Sunday, 11 November 2007


Reading Christopher Howse in Saturday's Daily Telegraph brought back fond memories of my old university: the 'lovely stone-built university city of St Andrews poised between its cliff-top promontory and an empty sweep of sand running north to the river Eden.'

Howse was in St Andrews for some sort of conference in honour of Elizabeth Anscombe. I am guessing that it was something organised by John Haldane. Here is Haldane's succinct obituary of Anscombe, 'a convert to Roman Catholicism and a keen advocate of theological orthodoxy,' and a student of Wittgenstein at Cambridge. Towards the end of his life, the philosopher 'asked Anscombe to put him in touch with a "non-philosophical priest"'. The outcome is not known.

In 1957 Anscombe 'protested the award by the University of Oxford of an honorary degree to President Truman, charging that he had commanded the murderous use of nuclear weapons against innocent Japanese civilians.' It makes no difference to the morality of the act, but I had not realised until last week that Nagasaki was home to two-thirds of the Catholic population of Japan. See Sandro Magister's article for more on this tragedy of history.

In July 1968, she and her husband, the philosopher Peter Geach, celebrated Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae (in which he overruled the committee he had appointed to deal with the question of contraception, and affirmed the traditional teaching of the Church) with champagne, rather like the motu proprio celebrations this summer.

And here is Anscombe's excellent essay on Transubstantiation, which is really where this post was leading!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

(Hello - Just to say: I like your blog! God bless.)

The Holy Office said...

Thank you! I am enjoying writing it. May God bless you.

Mary Jane said...

Another amazing woman! Over at Roman Miscellany, there were stained-glass artist - and now a philosopher.

I'm pretty proud to be a Catholic of the female persuaion.