An Image of God: The Catholic Struggle with Eugenics by Sharon M. Leon

By Sharon M. Leon

Within the first half the 20 th century, supporters of the eugenics flow provided a picture of a racially reworked the US by way of curbing the copy of "unfit" individuals of society. via institutionalization, obligatory sterilization, the restrict of immigration and marriages, and different equipment, eugenicists promised to enhance the inhabitants - a coverage time table that used to be embraced by means of many top intellectuals and public figures. yet Catholic activists and thinkers around the usa adverse a lot of those measures, saying that "every guy, even a lunatic, is a picture of God, now not an insignificant animal." In "An photograph of God", Sharon M. Leon examines the efforts of yankee Catholics to thwart eugenic regulations, illuminating the ways that Catholic inspiration reworked the general public dialog approximately person rights, the function of the kingdom, and the intersections of race, neighborhood, and relations. via an exam of the wider questions raised during this debate, Leon casts new gentle on significant matters that stay imperative in American political lifestyles this day: the establishment of marriage, the position of presidency, and the separation of church and country. this can be crucial analyzing within the heritage of faith, technology, politics, and human rights.

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14 While this does not seem like an enormous number in comparison with the total population, this concentration of Catholics was lodged firmly in the areas of the country where the most prominent eugenicists lived. 15 The AES must have had some inkling that it had its work cut out for it if it wanted to attract Catholics to the movement since eugenicists themselves bore at least some of the responsibility for an antipathy between the two groups. For years, eugenics publications had taken a stance of disdain in commentary either on events involving Catholics or on publications produced by Catholics.

30 Somerville read this definition as an indication of the arbitrary nature of feeble-minded diagnoses and the tendency of eugenicists to deny the importance of social environment in their judgments. Thus, he rejected the materialistic perspective in eugenics work by turning to Catholic teaching. “The sacredness of the individual” he explained, “does not depend upon his economic value to society, and the individual does not cease to have human rights because he suffers from mental or physical defects.

Significantly, Goddard’s formulations suggested that degenerate traits were dominant, and extremely dangerous for the well-being of future generations. In 1916, the Reverend Thomas Verner Moore (1877–1969), a Catholic psychiatrist, used his address to the annual National Conference of Catholic Charities meeting to question Goddard’s methodology in the Kallikak study. Criticizing the assumption by Goddard and his fieldworkers that the mental abilities of their subjects was easily discernible through general observation and questioning, Moore explained to his audience, “It seems to me Dr.

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