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Monday 4 October 2010

Slandering Our Lord Through Ignorance - Tina Beattie's Shallow Understanding of Catholicism

Before the Pope's visit, there was a lot of talk about the debate on priestly celibacy which was held in central London the night before Pope Benedict arrived. Since then hardly a word has been said about it. True their have been some very muted reports in the Catholic press but it was hard to get any feel of the debate at all from them. Apparantly the vote at the end was in favour of the dropping of the requirement of celibacy. So all the more strange then that we didn't get this rammed at us morning, noon and night by the secular press and the more loony liberal sections of the Catholic press. Or maybe we did and I just missed it? I don't read the Tablet after all...

But I did find this one little extract in last week's Catholic Times (26/09/10):

"Asked to respond to the arguments made by Bishop Malcolm McMahon in favour of mandatory celibacy, Professor Tina Beattie said that after listening to him talk about Jesus Christ as being "male and celibate, it seems to me that the defining characteristic of God incarnate was that He..."

I can't find it in myself to use her words in the same sentence as Our Blessed Lord's name, but she continues by saying that Our Lord's defining characteristic according to the Bishop was that He had male genitals but did not use them.

Ms Beattie, who is Professor of Catholic Studies, shows such a deep lack of understanding of the Church's theology that it is hard to discuss anything she says without falling into ridicule. Does she really believe that tens of thousands of Catholics who practise celibacy or chastity outside of marriage are just people who don't use their genitals? Imagine the shallowness of mind of someone who can glean no understanding of the sacrificial love and self-mastery that such a calling demands of one? Someone who cannot see that a chaste, celibate life demands such depths of virtue from us that it teaches us how to love God, ourselves and our neighbours as we should. That through it we are called to enter into the depths of loneliness sometimes, and at times to enter into the tomb with Our Lord awaiting the resurrection. That such a struggle, even when we fail but repent prepares us for Marriage, for Priesthood or Religious life, or for a vocation of single life. It evens the playing field between those attracted to members of the opposite sex and those with homosexual tendencies - since all are called to practise chastity - and especially since in our day many heterosexual people will never marry. Imagine having no realisation that the chaste, celibate life of Christ is actually something which allows people of all walks of life, all sexual orientations and all callings to be able to identify with Christ in a personal way that transforms them and prepares them for the great Marriage feast in the heavenly Jerusalem?

And tell me how can a person with such a limited understanding of this issue be a "Professor of Catholic Studies?"

Clare McCullough


  1. Here, here. Absolutely. Tina Beattie is very active in my own Diocese (Clifton). Couple of months ago she gave a day's formation to our catechists and the Diocese Dept of Adult Education engage her quite a lot it seems.

    Really and truly it seems that parents need to pass the faith on to their children themselves.

  2. Very well said! I find it extraordinary that she is given a platform for her views under the name of "Catholic theologian".

    You may be aware that Clifton Diocese's Department for Adult Education and Evangelisation is currently running a course at Holy Family church hall, Patchway, Bristol. Its title is "Rooted in Christ", and it "seeks to encourage us to deepen our faith, giving us confidence to hand on what we have received." There are several speakers, two of whom I know and think highly of.

    One talk, however, on 7th December, is to be given by Professor Beattie. Her talk comes within the "Trinity" section of the course; and her theme is "Son - Jesus the Compassion of God."

    I'm not entirely convinced that she's quite the right person for this task; I can't think why; it's just a feeling ...

  3. I know. It's so dispiriting to see this kind of shallow pop "theology" passing as something worthy of being taken seriously.
    My 16yo is doing theology A level and I have to say my heart sank when he chose it because I know "theology" as an academic discipline is infested with this sort of thing.
    Good post Clare.

  4. Only the misguided, or naive, or deluded, or deceived who appointed her, can answer the question in your last paragraph.

    And they ain't sayin' nuffin'.

  5. It is really depressing and it shows the general state of understanding of theology in our time that she can speak so without being laughed out of town. I can't comment on her personal faith, but the words she speaks suggest a totally humanist, rationalist understanding of Jesus, with no sense of the Divine Mystery He embodies.


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