The Upside-Down World of Catholic Higher Education

In an ideal Catholic world, if a Catholic theologian promoted a woman’s right to choose abortion and encouraged access to same-sex marriage, while also comparing the sacrifice of the Mass to an act of homosexual intercourse, the work of that theologian would be marginalized. But, in the upside-down world of Catholic higher education in 2012, such dissidence is applauded. Case in point: Tina Beattie, the British theologian whose book, God’s Mother, Eve’s Advocate: A Gynocentric Refiguration of Marian Symbolism in Engagement with Luce Irigaray, promotes such heresy, has been honored as a visionary on Catholic campuses here and abroad.

Conflict and confusion at the University of San Diego
However, after a decade of honors and accolades from Catholic institutions, Beattie’s writings are finally receiving some criticism. In 2011, Bishop Declan Lang, of the Diocese of Clifton in the UK, canceled a lecture to be given by Beattie as part of a diocesan speaker series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. And last month, Beattie’s invitation to serve as a visiting fellow at the University of San Diego’s Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture brought protests from the Catholic community in San Diego and beyond. In fact, the protests were so strong that Mary Lyons, the university’s president, abruptly withdrew the invitation just two weeks before Beattie was scheduled to arrive on the USD campus.

Lyons’ decision to cancel the Beattie fellowship resulted in a vote of “no confidence” from 99 members of the university’s Academic Assembly of the College of Arts and Sciences (the vote was 99 in support, 16 against, and 19 abstentions). Writing that “[t]he president has shown herself to be ethically bankrupt,” the 99 faculty members claimed that their vote “lets the world know that faculty here do in fact support and believe strongly in academic freedom…this body declares a loss of confidence in [Lyons’] leadership.”

In explaining her decision, Lyons distributed a letter to the University of San Diego community claiming that Beattie “has taken positions that many would say challenge Church teachings.”  And although Lyons stops short of stating she herself would ever claim Beattie challenged Church teachings, the USD president also said that “offering [Beattie] an honorary fellowship would be a betrayal of those benefactors who supported the Center.” Pointing out that the Center was designed and funded by generous men and women who wanted to present the Catholic tradition “with accuracy and respect,” Lyons made the decision to rescind the invitation. In a letter to the chair of the Academic Assembly, Lyons wrote that she would allow Beattie to speak at the university in the spring semester as long as the theologian was not given an “honorary affiliation” with the institution—a reference to Beattie’s expected title of visiting fellow.

The real question is this: Why has Beattie—a theologian who has denigrated the teachings of the Church for more than a decade—been given so many honors in the first place? As the Professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton University, Beattie serves on the board of and is a frequent contributor to The Tablet, a British Catholic weekly journal which describes itself as “committed to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.” Consistently criticizing the Magisterium, Beattie is an advocate for a woman’s right to choose abortion. In a 2010 article published in The Tablet titled “In the Balance: Morality of Abortion,” Beattie calls abortion “the lesser of two evils.” Claiming that women have the right to choose abortion, Beattie writes, “It is to my mind unacceptable in today’s world that a religious hierarchy made up exclusively of celibate men should claim the right to make authoritative decisions regarding these most intimate areas of women’s lives.”

In a speech titled “How Far Can You Go?” delivered at the conference for the Movement for Married Clergy in London in 2006, Beattie dismisses the “gendered nuptial sacramentality in which the relationship between Christ the Bridegroom and the Church as Bride is played out in the Mass.” Calling this relationship a “cultic understanding of priesthood,” Beattie argues, “Being a bridegroom certainly did not translate directly into Christ having to be a body with a penis.” For Beattie, “we might learn from our Anglican brothers and sisters that the crisis in priesthood is not resolved by the ordination of married men nor even of women, unless we also address the question of where the homosexual person belongs in relation to the body of Christ.”

Beyond the dissidence, Beattie’s convoluted text itself should have excluded her from publishing in the first place. But, publishers like Continuum—publisher of God’s Mother, Eve’s Advocate—are always welcoming to those willing to disparage the male priesthood and the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and sexual morality. Most presses—without a political agenda—would be reluctant to publish a manuscript as jargon-laden as the one Beattie published with Continuum. This is just one example of Beattie’s pretentious prose—in this case, explaining to the reader why she is writing her book:

My intention is to liberate the theological language of maternal femininity from the colonizing discourses of masculinity, by mimetically assuming the position of the theoretical Catholic woman as well as being a Catholic woman theorist. As a Catholic theologian, I don the masks and adopt the strategies of Irigarayan woman in order to see Mary differently….

And so forth.

A history of honoring dissident theologians at USD
Still, it is understandable that the University of San Diego’s faculty members were shocked and angered by their president’s decision, considering the fact that throughout the past two decades, they have succeeded in honoring some of the most dissident theologians in the country. In 2008, USD honored Father Peter Phan, professor of theology at Georgetown University and former president of the Catholic Theological Society of American, despite his precarious status as a theologian under investigation by the Vatican and the US bishops for his view that Jesus is but one among many paths to salvation.

In 2007 the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith criticized Father Phan’s 2004 book Being Religious Interreligiously as “notably confused on a number of points of Catholic doctrine and also contains serious ambiguities.” Claiming that there is a “gnostic tenor running through the book,” the CDF also charges that Phan’s book can be read as suggesting that “non-Christian religions have a positive role in salvation history in their own right and are not merely preparation for the Christian Gospel; that it makes little sense to try to convert non-Christians to Christianity; that it would be better to avoid terms such as ‘unique,’ ‘absolute,’ and ‘universal’ for the saving role of Jesus Christ; that the Holy Spirit operates in a saving way in non-Christian religions; that the Catholic Church cannot be identified with the church of Christ; and finally, that God’s covenant with the Jewish people does not find its completion in Jesus Christ.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concurred with these Vatican observations—especially concerns over Phan’s treatment of “the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the universality of his salvific mission, the salvific significance of non-Christian religions, and the uniqueness of the church as the universal instrument of salvation.”

The practice of awarding endowed chairs in theology at Catholic universities has actually provided the needed cover enabling faculty members to hire theologians without going through the same kinds of national-search protocols that hiring an assistant professor might require. At the University of San Diego, current theology faculty members have, on several occasions, invited former colleagues or their own professors from graduate school to fill distinguished chairs at the university. The first person to hold the Distinguished Msgr. John Portman Chair of Systematic Theology in 2001 was retired Archbishop of San Francisco John R. Quinn, whose book on the reform of the papacy calls for decreased papal authority, decentralization, more control granted to bishops, and parishioner involvement in the selection of bishops. Implementing Archbishop Quinn’s suggestions would bring the Catholic Church in line with most Protestant denominations and radically weaken the papacy. Yet he was honored with the endowed chair on the Catholic campus.

Invited to teach undergraduate theology students at the University of San Diego, Quinn has openly criticized, in his writings and speeches, the Roman Curia for “wanton disregard” of the local Church, and “blind, rigid application of Church law,” arguing that the Vatican should reopen discussion of such issues as the ordination of women, birth control, and married priests.  In May 1999, the Catholic newspaper San Francisco Faith reported that at a meeting of US bishops in Washington, DC, then-Archbishop Quinn called for rejection of Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Although Quinn resigned from his position as archbishop of San Francisco in 1995 at age 66, nine years earlier than the mandatory retirement age of 75, the University of San Diego welcomed the longtime critic of Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the papacy itself as the first recipient of the prestigious Portman Chair.

Quinn’s appointment seemed to set the pattern of inviting dissident theologians to hold the Portman Chair, as subsequent chair-holders have similarly negative views of papal authority, and have criticized Catholic Church teachings on reproductive rights and the role of women in the Church. For example, the 2002 chair-holder, Peter Hunerman, professor emeritus of  Catholic theology at the University of Tubingen, believes that barring women from ordination in the Catholic Church is based on “undefensible premises.” In 2003, Father Bernard Marthaler, OFM, a professor of religion and religious education at Catholic University of America, was invited to hold the Portman Chair. A proponent of the “new catechetics movement,” which privileges personal experience over formal Church teachings and dismisses “book-centered catechesis” as filled with what he called “tired customs and trite devotions,” Marthaler was one of the 87 original dissenters who joined with Charles Curran in 1968 to protest against the papal encyclical on birth control, Humanae Vitae. Yet, unlike Father Curran, Marthaler faced no disciplinary action and not only maintained his tenured position at Catholic University, but was invited to hold the prestigious chair at the University of San Diego for a year.

Following Marthaler, Mary Hines and Thomas Franklin O’Meara, both Rahner scholars, each held the Portman Chair. While Mary Hines questions the sanctified role of the Blessed Virgin Mary,  Father O’Meara, a retired theology professor from Notre Dame, dismissed what he called the “trappings and autocracy of the Vatican bureaucracy.” O’Meara published an article in which he decried the hierarchy of the Church and applauded the fact that “the baroque period in Catholicism is past.” And, in a speech at the Newman Theological College, O’Meara lashed out at the Vatican for banning discussion on the ordination of women, suggesting that “the ordination of married men to the priesthood and of women to the diaconate is only a matter of time.” Dismissing Catholic teachings on women’s ordination, O’Meara claims that “it is hard to argue that women should not have public roles because the Holy Spirit doesn’t discriminate on the basis of biology.”

More recently, Father James Keenan, SJ was awarded the Portman Chair last year. Currently serving as the Founders Professor of Theology at Boston College, Keenan made headlines in 2003 when he appeared before the joint committee on the judiciary for the state of Massachusetts to offer his support for same-sex marriage. The judiciary was debating a bill (constitutional amendment H3190) that would mandate that only the union of one man and one woman be recognized as a marriage in Massachusetts. Claiming to present the Catholic perspective, Keenan claimed that “H3190 is contrary to Catholic teaching on social justice.… The Catholic theological tradition stands against the active and unjust discrimination against the basic social rights of gay and lesbian persons.” Keenan encouraged legislators to vote against a bill that would ban same-sex marriages.

Beyond the Portman Chair, visiting professors to USD constitute a long tradition of encouraging those with pluralist views of Church teachings to teach undergraduates. Theologian Bernard Cooke, a longtime visiting professor (and the former professor and colleague of a San Diego faculty member) who recently retired from USD, is one of the best-known dissenting theologians today. With a national reputation for criticizing Church teachings on priestly celibacy, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, contraception, and women’s ordination, Cooke is a former Jesuit priest who left the priesthood three decades ago to marry, and has been critical of the current status of the priesthood ever since. Going well beyond the usual left-wing dissidence on sexual morality and reproductive choice, Cooke has been especially critical of the elevated status of ordained priests, and in his book, The Future of the Eucharist, Cooke claims that although a liturgical leader may preside, “it is the community that celebrates the Eucharist.” In a lecture on the USD campus, Cooke claimed that “the existence of a socially privileged group [priests] within the Church is not meant to be.… I hope that in a relatively short time, the inappropriate division between clergy and laity will vanish.”

Criticism of the status of priests within the Church has characterized Cooke’s career for the past 30 years. Claiming that the growing shortage of priests will lead to a “liturgical starvation” for an expanding US Catholic population, Cooke’s solution is to empower the laity and allow married priests (or ex-priests, like him) to assume leadership. A member of CORPUS, an advocacy organization of former priests that lobbies for optional celibacy for Catholic clergy, Cooke is also a board member for Call to Action, a lay movement demanding women’s ordination, an end to priestly celibacy, and a change in the Church’s teachings on sexual morality.

Earlier this year, former Jesuit priest Paul Lakeland, a Fairfield University Catholic Studies professor, was invited to give an address to students and faculty at the University of San Diego. He received this honor despite the fact that in 2007 he was the media spokesman in favor of Connecticut Bill 1098, a bill that would have forced Catholic churches to reorganize along state-mandated lines—giving lay control over parishes and effectively removing the authority of priests and bishops. As a spokesman in favor of the bill, Lakeland, like Cooke, has long lobbied for an end to what  he calls the “structural oppression of the laity” by the clergy. In his books (published by Continuum) and speeches, Lakeland promises to help all Catholics “exercise their baptismal priesthood” and dismisses the role of the Catholic deacon as a “monster” which belongs to a “lay-ecclesial species.” Claiming that his newest book identifies the task of the laity as working “to build a non-clerical Church,” Lakeland joins others in organizations like CORPUS and similar fringe Catholic groups to radically change the Church and marginalize the bishops’ teaching authority on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and women’s ordination. Earlier this week, Lakeland wrote a letter to President Lyons decrying her decision to rescind the invitation to Beattie (published on the “support Tina Beattie” website).

The renunciation of Church authority
One of the reasons theologians have confidently challenged the teaching authority of the Catholic Church is that many of those theologians, such as Nicholas Healy—a former Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Diego who currently teaches at St. John’s University in New York—believe that theologians already comprise an “alternative” magisterium:

No single authority trumps the others so that one could say that it is the decisive authority on which all the others rest. Certainly the bishops and popes are weighty authorities. They have something of a US Supreme Court or British lords’ function in that they are to make the final authoritative judgment in cases of controversy. But only that: their teaching itself is not final in the sense that it halts or inhibits further debate on the same matters. For all their judgments must be interpreted and those interpretations discussed by the other magisterium, that of the theologians. (Nicholas M. Healy, “By the Working of the Holy Spirit,” The Anglican Theological Review [Winter, 2006])

Rather than recognizing the authority of the Magisterium, theologians like Beattie, Lakeland, Cooke, and others favor a critical approach to Catholic theology that is rooted in the “acceptance of experience as a legitimate source for theological reflection”—and includes what some left-leaning theologians call a “hermeneutics of suspicion to the sources and questions of theology,” as “pluralism” is now the hallmark of progressive Catholic theology. Unlike those with an orthodox perspective of theology, these theologians have embraced the Enlightenment’s philosophical “turn to the subject.” Such a development undermines the notion of a divine, supernatural revelation operating independently of human reason.

In contrast to Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who have often cautioned against trusting personal experience, liberal theologians argue that revelation and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can be discerned only from within human experience. These theologians claim that their position is grounded in Vatican II’s definition of the Church as the people of God (Lumen Gentium), and is consonant with an empowered laity whose experience must be considered along with that of the ordained as the Church moves forward in history.

Such a pluralistic approach to theology points to what liberal theologians view as a need to reflect on lived experience as a source for the renewal and strengthening of the Church. As self-described liberal academic theologians, Mary Ann Hinsdale, Chair of Theology at the College of the Holy Cross, and theology professor emeritus John Boyle write in the book What’s Left? Liberal American Catholics:

We can point to the appeal made to the experience of married Christians in the discussion of acceptable ways of preventing pregnancy prior to Humanae Vitae, and in the critical way in which the encyclical was received by many lay men and women.… In the decades since 1968, other issues of sexual morality, such as abortion and homosexuality, have been dealt with in Church teaching documents, to be met with similar appeals to the experience of Christians in the formation of the believer’s conscience.

Such an experiential approach to theology raises theological questions about the status of tradition and authority within the Church. For theologians like Hinsdale, Boyle, and others, the experience of the individual is of primary importance. From this perspective, if an individual woman feels called to the priesthood, or called to an abortion, then her call to priestly ordination, or to terminate a pregnancy, should take precedence over any Church teaching. For liberal theologians, “the refusal of those in authority to attend to the experience of Christian believers raises questions about the fundamental fairness of the Church’s processes in dealing with disputes over doctrine or moral teachings.” Liberal theologians claim that from the “critical theology” perspective, “when the Church ignores the experience of its members, it tends to impoverish the perspectives available to enrich the theological task.”

A small but encouraging step
In an interview published in the National Catholic Reporter, Beattie warns that the cancellation of her fellowship was “symptomatic of something very new and very worrying. It’s unheard of, certainly in Britain, for a theologian in my position to feel threatened by this kind of action…it’s not about me, it’s about some change in the culture of the Catholic Church that we should be very, very concerned about.”

For faithful Catholics, it is a hopeful sign that Beattie’s appointment was cancelled. Faithful Catholics have been concerned about theologians like Beattie for more than 50 years now. And, although financial concerns may have prompted President Lyons to cancel Beattie’s fellowship, the fact that it was cancelled at all is a step in the right direction.

This essay first appeared November 16, 2012 in Catholic World Report and is reprinted with permission.

Anne Hendershott


Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education; The Politics of Abortion; and The Politics of Deviance (Encounter Books). She is also the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Catholic Church (2013).

  • Ford Oxaal

    After this eye-opener of an article, I need an eye-opener of another kind — like a morning Manhattan. These dissident “theologians” are wannabes — lightweights. Because they can’t hold a candle to real theologians, they make a living murmuring against whatever the Church puts forward as teaching. These are the cowards, who, unable to stand *on* the rock, lurk *under* the rock. For them, the Gospel in not good news at all, and so they war against it from the flesh, bodily functions commanding most of their attention. Keep your children away from these people. But even now, God is bringing a greater good from the dung heap of mental self-abuse — the sprouts are everywhere. Even the chaired traitors are starting to worry. Thank you for that note of hope at the end of the article. I am saving that morning Manhattan for later in the day.

    • musicacre

      What’s a morning Manhattan?

      • Ford Oxaal

        on the rocks: couple of shots of some kind of whiskey, some vermouth, and some peychaud’s or other patent medicinish bitters — tad of cherry juice — the virtue of this drink is it does not “go bad”. Even if the ice melts it transforms itself into some sort of desert drink!

    • Alecto

      Infinitus est numerus stultorum: Beattie, Phan, Marthaler, Hines, etc….

      • Ford Oxaal

        Making a living at the expense of the magisterium — how low can you go? Chewing away at the bugs…

    • Ib

      Because its designed almost exclusively for climbing the professional ladder, the vast majority of academic theology succumbs to the uniquely modernist drive to – in the words of Ezra Pound – “make it new!” This may be partly good for poetry, but is a difficulty when it comes to handing-on any tradition, and a disaster with the ancient Christian Churches, namely, the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Academic theologians, for the most part, have long ago abandoned St Paul’s advice to St. Timothy, “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid profane babbling and the absurdities of so-called knowledge. By professing it, some people have deviated from the faith” ( 1 Tm 6:20-21)?

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  • antirino

    Why are these so-called Catholics not being excommunicated?? Allowing them to call themselves Catholics is presenting to the non-Catholic world a picture of the Roman Catholic faith in utter disarray.

    • Ford Oxaal

      The Church moves in unfathomable ways, but will triumph in the end. Perhaps God is giving the lukewarm enough rope to hang themselves, so to speak.

  • Scott S

    A very comprehensive discussion Anne, about the lack of doctrinal compliance of these so-called Catholic theologians. I applaud the college president Lyons, but I must ask; where are the bishops and leadership who could sanction these progressive theologians calling themselves Catholic? If these anti- Church professors who want to wear the veil of a Catholic but can’t maintain the Catholic doctrine they can leave, join another church, like the Episcopalians, who by popular vote accept married, gay, female clergy, gay marriage and complacent abortion stands, or other “Christian” following.

  • jacobum

    After reading this excellent article is it any wonder how “Catholics” could elect and then re-elect Obama? Folks the problem is not Obama. The real problem is the useful idiots who voted for him. The country is in critical condition because the morals of the country are shot. PERIOD. Why is that? One could say there are a lot of reasons. But one has to look no further for the answer than the abject failure of moral leadership and faithful teaching by the Catholic Bishops over the last 50 years. In effect they crossed the line from shepherd(s) to politician(s) when they convinced themselves, for the greater good of course, to outsource the corporal works of mercy to the federal government in exchange for retaining their management contracts and supporting the party of choice…the Democrats aka “Santa Claus” patriots. How’s that all worked out? In a word..Disaster!…Both for the Country and the Church…but most importantly for the loss of souls. The long line in the Church of unchallenged rogue theologians, LCWR, dissident priests and religious, social justice mockery, the New Age claptrap that passes for Catholic education, priest scandals etc etc are all indicative of a self inflicted collapse. The tipping point has been reached and the “smoke of satan” within the Church is now bursting into a fully visible conflagration. We know the ultimate outcome. However, paraphrasing Abshp Chaput of Philadelphia…..”The truth is that we must now consider America as essentially pagan and therefore as new missionary territory to be evangelized and converted.”. True words from a real Bishop. The timing of the “New Evangelization” and the “Year of Faith” is prescient. Unfortunately, the history and leadership of the USCCB does not inspire a great deal of confidence. It will have to come from the faithful and not the professional Catholics

    • musicacre

      Back to converting the barbarians…if the music stays the same, and the education stays the same, there is not much hope. Some, but not much. Why are the Bishops so willingly presiding over the Church’s self-destruction? I think it’s important that we all write letters to Bishops (whichever is close to you or is involved in the latest controversy), and with heartfelt passion, beg them to be the shepherds once again! Actually I just did that yesterday. It took me a good two hours to write it, but it’s done!

      • Ford Oxaal

        Would like to see the letter. We also wrote our hierarchy on the deplorable state of Catholic education — but the problems go deep — all the way down to the families that are really lukewarm.

        • musicacre

          I sent it to an archdiocesan office email and it said it would copy to my email, but I haven’t seen it since! So, I don’t know if it got there, or if I’ll see it again. I have to admit it wasn’t the Diocese I live in. But they just OK’d HPV vaccines and I thought I should say something, because I’m sure it’ll spread across the rest of Canada like a disease! (pardon the pun)
          I’m off now, to a orchestral concert that one of my daughter is playing cello in! They are doing a Te Deum!

    • Tout

      JACOBUM Thanks.You tell the truth. I also try to evangelize. “ will have to come from the faithful..” That’s why I started years ago to ‘evangelize’. Started by wearing daily a wooden 3 cm cross on top of my sweater for all to see. Prayed the rosary twice a week at Mary-statue downtown (115.000 people)and hang sigh “Whether glad, sad or wary, stay a while, say a Hail Mary”. Some pedestrians come and touch the statue. Started a May-procession, walking alone around 4 streets. The 7th time(2005)a mother and son came along. 2008, lady took over(I was 88). 50 people walked,praying,singing, carrying Mary-statue to church for crowning. I always make sign of cross before meals, also in restaurants. In 2004,in the center of Turnhout (Belgium) prayed, alone, at Sacred Heart statue. It was in very bad shape,held together by 5 metal bands. Back in Canada, wrote to 100+addresses that it had to be repaired. It was fully repaired in 2006. And more actions in public. Please, start with receiving H.Host on tongue. God wants to come in you, not in your un-blessed hands. I never received in hand. Each week I only give 25 c till we get communion-rail to kneel on.

      • Tout

        I must add: “…walking around 4 streets, PRAYING, ROSARY IN HAND,…”

      • Ford Oxaal

        Processions are very important — an amazing story!

      • Ib

        Hurrah! May God continue to bless your ministry! You are in my prayers!

  • John200

    As a general principle, “dissenting Catholics” want to be considered members of the Catholic faith which they do not hold.

    Applying the principle is simple: “dissenting Catholic theologians” want to be considered members of the magisterium which guards and protects the Catholic faith which these theologians do not hold.

    They are not members of the magisterium. B XVI has shown the difference between magisterium and theologian many times over the past 25 years (maybe farther back, I am not sure). It was a brilliant idea to withdraw the honor offered to this BeattieThing.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    No one, I am sure, wishes to question the validity of religious experience. As Abbé Bremond, the great French historian of the devotional life, noted, “there occur moments in which the discursive reason gives place to a higher activity, imperfectly understood and indeed at first disquieting.”

    Now, this experience is intuitive rather than logical in its methods. It knows by communion, not by observation. It cannot give a neat account of its experience: for this experience overflows all categories, defies all explanations, and seems at once self-loss, adventure, and perfected love. If we attempt to analyse and pigeon-hole what it gives us, we ruin it at once.

    It follows that this kind of knowledge is more like bathing in a fathomless ocean, or breathing an intangible and limitless air. It gives contact and certitude, but not understanding: as breathing or bathing give us certitude about the air and the ocean, but no information about their chemical constitution.

    To treat it as a theological norm is to misunderstand its nature.

    • Tout

      M PATERSON I am not smart enuf(my spelling) to understand fully; I suppose it is well said. Can only express myself in simple ways, as I do higher-up.

  • Some hope: at my school, none of the young people interested in theology, and there are a lot of them, would put up with Beattie’s nonsense for very long. They view the theology of the Church’s teachings as a great gift, opening their eyes, showing them truths they could not have arrived at on their own. They also understand quite clearly that these self-styled avant-garde theologians are dinosaurs, and that their theology amounts to little more than a supine capitulation to the political fads of the day.

    • Ford Oxaal

      or academic fads of the day — but at the bottom of the conspiracy is not a human intelligence (too dumb) but an angelic one: Satan and his devils. I have always wondered what drives the latest movements — nowadays I think it is the academicians — philosophers drinking from a poisoned well, then the architects, then artists, all the way down to the media as an echo chamber… (The politicians lurk on the sidelines and figure out how to monetize the confusion and augment themselves.)

    • Ford Oxaal

      And look at the brilliant minds you have never heard of — look at this guy Pohle — look how wonderfully he synopsizes a difficult topic — way more interesting than something imaginary:

      And he lays the boundaries for future thinkers on this topic — just incredible — and so much more interesting than “gender studies” or what not. The modern thinkers could care less about boundaries — they all want their own glory, their name in lights.

    • Tout

      ESOLEN Very good. If the church-building had a cross or statue outside, or at least a cross against the church-wall, 2 m above ground, youngsters would be evangelizing, if they dared to say a prayer there, each one at least once a year. Every church should have such possibility. What about every parishioner, even only once a year. Isn’t that evangelizing ?

  • djpala

    This female excommunicated herself & should not be recognized as an authority on anything. Fordham, Georgetown & all Catholic Colleges should be purged of these heretics . Notre Dame has one, ‘mcbrien’, in charge of their Theology Dept. & another that was finally defrocked. Fr. ‘hesburg’ sold out to the ‘rockefeller foundation’ years ago for 30 pieces of silver & their protestant & atheistic faculty headed by the likes of ‘jenkins’ continues the cancerous corruption.

    • Dawn

      Fordham recently banned Anne Coulter from appearing. I don’t ever recall her taking any theological stand on anything. Well, perhaps her book, ‘Godless’ bemoaning the secular banning of things having to do with God, is not in line with present Jesuit teachings. After all, these are the same guys who agreed to cover the crucifixes at Georgetown for Obama’a visit.

      • nua

        They still have crucifixes at Georgetown? Now that’s a big surprise.

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  • GrahamCombs

    Reading this excerpt from Tina Beattie throws me back to law school — and it’s not a pleasant experience. It’s hard to believe that this sort of intellectual gravel is still rattling throughout American universities. Then again the election results only bolster Prof. Hendershott’s point. It’s been going on far too long. I hope Prof. Esolen is right, that the young are sitting up and taking notice of this. Certainly the demographics aren’t hopeful at this point. And as Prof. Beattie takes refuge in Anglican journals, orthodox Anglicans are taking refuge in the Ordinariates throughout the English-speaking world. Now that must really drive this lot a bit crazy.

    • Tout

      GRAHAM But how many Catholics are ‘doing’ something to bring religion to the world ? I am not learned(knowledge). But am the only one in our church to receive the H.Host on tongue. God wants to come in us, not in our un-blessed hands. Read my other remarks I make in this list. Which Catholic will go out and testify for our Church ? Who will start a yearly procession through the streets, to a church for Mary-crowning ? There is much that we(Catholics) can do in the streets. I know what I am talking about. Praying twice a week the rosary at a Mary-statue downtown, for years, only 7 persons stopped to say a prayer. Where is the courage, the will ?Are there no Catholic scouts ?

      • GrahamCombs

        TOUT: I couldn’t agree with you more. I live in the Archdiocese of Detroit which has a decades-long tradition of political activism — the sort of thing that Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen warned us about. Too many Catholics were obviously happy with the election results for example. On more than one occasion it has been made clear that my views, my committments, and my belief are not in that tradition. I hope at some point to be part of the Catholic tradition, the true Catholic olinesaction, that will in the long run restore the Church’s efforts and direction toward holiness and salvation. But for now I don’t even have a regular confessor to which I can go for spiritual direction or with whom I would feel comfortable discussing these things never mind my own spiritual life. In England Marian processions are making a small comeback. The Shrines at Our Lady of Walsingham — Catholic and Anglican — are as well. In America the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is also a hopeful development (I grew up in the Anglican tradition).

        I continue to look for a way to with God’s help and direction make a difference.

        • musicacre

          Speaking of England it was wonderful to see a “flash mob” on you tube last year, (some major shopping area of a city) of some monks doing adoration and the passing crowd gradually taking part!!

  • Tipperarytom

    This commentator, steeped in the traditions and religious practices of a first-generation Irish Catholic family dedicated to the Blessed Mother and the Sacred Heart, was theologically reared with the help of the Baltimore Catechism. We studied it hard – if for no other reason than to avoid the wrath of Sr. Mary when her inevitable call came in class to recite from it. Poor motivation? You bet. A reality of our then life? No doubt about it. Effective? You better believe it! Did we learn the purpose of life . . . why God made us . . . the Works of Mercy . . . the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes? Absolutely!

    The foregoing having been said, permit the suggestion that from a very broad perspective of the Catholic Church in America (of which each of our parishes are but a microcosm) much has changed since the referenced “olden days” when the then regimen of post-secondary education entailed the rigorous disciplines incident to the study of Christian apologetics, eschatology and Thomistic philosophy which, undoubtedly, were most demanding, magnificently enlightening and rewarding. Reduced to one simple concept, what has changed during the span of multiple
    decades is simply “focus”.

    With this change in focus, we – as a culture of confused souls – have exchanged principle for politics, relegated the eternal lessons of the Baltimore Catechism to the back shelf and
    replaced them with our own set of self-centered egregiously flawed rules and

    We have embraced expediency at the expense of eternity. In a most disturbing fashion, we have forgotten the core response to the one simple and elementary question – “why did God make me?” – a basic question, the answer to which we once so well knew and proudly

    As a predominantly Christian nation, we have permitted the Father, Son and Holy Ghost to be replaced by the “Pro-Abortion” tripartite alliance of Beelzebub, the NARAL crowd and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Playboy magazine outsells Our Sunday Visitor while “God Bless America” has become a treasonous epithet.

    We have permitted the prenatally lobotomized relativist thinkers du jour to supplant the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church in our thought processes. We have embraced a style of expedient manipulation in lieu of forceful frontal confrontation with the patently absurd and fatally flawed egalitarian carpe diem doctrines of the times.

    Lest anyone be offended or have their sensitivities bruised or feelings hurt upon being confronted by the reality of theological veritas, we genuflect at the altar of contorted ecclesiastical Political Correctness to such a degree that it has replaced the Promise of Fatima. The once simple and humble concept of public prayer is now as feared as a diagnosis of diphtheria was a century ago. The writings of the likes of John Henry Newman, St. Thomas More, Fulton J Sheen, Joseph Fessio, S.J. and Daniel Lord, S.J. have been supplanted by the blather of the social engineers of the day a la ‘Bill & Hill’, Kim Gandy and Gloria Stinem.

    Theology classrooms of the esteemed academe known as institutions of Catholic higher education have been commandeered with elastic theologians as the of the elite higher education cabal. This while a premier Catholic university president, notwithstanding exhortations from the local Ordinary not to proceed, boldly markets his institution’s proud
    “Catholic traditions” by bestowing honorarium on the globally recognized and “esteemed” pro-abortionist, same-sex advocate – Barack Hussein Obama. (Might it be postulated that: one surely never wants to miss the opportunity to fill the alumni giving coffers notwithstanding that it may entail a brief dance with the devil. Obviously, as the rationalization is glibly unfolded, we are assured by an assortment of avant-garde theologians that such conduct need not be of concern as same is merely an “unintended consequence” flowing from the attainment of a greater good and, therefore, a morally permissible course of action.)

    In short, as a culture – a culture within which Church must operate – our society has surrendered its core principles by crafting a Faustian pact with the devil himself; a
    “pact” through which economic and political advantage trumps the Ten Commandments and the Natural Law and all of the once “good news” we gleaned from that now out-dated and long forgotten Baltimore Catechism.

    The “surrender” of which we speak has most assuredly visited upon us the urgent issues that demand our attention as believers: abortion; immigration; our obligations to the poor, the elderly and the disabled; questions of war and peace; our national confusion about
    sexual identity and human nature, and the attacks on marriage and family life that flow from this confusion; the growing disconnection of our science and technology from real moral reflection; the erosion of freedom of conscience in our national health-care debates; the content and quality of the schools that form our children.

    Hopefully we will find the courage to focus the spotlight of increased attention on the reality that, as a spiritual family within the Heavenly Family, we need to wake up and acknowledge that we are by no means immune from the impact of any of these contemporary societal maladaptive cultural realities.

    We need leadership from within our ranks – both clerical as well as lay – that is qualified to, and will, forcefully confront each such extant challenge in direct, unequivocal and immutably firm fashion; Leadership which understands and embraces the exhortations and corresponding lessons to be taken from Ezekiel 3:16-21; Leadership that can and will lay it out as it is – warts and all – and lead all of us out of the wilderness of complacency and abject – if not culpable – theological ignorance.

    We need Leadership that clearly understands and will readily acknowledge that what is desirable in principle cannot always be accomplished in fact – such being the difference between philosophy and politics. It must be capable of recognizing that while politics must be guided by a proper understanding of man’s moral end, there is rarely a one-to-one correlation between what is right simply and the ability to get it done. It must be alert to the reality that this affectation in politics calls for prudence, which is rightly called one of the moral virtues.

    It must understand that not every
    disagreement over tactics and timing, after all, can be considered a compromise
    with the devil but that sexual abuse of minors, open and active homosexuality,
    “same-sex marriage”, premarital co-habitation, embryonic stem-cell research,
    abortion, in any of its forms, euthanasia, and the near universal practices of
    “catholic” governmental officials (both appointed as well as elected)
    openly, notoriously and defiantly disregarding (on a substantially unchallenged
    basis) the teachings of Holy Mother Church are all matters not about “tactics”
    or “timing”. Rather, they are about absolutes – eternal good vs. mortal evil.

    Our Leadership must recognize each of the foregoing for what they are and openly and vigorously address them directly disregarding with a vengeance any form of timidity predicated on the faux construct of ‘separation of church and state’; a pernicious nostrum conveniently invoked to avoid the tough calls on substantive matters centered in socio-political issues of grave moral consequence to the individual as well as the collective soul of society.

    We need Leadership which is legitimately steeped in the formal “teachings” of Holy Mother Church and is unabashedly determined that such are passed clearly and readily from the pulpit side of the Communion rail down into the pews no matter how painful or uncomfortable such may be.

    We need Leadership which unhesitatingly, yet thoughtfully, embraces the “teachings” of the Magisterium as articulated through such as the official position statements of the Congregation For the Doctrine of Faith as other than purely aspirational musings or as mere suggestions or negotiable trial balloons floated to “test the waters” on an idea or an approach to the management of a moral issue.

    We need Leadership which recognizes the “teachings” as having the moral force of ecclesiastical mandate and, therefore, serve as irrefutably binding through the exercise of a correct conscience on all who opt to conduct their affairs in full conformity with the wisdom and guidance of Holy Mother Church.

    The Catholic Church surely possesses the leadership required to substantially ignite the untapped resources/talents latent within its family; talent necessary to initiate a serious challenge to the theological malaise currently operating as a diriment impediment to rudimentary Catholic faith formation.

    It is suggested that serious consideration be given to the formation of a co-partnered lay-cleric amalgam charged with the responsibility of effectively championing the design and implementation of a program directed at affecting an honest and sincere rededication
    by each parish family to the concepts and tenets so clearly and basically outlined in the Baltimore Catechism, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Doctrinal Notes issued
    by The Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith, etc. — a return, to be very specific,
    for those from among us who comprise the social engineers and influential individuals who have and continue to work, whether knowingly or inadvertently, contrary to the best true meaning of fealty and family.

    Perhaps, having accomplished such a goal, someday we will be spared (or, hopefully, more easily recognize) misleading and confusing assertions such as “The Catholic church’s teachings that oppose the death penalty” as if such statement actually bears the conscience binding mandate of the Magisterium or is otherwise an ex cathedra pronouncement emanating from the Holy Father rather than the mere recitation of an aspirational statement in opposition to the death penalty rendered by well-intended individual members of the laity and hierarchy.

    Perhaps, having accomplished such a goal, someday we will be spared (or, hopefully, more easily recognize) misdirected and confusing – albeit well intended – USCCB sponsored programs such as “The Catholic Campaign for Human Development”, the charitable grant program designed to support community organizing and economic development which has been contaminated by some of the grantees unabashedly supporting same-sex marriage, artificial contraception and pro-abortion rights.

    Perhaps, having accomplished such a goal, someday we will hopefully more easily recognize and come to enthusiastically accept the infallibility of Holy Mother Church’s teachings on the intrinsic evil inherent in homosexual practices, embryonic stem cell
    research, contraception, pre-marital cohabitation, same-sex marriage and the like.

    Perhaps, having accomplished such a goal, someday we will hopefully more easily recognize and come to enthusiastically accept the infallibility of Holy Mother Church’s teachings on the intrinsic evil inherent in supporting any legislator who openly and
    actively espouses or supports any governmental actions (or inaction) which interfere, in the least, with her pro-life teachings.

    Perhaps, having accomplished such a goal, someday we will hopefully more easily recognize and come to openly champion within the social order of our cultural community a meaningfully viable application of the principle of subsidiarity in the management of the
    interrelationship of government and the populace.


  • GrahamCombs

    A couple of years ago the (British) Spectator Magazine sponsored a debate RESOLVED: England will become a Catholic country again. I don’t know what the results were (it was in England) but just the idea being discussed was encouraging.