Elizabeth A

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 21, 2005

Thanks to Mark Shea for providing a link to this notorious essay by the late Elizabeth Anscombe, Catholic, wife, mother of seven children, and, incidentally, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. She's writing in defense of the Church's teaching on contraception. Two excerpts:

What people are for is, we believe, like guided missiles, to home in on God, God who is the one truth it is infinitely worth knowing, the possession of which you could never get tired of, like the water which if you have you can never thirst again, because your thirst is slaked forever and always. It's this potentiality, this incredible possibility, of the knowledge of God of such a kind as even to be sharing in his nature, which Christianity holds out to people; and because of this potentiality every life, right up to the last, must be treated as precious. Its potentialities in all things the world cares about may be slight; but there is always the possibility of what it's for. We can't ever know that the time of possibility of gaining eternal life is over, however old, wretched, "useless" someone has become.

Our chum Richard Rohr might say that her religion provided Miss Anscombe with "pleasing ego boundaries," but in reality it made her famously unpopular among her worldly academic colleagues and trendy clerics as well. She had a positive relish for defending the least popular of Catholic teachings.

The quarrel [between Christian & pagan] is far greater between Christianity and the present-day heathen, post Christian, morality that has sprung up as a result of contraception. In one word: Christianity taught that men ought to be as chaste as pagans thought honest women ought to be; the contraceptive morality teaches that women need to be as little chaste as pagans thought men need be.

Anscombe was impatient with sentimentalisms, and didn't suffer faddists gladly, and there's a truculence to her writing that some find off-putting. Those who bleed easily should look for gentler instructors, but others will come away with nourishment available from no other source.

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