USD faculty to school prez: We’re not that into you.
Nearly one hundred University of San Diego faculty members have declared they have no confidence in university president Mary Lyons because she rescinded a fellowship invitation to British theologian Tina Beattie. (She last wrote for us in January: “A Modus Vivendi? Sex, Marriage, and the Church.”) The theolgian’s offense? She signed a letter supporting civil marriage rights for gay people. Joshua McElwee has the story:
“The president has shown herself to be ethically bankrupt, for which reason the motion is placed that this body declare a loss of confidence in her leadership,” read the motion approved in a meeting Tuesday of the academic assembly of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences .
As McElwee previously reported, it looks like Lyons buckled under pressure from a major donor and Catholic Action for Faith and Family, a self-appointed watchdog group advised by the new archbishop of San Francisco, Salvator Cordileone.
Church teachings on issues of social justice and sexual ethics belong within that aspect of Catholic theology which is contingent, contextual and open to interpretation and development in the light of new cultural, scientific and intellectual challenges. This is not relativism, and there will always be debates as to where the boundary between revealed doctrine and natural theology should be drawn. In an incarnational theology, the two cannot and should not be held apart, because what we believe of God inevitably shapes what we believe of humankind, and vice versa. Some argue that there is very little room for negotiation and change on any matter about which the official magisterium holds a position, others argue that there has always been considerable room for a plurality of interpretations and debate on matters of moral theology and social ethics which are not part of the deposit of faith or the infallible teachings of the Church.
Both positions are capable of being defended, but today there is a dangerous trend towards creeping infallibity which corrodes the boundaries of intellectual freedom and the authority of individual conscience in the life of faith. This means that those who have a more extensive and inclusive understanding of the authority of the magisterium can and do exercise considerable power to silence and harass the latter with the full weight of Rome behind them. The current climate of magisterial hostility to independent thought makes it impossible to work with integrity as a thinking, reasoning theologian in fidelity to the demands of conscience, academic freedom and Catholic identity.