Monday, April 11, 2016

Chesterton and Eugenics

From The Distributist Review:
Eight years after Chesterton published his book, Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Casti Connubii and pointed a finger at the unrelenting eugenicist movement, that “by public authority wish to prevent from marrying all those whom, even though naturally fit for marriage, they consider, according to the norms and conjectures of their investigations, would, through hereditary transmission, bring forth defective offspring.…” To no one’s surprise, Pius’ condemnation of eugenics drew responses from the eugenics movement, which failed to deliver a substantive critique of Church teaching and instead proceeded to predictably question the encyclical’s authority, raising the possibility (in the minds of those soft on eugenics) that Pius’ teaching may have overreached rather than bound Catholics by the weight of his Office.6 Accusing the pontiff of hiding behind papal pedagogy to mask his own “defiant medievalism” and “condemning many a woman to die in the hopeless agonies of childbirth,” American eugenicists like Margaret Sanger also used their rhetoric to re-ignite conspiracy theories about Romanism in America.

The eugenics movement had indeed found a formidable enemy in the Church. They had good reason to tremble. Catholic advocacy groups were well oiled and organized opponents. Clergy worthy of their cassocks rejected eugenics publicly and proved themselves loyal to mater ecclesiae. One of the most prominent Catholic social thinkers of this period, Rev. John A. Ryan, publicly described eugenics as a “pseudoscience” designed by “the immoral perversion of the human faculty,” and attacked contraception as the frustration of new life that “prevent it from attaining its natural end.”7 Ryan also wisely observed the implications of subordinating “the weaker groups to the welfare of society,” which would become “instruments to other human beings,”8 perfectly echoing Chesterton’s sentiments about eugenics breeding wage-slaves for “docility” and fostering “enterprise in a few masters.” (Read more.)

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Guess why I hate eugenic versions of "social justice" parties like Nazism and Social Democracy!

Austrofascism and Falange Española were never Eugenic. Dito for Estado Novo in Portugal or for Fianna Fáil, Ireland. Dito for Christlich Soziale Union, Bayern.