Tuesday, August 24, 2010
A GEM of a woman
One person I learned about from Mrs. Eberstadt's book is Elizabeth (G.E.M.) Anscombe, a British philosopher of great merit in the 20th century. She was a wife and mother to seven, and quite a little spitfire: she blasted Oxford University in 1956 for giving an honorary degree to Harry Truman. She considered him a mass murderer for his decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
One of her most profound works came in 1972, "Contraception and Chastity". It's not light fare, but it is prophetic. You can read it here: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/AnscombeChastity.shtml
Here's just a sample:
There is no such thing as a casual, non-significant sexual act; everyone knows this. Contrast sex with eating - you're strolling along a lane, you see a mushroom on a bank as you pass by, you know about mushrooms, you pick it and you eat it quite casually - sex is never like that. That's why virtue in connection with eating is basically a matter only of the pattern of one's eating habits. But virtue in sex - chastity - is not only a matter of such a pattern, that is of its role in a pair of lives. A single sexual action can be bad even without regard to its context, its further intentions and its motives.
Those who try to make room for sex as mere casual enjoyment pay the penalty: they become shallow.
If you, like me, are unfamiliar with Mrs. Anscombe's work, please take a few minutes to learn a bit about this foremother in our Faith. It will be worth your time!