"Three Generations of Imbeciles are Enough."

Good for Archbishop Hughes. But he's wrong in saying we Americans have always condemned eugenics. That's the problem. We haven't.I do not believe in whitewashing history--the history of Christianity or the history of the United States. And I do believe in making contemporary citizens and believers confront the bad decisions of the past.The United States does not have a good history with eugenics --before the Second World War, and the revelations of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, it was attractive public policy.Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in Buck v. Bell."We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. [citations omitted]. Three generations of imbeciles are enough. "

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

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