The following is a guest post about our friend and charter blogger, Beth Haile, written by Dr. Brian Matz, currently the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Chair in Catholic Thought at Fontbonne University. Brian was Beth Haile’s colleague when they both taught at Carroll College in Helena, Montana.
If you are interested in helping support the medical expenses of the Haile family, please consider donating at the GoFundMe page set up on their behalf.
The world of Catholic moral theology is losing a good friend. Dr. Beth Haile, a founding member and longtime contributor to this blog, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, at far too young an age, just after giving birth to her fourth child. She is currently seeking treatment to give her as much as aid as possible, and we will be tireless in our prayers to God on her behalf for a miraculous intervention, but she has rightfully decided to stop most of her academic-oriented activities in order to give her time and attention to family.
While we watch…and pray…we offer this brief reflection on her contributions thus far. No doubt, there are many starting points to any one person’s contributions. One of those points for Beth was, as a teenager, her being invited to read Cardinal Newman’s The Idea of a University. She was captivated by the idea that virtue was the most important thing to be formed within a student. Her own undergraduate years were subsequently shaped by wide-ranging experiences with literature, travel to other continents, spiritual formation…and fine wine. Her doctoral studies at Boston College further cultivated within her a love for virtue as she spent countless hours poring over the writings of Thomas Aquinas. The words prudence and habitus would now roll off her tongue so frequently one could be mistaken for assuming they belonged even in conversations about the weather. Every decision for her was an opportunity for the formation of prudence.
Thankfully, she made the prudent decision during those years to marry Scott Haile, someone equally interested in the life of the mind and the pursuit of virtue. Together, Beth and Scott are a beautiful witness to the idea of a domestic church. They infuse grace into the communities in which they have lived by lovingly embracing each community’s people and each community’s idiosyncrasies while challenging the consumerism and vanity so prevalent within them. This was not an easy accomplishment after moving, in 2011, from Boston to Helena, Montana, for Beth to take up full-time employment in academia at Carroll College. Montana is quite another place from what Beth and Scott had known to that point, but they embraced its quixotic culture and rural, mountain setting. Some of the best nature photography I have seen were taken on their cameras during trips into the wilds of Montana’s rocky mountain front. She was a hit with students. They loved the rigor with which she demanded they account for the place of faith with reason. And she built important connections with other faculty, including, ironically enough, one who had recently lost his spouse, and together they taught a course on the “art of dying”.
Still, in 2014, she made the prudential decision to step away from academic employment in order to raise her quickly-growing and quickly-expanding family. Thankfully, we have continued to benefit from her expertise and cultural engagement here on this blog and in print as she brought fresh perspectives to the questions that animate us.
Yet, life has brought her now to another point of transition. Perhaps, in the coming months, she will find an opportunity to write something more for us. If she does, we know already it will be from a scholar who senses the enduring value of moral theology in shaping our understanding of even the most difficult stages of life.
In the meantime, join us in prayers for God’s intervention and for his comfort and peace for the Haile family.
As a reminder of Beth’s constant dedication to quality posts from the very beginning of this blog in 2011, we invite readers to look in particular at:
- Challenging a Culture of Thinness and Ethics and Eating Disorders, which highlight Beth’s ongoing theological work understanding eating disorders. Beth has also contribuited a chapter on gluttony to a forthcoming collection of essays on The Seven Deadly Sins and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Corpus Christi: Finding Unity in Division and Where Do We Go From Here, which display Beth’s typical and heartfelt commitment to the unity of the Body of Christ, even amidst disagreement and strife.
- The (Moral) Trouble of Living a Middle-Class Life and Sacrificing It All for the Kingdom of Heaven, which offer Beth’s careful and lovingly self-critical ongoing scrutiny of the challenges of everyday life in relationship to the ideals of discipleship.
- Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, which offers Beth’s nuanced review of this much-discussed book.
- Why I Am Leaving my Other Full-Time Job, which explains Beth’s decision to leave her academic job.