US: University accused of pulling fellowship for pro-marriage equality theologian

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The University of San Diego has been accused of withdrawing a fellowship which had been offered to a theologian, after it found out she was in favour of marriage equality.

Tina Beattie, who is from the UK, published a letter she had received from the president of the Catholic university which said that she had been disinvited from the fellowship because she “dissented publicly” from Catholic teachings, reported the Associated Press.

Mary Lyons, the president, did not give specific details of her decision to pull Ms Beattie’s fellowship, but it came three months after 27 Catholics, including Professor Beattie, signed a letter in the Times newspaper.

The Times article said that it was: “perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

Lyons’ letter to Professor Beattie, dated 27 October, read:

“I hope you understand the difficulties associated with this decision, one to which I arrived with great and thoughtful consideration.”

US Catholic leaders, as well as Pope Benedict XVI, have increasingly of late, attempted to ensure that individuals and groups adhered to core Catholic teaching, and ultimately opposed equal marriage.

Tina Beattie said the school had rejected her request that they reconsider their decision, and blamed “a hostile minority of bloggers” for trying to distort and discredit her work, saying that academic freedom was the main issue.

She wrote in her own blog that she had a “desire not to create problems for my hosts by provoking controversy in the currently febrile atmosphere of American Catholic politics.”

Gerard Mannion, director of the Frances G. Harpst Centre of Catholic Thought and Culture, where Professor Beattie would have worked, said the students and faculty were planning to protest against the decision, and said that he was “very surprised, shocked and deeply disappointed.”

According to Professor Beattie’s blog, he told her: “I had received assurances from other senior administrators that the visit would go ahead because this was a question of academic freedom.”

Professor Beattie, a professor of theology and religious studies at Roehampton University, also spoke at a debate between humanists, Catholics, Jews and social commentators, in the final weeks of the UK government’s public consultation on how to implement marriage equality.

Not all church officials have been following the line of core Catholic teaching, however, as earlier this week, a Baltimore priest who had served his parish for almost forty years, spoke out in an impassioned sermon urging Catholics to vote in favour of equal marriage in Maryland.

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