Saturday 3 November 2012

On Tina's Cancelled Speech

A quick riposte to Tina's San Diego cancelled tour speech, now published on Independent Catholic News.

The main thrust of Tina's speech is to stress the importance of contemplation (she doesn't actually use the word 'prayer') in Catholic life. The unintended liturgical outcomes of the Second Vatican Council over-rationalised and desacralised worship in the Mass.

This is, I believe, a point on which many of us can agree. I'm not sure in what ways we can call the outcomes of the Second Vatican Council or the 'spirit of the Council' a 'marvellous transformation in the life of the Church in so many ways' if worship has been desacralised and leads to 'liturgical aridity', but there we go. Personally, I feel that if people pray less after VII than they did before, then the transformation is perhaps not that great after all.

Dr Beattie compares the theology of Von Balthasar and Karl Rahner, suggesting that the former is now more widely read in seminaries than the latter whose theology is particularly dated. Von Balthasar, says Dr Beattie, lamented what he saw as the 'loss of the mystical, Marian character of the Church after the Council'.

Here is another point on which Dr Beattie and 'traddie types' can agree. Dr Beattie even quotes a feminist writer who agrees that:

'When … the Roman Catholic Church deemphasized and banished an essential cluster of (Marian) spiritual mysteries, as well as the evocative expression of ritual and symbol that had grown around them, a profound loss ensued. Today, the theology and liturgy of the Catholic Church is less ‘cluttered,’ less mystical, and less comprehensive in its spiritual scope. Its tight, clear focus is far more ‘rational’ but far less whole.'

Dr Beattie then says, interestingly:

'One reason for the recent restoration of the Latin rite and the imposition of the new translation of the liturgy has been an attempt to recapture some of that lost liturgical richness, but one cannot bring about such change by force. It requires a new awakening in our souls of the desire for God which is nurtured in contemplative silence and fallow times of rest and reflection.'

This leads me to ask the question: Has Dr Beattie found a new love for the traditional Latin Mass in which silence fosters prayer and contemplation of the divine mystery of the Mass? Let's see.

Contemplation is a doorway into the most profound freedom and fullness of our humanity, and it comes about through a quiet receptivity to God’s grace beyond all the rules and regimes of institutional religious life. It also requires serious commitment, and that is an aspect of its freedom. God is a God of invitation and liberation, a God of patient and enduring love who awaits our response. God waits beyond the threshold of the finite, beyond the time-bound limits of our conscious, calculating minds, holding open the door into mystery and calling to us from the far side. But God never forces or tricks us into going through that door.

Despite the fact that Dr Beattie is promoting contemplation, I expect the most important line to the lecturer is the idea that contemplation comes about 'through a quiet receptivity to God's grace beyond all the rules and regimes of institutional religious life'.

Recall, readers that Dr Beattie is seemingly convinced that the Papacy, the Episcopate and the Priesthood are all male dominated areas of the institutional Church which are not only unnecessary, but obstacles to our liberation as Catholics. Remember: If you can contemplate well enough, you can be so absorbed in God that you can smash the patriarchy and ditch 'the rules' of the Church because in the new vision of the Church, there is no need for truth, obedience, Divine Revelation or morality. Does this sound like Buddhism? Let's see...

Contemplation, according to Dr Beattie and Rowan Williams, opens the door for us to dwell in the mystery of the Trinity. Only in contemplation can we grow in love and be shaped in the image and likeness of Christ. Dr Beattie then even describes the Christian vocation to contemplation as being one that requires what Buddhists call 'mindfulness'. In our relationship with God, in Jesus Christ, we have to be prepared to listen. Why do we need to listen and be attentive to God?

Well, Dr Beattie quotes an Anglican contemplative who suggests the reason may be that what you thought was the place in which man and woman lost divine innocence and brought into the World Original Sin is in fact the place in which the biosphere became endangered by humanity's selfishness.

'The story of the Garden of Eden tells us of the primordial distraction from beholding, the descent into noise and bewilderment caused by the projections we call ‘experience’. … It was in the context of beholding that we were given stewardship of the earth; it is in the context of distraction that we have (mis)managed it. As the pace of contemporary life accelerates and the rising tide of noise degrades the biosphere, the need to recover and, more especially, to teach and practice silence and seeking into the beholding becomes even more critical.'

See readers, how we are moving on from talking contemplation, beginning to treat it as esoteric Zen wisdom and now moving into new age spirituality of the environment. Is this kind of nonsense promoted in parts of the Church. Yes, it is. Does it have anything to do with Salvation or the mysticism of St Catherine of Sienna? No, it does not. Tina goes on...

'The Book of Genesis tells us that we were created to enjoy intimate friendship with God in the garden of creation, to walk with God in the cool of the day, to be at peace among all the creatures and features of God’s very good creation. But Genesis finds potent affirmation in modern science and psychology when it tells us that some cataclysm occurred which introduced disorder, shame, blame and alienation into paradise, and this was a cataclysm of human consciousness. Nature retains all the grace and goodness of creation, but the human soul is wounded and no longer able to recognize God in the garden of creation nor to enjoy the peace of communion that is our natural condition.'

Aside from the fact that the photo at the top of this post suggests nature did not retain 'all' the grace and goodness of creation, the human soul is indeed wounded and no longer able to recognize God in the garden of creation nor enjoy the peace of communion with God. Thus this communion of love with God is not actually our 'natural condition'. Communion with God, is, in fact, a supernatural condition. It is this broken communion brought about by Original Sin which Our Lord Jesus Christ comes to restore by His Passion, Death and Resurrection. No?

Having treated prayer as Buddhist meditation and gone on to deride our treatment of 'Mother Earth', no Dr Beattie speech would be complete without recourse to Sigmund Freud, a man with as much relevance to the study of theology as Charles Darwin, since these are purely human philosophies and theories which do not adequately discuss Divine Revelation.

Darwin did not put 'paid to the idea of a world harmoniously designed and orchestrated by God’s benevolence'. Darwin proposed theories of the processes by which all that is made came to be. You can, in Catholic theology, be assured that God made all things and that all things came to be through the Lord Jesus Christ, since this is what we say in the Creed.

Alienation and shame are not 'hard-wired' into the human condition by Original Sin, so much as these are secondary effects of a first cause - our disfigured relationship with God. If we are alienated and shamed, then it is because we either have little interest in going God's will, above our own, or struggle to do God's will, above our own. Baptism brings us into this restored relationship as children of God. Loss of harmony with God's creation, too, is a secondary effect of a first cause. Our own will is not united to that of God so much so that indeed all other creatures can seem to be more obedient to God perhaps, than we. Christ came to change and enact our transformation in co-operating with Him, by His Passion, Death, Resurrection. Christ makes 'all things new'. He gives us the Sacraments so that we may learn to love God's will above our own - to love God and our neighbour. What Christ is by nature, we become by adoption - sons and daughters of God. Why cannot Tina say these things? Does she imagine her audience already knows?

Having quoted, on Creation, Doctor of the Church and no stranger to mysticism himself, St Thomas Aquinas, Beattie again seemingly reaffirms the primacy of Earth conservation in the plan of salvation:

'It’s when we learn to surrender ourselves to that oceanic dynamism of the divine being, that we might begin to experience the healing of our own souls, so that we can in turn begin to heal this fractured and arid world we are bequeathing to the future.'

Dr Beattie: Are you discussing the overcoming of sin and darkness by the power of God's love or are you Caroline Lucas in disguise? So, now for the really spiritually dangerous aspect of Dr Beattie's address...

'Our path to the doorway of eternity always leads through the time and place of who and where we are. The questions we face today are not the questions that the desert mothers and fathers faced in the fourth century when they laid the foundations of Christian mysticism. They are not the questions of the great medieval theologians and mystics, as they sought God amidst the intellectual, spiritual and social turmoil of a culture in transition. Today, we approach the eternal Trinitarian relationships of the divine being with new crises and questions. Like every generation of Christians, we come bearing fundamental existential questions about suffering, injustice, poverty and sorrow. We come in this Advent season to kneel before the infant Christ in wonder at the fragile mystery of life. We come to the cross where wounded love reaches out in healing and forgiveness. But we also come with questions that are different from those that our ancestors asked. We come in the knowledge that we are destroying the very planet upon which our lives depend. We come knowing that the modern worship of Mammon has brought us to the brink of social disintegration. We come knowing that our technological and scientific mastery has far oustripped our capacity for wisdom and goodness, so that our human genius is too often used in the service of death and destruction rather than in the service of life and creativity. We come as men and women who mistrust and question even our most fundamental experiences of identity, sexuality and relationality. These are new challenges and issues that must be woven into a sacramental vision of the world, and I want to suggest that this might come about through a profound transformation in the way in which we relate to God in our theological language and exploration.'

Dr Beattie. May I stop you there. Firstly, the questions that the human race asks in the 21st century are no different to those asked in the first century. It is hubris to imagine that they are. Who am I? Who made me? Where am I going? What happens when I die? Why was I created? What is my mission in life? What is my vocation? Does God exist? If God exists does God love me?  Does truth exist? What is right, what is wrong? These are not new questions. The Church already has most of the answers to these questions yet you refuse to provide them to those who seek them.

I might add, also, that despite the Green movement, there have for a long, long time, existed pagans who believed the preservation of Mother Earth was the most important issue around, happy to sacrifice the protection of human beings, even, in order to maintain 'harmony with nature'. This is not new. There have, we are assured by St Paul, always been men and women who reject natural sexual relationships in marriage for unnatural relationships outside of marriage. As long as money has existed, men have had an inordinate desire and love for it and men and women have always found time to use what technological progress has been achieved for the destruction of life, rather than cherishing it. Today we have abortion and cluster bombs where before they had bows, arrows and infanticide.

How do we address our so called 'new questions' in the modern World. Surely, we have recourse only to Jesus Christ, for; 'To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the message of Eternal Life.' Well, not exactly, but...

' allowing ourselves to participate in God’s work of art, to become part of that work, co-creators with God, immersed in the artistry of creation. This calls us to venture upon imaginary journeys to chart unknown lands, to recognize that the quest for God is an exploration along the pathways of art and beauty, music and poetry, literature and creativity, all gathered up and offered as the bread and wine of the human soul in our liturgies.'

But God help you if you're not an artist, musician or poet or if you are not into esoteric spirituality. Dr Beattie goes on...

'Today, our humanity is under threat from many directions, as we are squeezed between the encroaching pressures of an inhumane and violent technocracy on the one hand, and a looming natural catastrophe on the other.'

What is the looming natural catastrophe, Tina? Global climate change or the fact that we, in the West, have contracepted and destroyed our progeny to such an horrific extent, that our populations are now unsustainably low?

In Dr Beattie's view, the Catholic Church is, whenever it teaches the Magisterium, a part of this crushing of the human thirst for spiritual liberation.

'Religion becomes part of this dehumanising process, when it privileges dogma over mystery, truth over wonder, law over love.'

Our Lord Jesus Christ, however, said, 'The truth shall set you free'. It seems that, to Our Lord, truth and the freedom of the person seem to go hand in hand. It seems to me also that there is indeed no law without love and no love without law and that despite her best attempts to dress up her esoteric spirituality in fashionable ways, that the spiritual vision of Dr Beattie, the mystic, is one of lawlessness. It imagines a Church and the Catholic as 'above the law', without law, but breezing about in a spiritual wonderland, chiming with mother nature in harmony while operating in a moral vacuum because there is no absolute objective moral order to guide him or her. Such a view, dressed up as sweetly as it is by Dr Beattie is spiritually dangerous. May I suggest to Tina Beattie that her vision is actually part of the problem in the Church and the World, rather than a solution, and that there is ample evidence in her speech alone to give Catholic institutions cause for concern over whether she should be given a platform on which to speak.

I finish by asking readers to go through this post with a fine comb and if I have uttered any heresy or error whatsoever, that it may be charitably pointed out to me so that I may correct it. I submit entirely anything I have written to the Magisterium of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, She to whom I submit myself in humble obedience.


philipjohnson said...

great piece of writing!you demolished beatties "new earth"worship in an insightful manner in total agreement with holy mother church.keep writing laurence you speak with a truly intellectual catholic mind-unlike beattie!god bless.philip johnson.

Mulier Fortis said...

Well done, Lawrence, once again you have gotten to the bones of the matter (sorry, couldn't resist that pun!) An excellent summary!

Mike said...

I nominate Bones to be the new Professor of Theology at Roehampton University (or whatever it's called) so that dear Tina can go and spend more time looking after the plants in her garden.

The Bones said...

Nice work if you can get it.

Fr AS said...

Unfortunately Lawrence has shown himself to be theologically illiterate so he hasn't got much chance of getting Tina's job. I also suspect he's work-shy as he's very rarely worked ever.

Lynda said...

Great writing, theologically and every other way. Sometimes people develop a distorted view of theology; theology is always in the service of the Faith.

Dorothy B said...

Thank you, Lawrence, for putting such care into this excellent and most informative post. Your approach was analytical and frank, but also courteous, while retaining the style of informal blogging convention. Your essay chimes with other things I have read and heard, including a personal experience of attending one of the Professor’s talks. I think you have illustrated, from her own words, what appears to be the core of Dr Beattie’s message. Well done.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Very pleased to get back to your site. I had not realised the problem was with using Chrome but Chrome no longer gives me this problem.

Congratulations on your patience in analysing Prof Beattie's piece. I must say I just skimmed her paper and came to the conclusion it was waffle a la Fotherington Thomas. But then although a natural contemplative myself I had it beaten out of me by the monks on the grounds that I was just day-dreaming so mysticism is not my forte. I think it was Ronald Knox who said mysticism was half misty and the rest was schism.

By the way how do we pronounce Fr AS's name?

Frederick Jones said...

I have slept through much better talks.

Sue Sims said...

"Fr AS": perhaps you would be kind enough to point out where Lawrence has shown himself "theologically illiterate"? He has, after all, asked you, as a reader, "to go through this post with a fine comb and if I have uttered any heresy or error whatsoever, that it may be charitably pointed out to me so that I may correct it." I think he'd be very grateful.

Or, in the vernacular: put up or shut up.

Richard Mount said...

Fr A S
You have not done the charitable thing and pointed out where Lawrence demonstrates his theological illiteracy. Indeed you go further and make ad hominum remarks about his occupation. Having done this you then remain anonymous giving only initials to identify yourself.
Father, that is churlish, and unworthy of a priest,

BJC said...

Reading Tina is like going to the dentist. It always takes longer than you think and its a relief when its over.

What stands out to me about her lecture is that she quotes two Anglicans, a fellow dissenter and a poet. And then she brings Freud into it. Hardly a Catholic approach. Aquinas makes an appearance but I've got a feeling they wouldn't agree on gay marriage. Overall she still seems to have a strong instinct towards Protestantism which she's never really tried to overcome. I think this is why she keeps on bleeting on about 'individual expression'. My bet is that she's got a very different definition of the word Magisterium to the rest of us.

Fr AS said...

It is not my job to educate Lawrence or others in the basics of academic theology. In my opinion, he needs to go back to Theology 101 classes. He criticises Tina at every opportunity for allegedly being a dissenter and/or heretic, yet he does not have the authority or knowledge to make such judgements. He attempts (badly and unconvincingly) to distort and twist her stated views. For example, she has not made any public statements supporting the extention of civil marriage to same sex couples but she had argued that catholics, particuarly theologians, can in good conscience hold such a position. She has asked the bishops to uphold academic freedom of theologians against unofficial interference by Roman bureauocrats not to support dissent per se.

Tina's planned but cancelled lecture on reflections on mariology is perfectly orthodox and Lawrence's critique of it is illogically flawed and demonstrates poor theological nuance. It an ideological justification not a theological critique.

The Bones said...

Am I really in the position in which I have to explain to an ordained Catholic priest that the Catholic church has explicitly stated that Catholics cannot in good conscience support same-sex unions, even, nevermind same-sex marriage?

The very idea that a Catholic priest does not understand the Catholic Church's position on same-sex marriage makes me want to fall down and weep.

The Bones said...

Theological nuance is one thing, but Tina represents no Magisterium but her own and those of her fellow dissenters.

She has the academic freedom to write whatever she likes it and to promote it.

Academic freedom doesn't mean Catholic institutions have to present to Catholics 'new teachers' who reject the teaching of the Church and who wilfully confuse and misrepresent Catholic teaching.

These institutions do, in fact, have a duty to offer to Catholics speakers who teach in concert with the Pope, the Magisterium and the Bishops. Priests, too, have a duty to teach the Faith to the Faithful in their care, lest they mislead people away from Our Lord Jesus Christ and Salvation.

Fr AS said...

The CDF's position on same sex partnerships is not infalliable teaching and although it tries to assert that if forms part of the church's magersterium, it does not demonstrate convincingly that is the case. However, even if that were so, academic theologians are free to discuss and debate these points and the nuances of catholic theology. Maybe, if the CDF had investigated her work and, after due process, deliberated that is was unsound then you might have a point. However that is not the case and she remains a theologian in good standing with the church. In fact, she argues (convincingly I think) similarities in her differing interpretations of catholic doctrine and its interpretation to modern circumstances, with other respected past theologians such as Newman.

Tina's cancelled lecture did not address any of these issues. It was on an entirely unrelated topic. The published paper shows that it was entirely orthodox and there was nothing contentious in it. The lecture was not cancelled by the CDF or the university administration but by one of the university's over-involved financial sponsors following (allegedly) unofficial nobbling by some Roman bureauocrats. That is why it is an abuse of academic freedom and due process.

A university is a place of education not indocrtrination and discussion and debate of the nuances of catholic theology is entirely proper. There are many schools of thought within catholic teaching, afterall we are a universal church.

Fr AS said...

''Am I really in the position in which I have to explain to an ordained Catholic priest...''

To answer your question: No you are not in any position to explain the basics of theology to someone who has qualifications in theology - particuarly given your demonstrated ignorance on these matters. Neither do you have the authority or competence to declare others, in good standing with the church, as heretics or dissidents. Period.

The Bones said...

Be assured of my prayers, Father.

Perhaps you would be so kind as to provide your name and the parish at which you are priest?

Fr AS said...

I am not a parish based priest... and no I shan't be giving you my details so that you and the other tradosphere philistine heavies can embark on a witch-hunt character assination of myself.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Dear Father AS,

I do hope nobody tries to ASSINATE you but it would be helpful if you could, from your undoubtedly superior Olympian position, enlighten us where specifically the Bones has gone wrong. As a priest and theologian you surely have a duty to condescend to correct any misapprehensions mere ignorant laymen may have as to the nature of God's truth.

In discussing the Bone's critique of Tina's cancelled speech I would point out that I cannot see that he accuses her of heresy on the basis of that speech.

You further state that "she has not made any public statements supporting the extention of civil marriage to same sex couples".

Perhaps you are unaware of the letter that she and others sent to The Times newspaper which terminated with the sentence:

"We therefore suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using their fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples."

(I have got that from which is the blog of one Terence Weldon who writes extensively on theological matters although to my mind some of it is mere homosexual pornography)

blondpidge said...

I really appreciated this post Laurence. I originally read the text of the lecture and found it quite engaging whilst spotting some of the undertones.

Do you have a sitemetre? I suggest that one may be a good idea

Lynda said...

I cannot believe that a commenter would make a malicious personal attack on Mr England on the latter's blog - and identify himself as a CatholIc priest. He is a disgrace to his priesthood, if he is a priest; if a pretender, he's doing a good job of bringing it into disrepute. His nasty, supercilious statements are wholly irrelevant to the substantive issues addressed by Mr England. His constant reference to "nuance" shows a dearth of reasoned argument. His comments are devoid of goodwill and ought not to be published, as per the stated advice of the blog. As with all disciplInes, there are people who have attained formal awards therein but who are very poorly qualified, and there are those who have a very good understanding of the subject but may not have attained formal awards. Catholic theology is at the service of the Faith and the Church. That is its sine qua non. Sadly, as Pope John Paul II stated in Veritas Splendor, there are many "theologians" who abuse their positions to injure the Faith and the Church. Such people do not speak as true Catholic theologians, but as people with their own agenda which is not in accordance with the Church, whose theology they subvert. Take heart, Mr England - when one speaks the truth, one invariably arouses the irrational rage of the Great Deceiver.

Fr. Stephen Brown said...

Can't see anything wrong in Laurence's theology - and I have a degree in it from a Pontifical University, and a Licentiate in Canon Law. I have to admit to a defect of character: I get rather hot under the collar [Roman] when Catholics promote dissent towards the Magisterium. This not a game nor an academic exercise; people's souls are at stake here. Dissent is part of the Culture of Death. Only complete fidelity to the fullness of Truth AS EXPRESSED BY THE CHURCH'S TEACHING AUTHORITY leads to life and growth. That authoritative voice, speaking above the babble of conflicting human opinion, is a gift from Christ, not a shackle.

On the side of the angels said...

Laurence that 'FR AS' IS NOT A PRIEST!!! And most certainly not the presumed one...

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