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?
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...
'...in 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.