By Sharon M. Leon
Within the first half the 20th century, supporters of the eugenics circulation provided a picture of a racially reworked the US through curbing the replica of "unfit" contributors of society. via institutionalization, obligatory sterilization, the limit of immigration and marriages, and different tools, eugenicists promised to enhance the inhabitants - a coverage time table that used to be embraced via many major intellectuals and public figures. yet Catholic activists and thinkers around the usa hostile a lot of those measures, saying that "every guy, even a lunatic, is a picture of God, now not a trifling animal." In "An snapshot of God", Sharon M. Leon examines the efforts of yankee Catholics to thwart eugenic guidelines, illuminating the ways that Catholic concept remodeled the general public dialog approximately person rights, the position of the nation, and the intersections of race, group, and relatives. via an exam of the wider questions raised during this debate, Leon casts new gentle on significant matters that stay valuable in American political lifestyles this present day: the establishment of marriage, the position of presidency, and the separation of church and kingdom. this is often crucial examining within the historical past of faith, technology, politics, and human rights.
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Additional info for An Image of God: The Catholic Struggle with Eugenics
The popular rhetoric about improvement made eugenics language hard to resist. Hence, some Catholic thinkers tried to adapt the terms of the movement to their own perspectives on what facilitated social improvement. For the most part, this meant an emphasis on moral decision making, rather than biological determinism, as the path to a transformed community. This rejection was anchored in a willingness to question the answers that science appeared to offer about human worth. Faced with the emergence of the birth control movement, pronatalism received an increasing emphasis from Catholic writers and members of the hierarchy, offering a point of common ground with eugenicists.
He questioned the ambiguities of eugenic claims that “subnormal” persons endangered the social welfare. 46 Where birth control advocates suggested that access to contraceptive devices would ease the burdens of the working classes, resulting in an improved standard of living, Ryan saw a shortcut to economic relief that relied upon a willingness to transgress fundamental laws of nature rather than demanding that employers adequately provide for their workers. Where eugenicists saw an answer to the growing population of degenerates that they saw as a drain on resources, Ryan saw an unwillingness to respect the intrinsic value of every human being, regardless of his or her productivity.
First used by the sociologist E. A. Ross in a 1901 essay called “The Causes of Race Superiority,” and then championed most memorably by Theodore Roosevelt, the term “race suicide” encompassed two strains of thinking. On the one hand, individuals who sounded the alarm were concerned about the high birthrates of undesirable racial groups, namely, new immigrants; almost immediately upon the upsurge in immigration in the 1880s, a fear grew that these newcomers could and would outbreed native-born AngloAmericans.
An Image of God: The Catholic Struggle with Eugenics by Sharon M. Leon