Economic interests drive wider acceptance of eugenics, says archbishop

VATICAN CITY – Big economic interests and subtle changes in terminology are helping spread a wider acceptance of eugenics, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“The term ‘eugenics’ seems something of the past and just mentioning the word elicits horror,” he said during a Vatican press conference Feb. 17.

But as often happens, “subtle linguistic formalism together with good advertising that is supported by big economic interests causes one to lose sight of the real dangers” underlying the many advancements in genetics, he said.

A lack of clarity also can prevent people from being able “to recognize actual objective evil and formulate a corresponding ethical judgment,” he added.

The archbishop was presenting details of a Feb. 20-21 international congress sponsored by the academy for life that will look at “The New Frontiers of Genetics and the Risk of Eugenics.”

The eugenics movement, which focuses on improving the human species by controlling hereditary factors in mating, was associated with Nazi attempts to purify the German race.

Genetic research and technology should continue and be supported in order to help heal or ease the suffering of individuals, Archbishop Fisichella said.

But, he said, scientific progress must be accompanied by greater ethical awareness that respects the full dignity of every human person.

The introduction to the congress program said excesses in the field of genetics can “lead to so-called eugenics which, in its various forms, seeks to obtain the perfect human being,” which includes unethical means that violate respect of all forms and conditions of human life.

A real risk exists that genetics may drift away from being used solely for the good of humanity, Archbishop Fisichella said, and the abuse of genetic information is unfortunately part of “a mentality that is starting to slowly, yet inexorably, spread.”

Ethical guidelines and judgments are needed to make sure the quest to help people live a so-called normal life does not result in eugenic acts, he said.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.