Friday, 2 November 2012

Prof Tina Beattie - the Saga Continues


It is quite instructive really that when something odd happens in some out of the way diocese, like Clifton, then there is no real outcry. But when it happens in America, then it has wider implications.

When the invitation to Prof Beattie to speak in Clifton Cathedral was withdrawn, then, apart from Bishop Lang's support for her, and clergy from the Diocese wrongly thinking I had written to the CDF (had I, then I would have had the good grace to inform the Bishop first - politeness should always be observed!), there was not too much fall out.

In parentheses I find the whole idea that a Bishop, a prince of the Church, a successor of the Apostles would go against something that he feels so strongly in (i.e. the professor's right to speak in his Cathedral and expresses her views on a subject that was not related to her published dissent) that he should bow to assumed pressure from me and others, is a sad indictment of the status and power of the teaching office of the local Church.

But when it comes to America then the stakes are much higher. I assume that the criticism leveled of the university in question, see the link here, is the equivalent of the "Hitler Debating Point". This goes that as soon as you compare someone to Hitler, then the argument is over. I assume that in the USA if you say that something is becoming more and more like the Soviet Union, then the same debating rules jump into place.


So what now?

Well... let's look at this for a moment from a pastoral side.

You simply cannot say that if I go along and address a group on a certain subject, then that group does not in some way validate something about the essence of who I am. If we got Bishop Williamson along to talk to us on 18th century lace making in the Netherlands, do you think that we are not making a statement about position in regard to him? And it would be one thing if we were a lace making group, but something very different if we were actually a revisionist history group. And do you think for a moment that at the end of his peroration on the use of various imported needles from the Rhineland no one would ask him a question about relations with Rome and the Holocaust? Get real!!! So when questions would have come to an individual who dissents from the teaching of the Church in the symbolic place of that Church's authority (the Cathedra of the Bishop) then there can be no response or reply that does not have implications - either to speak or not to speak puts you in relation to the place where you are. This is neither a lecture hall, nor a pub.


These distinctions are very clever, and very theologically nuanced. The people in the pew are not. They have better things to do with their lives, like live them. They see a speaker in the Cathedral, and to an biased mind this means that the Cathedral is in favour with their views. And this means all of their views, or at least the important ones. I am not known for my opinion of the best way to cook onions. And this is not a defining public characteristic of me. But the things I am known for are the things I am bothered about. And these are the things I will defend in all situations and at all opportunities. Like it or loathe it, it is the case. Were I to invite a white supremacist to my parish to give a talk on the politics of South Africa, I would be making a statement, and the woman in the pew would be quite right in thinking that I was wrong in my judgement because I was giving him a platform and a voice no matter what he was talking about. And if someone who did not have the time or inclination to come or to pick through his arguments, then it is a reasonable response to think that I approve of such a stance.

No, I am not comparing Prof Beattie to Hitler, Stalin, Williamson, a white supremacist, an advocate of the baked onion movement or anything else... I am saying that this was not good for the faith of Christ's lay faithful, and especially not for those who do not have time or inclination for theological argument.


So here's a conversation:

The Bishop invited that Prof Beattie to the Cathedral to give one of those talks on the faith.
Isn't she the one how says that we can have gay marriage?
Yes.
Didn't know we allowed that now.

No it doesn't make logical sense. But we do not use analytical tool every day of our lives, Life does not work like that.

But that's what it looks like to the family on the street.

Ooooh enough.
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