops have spoken out on themes such as the redefinition of marriage but it is rare that an individual is taken to task for propagating dissent in an official capacity.

And so, it is left to ordinary Catholics to challenge dissenting Catholics like Professor Beattie. We may not be able to do so directly but if we encounter the effects of their influence in the people we meet, we may just be able to "give account for the hope that is in us". As Blessed John Henry Newman says we should be a  laity "not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity; I am not denying you are such already: but I mean to be severe, and, as some would say, exorbitant in my demands, I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and principles of Catholicism" [8]

[2] Google suggests she is a "British theologian, writer, broadcaster and practicing Catholic"
[6] Peter 3:15
[7] 2 Corinthians 10:15

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