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Catholic “Cat Fight” – Sandra Fluke vs. Gloria Purvis

The recent testimony of Sandra Fluke has captured the airwaves and interest of millions, myself included. I have watched CNN, MS-NBC and Fox.  I have listened to talk radio and read commentaries. Through it all, questions remain for me like “Am I missing something here? Do I just don’t get it?”  Well many others are offering their analysis and opinions to I’ll add mine to the mix. I might be walking where angels fear to tread but I have ALSO been educated at a Jesuit Institution, and have chosen a vocation to be a “Man for Others.” So “drawing from this (Jesuit) tradition, allow me to “foster an environment where we all can develop our unique gifts and insights through reflection, service and intellectual inquiry… and challenge ourselves to engage in the world.”

Ok, let’s start at the beginning – Georgetown University. (From their own web site) The nation’s oldest Roman Catholic and Jesuit institution established in 1789 by John Carroll. Jesuits have played a significant role in the growth and evolution of Georgetown into a global research university deeply rooted in the Catholic faith. Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition also promotes the university’s commitment to spiritual inquiry, civic engagement, and religious and cultural pluralism.

The Georgetown University motto: Utraque Unum or “Both into One.” Georgetown points to this as meaning the juxtaposition and interconnection of “Learning and faith; science and art.” Historically, it also came to symbolize the hope of unity of the “Blue and the Grey” after the the Civil War.  The words are actually taken from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 2:14.  Some Scripture scholars interpret the passage to mean, that “Jesus is the `meeting point’ with God for all mankind.”

In speaking about Jesuit and Catholic Identity, Georgetown University states that “The ideals and principles that have characterized Jesuit education for over 450 years are central to Georgetown’s mission and character.” Certainly one of those ideas – civilized discourse about topics within an academic setting – is not only one of the strengths of Jesuit institutions, it has been one of the foundations of the university system of the United States which, for years, has been the envy of the world. Much of what I have heard and read (Rush included) is WAY beyond the pale of civil discourse. It has been rude, shrill, embarrassing and at times shameful. Aspects of the story have also been cut, pasted, twisted and used for specific agendas, which is unfortunate.  No matter your opinion, these are important and serious issues worthy of a more noble conversation.  Dr. John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown commented on this, in fact.

Next, “Roman Catholic.”

  • Self defined during Vatican II in Lumen Gentium, (btw, I wonder if the characters in this discussion have read that Chapter 5 on “Universal Call to Holiness?” Just asking…)
  • Includes the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
  • Possessing an “Organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards faith and morals” known as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Some interesting reading in there about human sexuality. Scandal too in case you’re interested).
  • Guided by the Sacred Scripture (You know something – what is contained in those 6th and 9th Commandments found in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21 is such an “inconvenient truth“).
  • Sacred Tradition (Which would include that “little booklet” – all 735 pages of it – on human sexuality by John Paul II entitled Theology of the Body).

On to the next topic. So who is Sandra Fluke?  According to her own testimony, she is “a third year student at Georgetown Law”… and “also a past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice or LSRJ.

In reading her testimony she said that, “Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.  For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary.  Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy.”

“…when you let university administrators or other employers, rather than women and their doctors, dictate whose medical needs are legitimate and whose aren’t, a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.”

Personal comment…Bureaucracy? Sacred Scripture + Sacred Tradition + Magisterium of the Catholic Church now = bureaucracy? Anyway, back to Ms. Fluke…”

“Due to the barriers erected by Georgetown’s policy, she [a woman with “polycystic ovarian syndrome…struggling to pay for her medication”[1]] hasn’t been reimbursed for her medication since last August.  I sincerely pray that we don’t have to wait until she loses an ovary or is diagnosed with cancer before her needs and the needs of all of these women are taken seriously.”

Personal Comment…Medical needs of women not taken seriously? Let’s see. You’re in front of the cameras and members of Congress and Catherine McAuley (Mission to poor women), Elizabeth Ann Seton (education of girls), Daughters of Charity (nation’s largest non-profit health system), Medical Mission Sisters, (…must I go on?) don’t even get a mention? 

Ms. Fluke continues: “In the media lately, conservative Catholic organizations have been asking: what did we expect when we enrolled at a Catholic school?  We can only answer that we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success.”

(Ok. I’ll admit it. Here’s where I get a little mean. Since when did instruments to prevent pregnancy within the context of pre-martial sexual activity become a factor, which necessarily enhances the “academic success” of students enrolled in the School of Law at Georgetown (or any OTHER) University? But I digress….)

“We expected that our schools would live up to the Jesuit creed of cura personalis, to care for the whole person, by meeting all of our medical needs.”

Another personal comment…“Cura Personalis?” News flash. Part of “Cura Personalis” is also the concern of the person’s immortal soul. Don’t believe me? Check out the Spiritual Exercises written by a guy names Ignatius Loyola (Saint, Jesuit, Doctor of the Church, etc…).

Me now….So what was Ms. Fluke’s intention? I don’t know; I’ve never met her personally. One opinion was offered by Fox Nation:

“Fluke came to Georgetown University interested in contraceptive coverage: She researched the Jesuit college’s health plans for students before enrolling, and found that birth control was not included. “I decided I was absolutely not willing to compromise the quality of my education in exchange for my health care,” says Fluke, who has spent the past three years lobbying the administration to change its policy on the issue. She’s a former president of the university’s chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and is an organizer with Catholic Students for Women’s Health, a coalition of students from Catholic colleges and universities.”

Now, who is Gloria Purvis? I have not met her either but, frankly, I would hope to someday.

  • Cornell Grad (That’s an “Ivy League” school btw so she’s probably rather smart)
  • Worked in the mortgage and finance industry then Policy Manager at a major financial services company (Probably a rather qualified employee, too).
  • Was Chair of Culture of Life Committee and Coordinator of the Young Adult Association, St. Augustine Catholic Church in D.C. (Possesses at least some managerial and leadership skills perhaps?)
  • On the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council for the Archdiocese of Washington. (Dedicated to her faith)
  • Associated with “Catholic Answers” Magazine (Remember that “spiritual inquiry, civic engagement, and religious and cultural pluralism” thing mentioned earlier? And Gloria didn’t even attend Georgetown).

Concerning this issue, what are Gloria’s thoughts “from a women’s perspective as a women’s issue?” (Her words btw)  I’ll let her speak for herself. It’s a seven minute talk but just the first 1:30 are worth a listen. Fasten your seat-belts:

Personal opinion….If Georgetown was really interested in a Jesuit tradition promoting “the university’s commitment to spiritual inquiry, civic engagement, and religious and cultural pluralism, they would give Gloria Purvis a microphone and a widely-advertized forum on 37th and O Streets, N.W. in Washington D.C. 20057.  What are the chances of that happening? I don’t know.  Might be worth a letter and a stamp to find out though, don’t you think?


[1] From earlier in Sandra Fluke testimony…Editor.

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