CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Rush Limbaugh has created quite a stir in calling Georgetown's third-year law student Sandra Fluke some rather ungentlemanly names following her testimony to the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. I will not repeat them here.
I suppose had he been more circumspect and Shakespearean, he could have, with an added delightful double entendre, called her a Winchester's goose, and then the modern media would not have known what he was talking about.
(Though it is possible that a Professor of Elizabethan English would have known exactly what he meant. Google it, I will not do the work for you!)
As for me, I would not stoop to call Ms. Fluke such vulgar and plebeian names. For me, Ms. Fluke is a Knight.
Ahhh, but she is not a knight like the woman knight Britomart in Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene, for Britomart was a Knight of Chastity. For me, Ms. Fluke is a Knight, but a Knight of Unchastity.
As the commentator on Spenser's Faerie Queene Elizabeth Heale observes, the virtue of which knight Britomart is a symbol-chastity-is not simply abstention from sex. For Spenser chastity-before marriage and in marriage-was "a binding force central to social, national, and indeed universal concord."
As it turns out, Ms. Fluke has turned out to be a symbol of unchastity, an unchastity which is more than mere profligacy, sex upon sex upon sex. No, the unchastity of which Ms. Fluke is a knight is unchastity as "a binding force central to social, national, and indeed universal concord."
We have heard it bantered around that more than 98% of all women have, at least at some period of their life, used artificial contraception. Whether this sad fact is true or not is hard to tell, but it is certainly perceived as true. And, what is more, it is perceived as a good thing, one that is worthy of public promotion so that the 98% can have their way paid for by everyone else and so that the last 2% holding out may eventually be captured.
That is why this unchastity needs to be subsidized, the experts say. That is why unchastity as a social institution needs a Knight. And that is why Ms. Fluke-ahem, Sir Fluke of the Law Students for Reproductive Justice-has received her many accolades from the Knights of the Round Table of the liberal press, and even a call from the King of the kingdom of which she is a knight, President Obama.
Sir Fluke has been offered the Siege Perilous of Liberalism, that vacant seat of the Round Table reserved for that one great knight who would successfully attain the Holy Grail: 100% subsidized contraception.
I've read Sir Fluke's testimony, and it is downright depressing in its crass materialism. There is mention only of "financial, emotional, and medical burdens." There is a lot of what lawyers call inadmissible anecdotal evidence and hearsay about such burdens by "real people" (as distinguished, I suppose from "unreal people," who, I gather under our current law and Sir Fluke's way of looking at things, are fetuses in the womb.). There's the de rigueur "hard cases"-a woman with "polycystic ovarian syndrome," a woman that has been raped-which-in liberal ways of thinking-makes good law. And all this is peppered with plenty of inconsistencies and non sequiturs. But all of it is based upon the supposed calculus of weighing financial, emotional, and medical grounds. Utilitarianism, all of it.
Sir Fluke never, ever considers the issue of whether artificial contraception is moral, whether it is virtuous, whether it is, from a moral standpoint, right. I repeat. The testimony is depressing in its crass materialism and utilitarianism. There is no spirit, much less Nature or Nature's God, in the thing. It is all conventional. Never does she try to get to the heart of moral reality, of what is.
The Church, of course, has an entire different vision of things. Based upon the natural law and the teachings of the Gospel, the Church insists that the use of artificial contraception, whether as an end in itself or a means for an end, is an intrinsic evil, a moral wrong admitting no exceptions.
It is a wrong based upon natural law, which means it morally obliges the entire world no less than does the injunction "Thou shalt not kill."
It is, of course, this very moral law that the Obama administration acting through the Department of Health and Human Services wants the Catholic Church and all its organs to violate, and which the Church insists-as a matter of religious freedom, and indeed in obedience to Nature and Nature's God-the Federal government cannot compel.
Flannery O'Connor stated perceptively in one of her letters: "The Church's stand on birth control is the most absolutely spiritual of all her stands and with all of us being materialists at heart, there is little wonder that it causes unease."
Liberal secularism is crassly materialistic. And so it follows that any talk of God, or natural law, or objective morality outside of mere utilitarian concerns of "financial, emotional, and medical burdens" puts it in a great unease. That's why Sir Fluke did not mention it.
Don't expect Sir Fluke to be sensitive to the things of the spirit. She is-alas-not unlike a man known as Aurelius Augustinus who in his famous book Confessions wrote about how he was enslaved by lust and how the law of such sin can hold one's mind against even its will, the soul being so weighed down by custom and convention that it cannot rise even with the support of truth.
Sir Fluke is weighed down by custom that artificial contraception is a good, and she cannot rise even with the support of truth as she testifies-under oath-that a falsehood is true, that a wrong is a good.
The Lord had mercy on the restless Aurelius Augustinus. He tells us of a time when he was under a fig tree, in tears for being unable to relieve himself from the chains of lust which bound him to untruth, when he heard the voice of a young child-a boy, or girl, he could not tell-chant, "Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege!" Take up and read! Take up and read!
He picked up St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans and opened up the text where his eyes settled randomly on the following: "Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." (Rom. 13:14-15)
"No further would I read," Aurelius Augustinus whom we know today as St. Augustine of Hippo tells us, "nor needed I."
Why not? He tells us that also. "For instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away."
Sir Fluke appears not to be struggling with the issue of lust and unchastity like St. Augustine did. After all, as the Knight of Unchastity she seeks to encourage it with the public purse or enforce it with the public law, which, of course, means she wants all of us to pay for it. It is for her, she thinks, the Holy Grail, an absolute good.
It is, in fact, the chalice of a Beast, a "Giantess Argante," a monster of lust and licentiousness in Spenser's Faerie Queene, "which did make war against Heaven" and who lives "'gainst Nature Law and good behavior."
What kind of knight need we to overcome this lascivious Beast? Certainly not one like Sir Fluke.
We must, to quote Spenser, invoke
But a fair Virgin, that in martial Law,
And Deeds of Arms above all Dames is deem'd,
And above many Knights is eke esteem'd,
For her great Worth; she Palladine is hight:
She you from Death, you me from Dread redeem'd.
Ne any may that Monster match in right,
But she, or such as she, that is so chaste a Wight.
We might invoke our heavenly Britomart, the "real" Virgin Mother, who, as St. Sophronius says, was chosen "that she might be an example of chastity to everybody." "Christus matrem virginem elegit," St. Sophronius says, "ut ipsa omnibus esset exemplum castitatis."
She was, we may also recall, Our Lady of Victory at the Battle of Lepanto.
Mary, pray for us.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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