Fr Fleming on eugenics and euthanasia

"Eugenics - an enduring part of fallen human nature." This was the title of Fr John Fleming's talk today at the SPUC Clergy Information Day at Victoria. Fr Fleming's talks are always well-researched and highly informative and today's was no exception.

I had to rush off after my morning Mass to get there in time - nearly thwarted by a jam in the Blackwall Tunnel which kept me waiting for 15 minutes before I could turn off to park at North Greenwich. It was well worth it, though. One of my basic criteria for a good teaching session is that you know more when you leave than when you came in: not always achieved, especially if you have to waste most of the time in "Buzz Groups." There was none of that today, but there was a good opportunity to meet with friends - Fr Basden, Fr Southwell, Fr Young, and Fr Sherbrooke among many others. Since this is a general London event, it is good also to get together with priests from Westminster and other dioceses whom I would not normally meet.

Fr Fleming took us through the history of the eugenics movement with quotations from various "respectable" figures. I did like his quotation from G K Chesterton who responded to Herbert Spencer's expression "survival of the fittest" with "survival of the nastiest." Quite rightly, the distinction was drawn between the Nazi holocaust and the origin of euthanasia. Euthanasia was already well established before Hitler rose to power. A German pioneer of euthanasia, Karl Binding, even coined the phrase "death with dignity" to describe the killing of those whose life is deemed to be devoid of value. Hitler used an already existing moral decay as a basis for his even more evil programme. (See my posts from 2008: "The life thou gavest, Lord, we've ended" and What the nazis built on.)

We were also taken through the temporary lull in eugenic enthusiasm after the horror of the holocaust became known, and its revival after an indecently short interval. We have now reached the point where someone such as James Lachs will say that "The only way to treat hydrocephalic children "humanely" is to "mercifully" put them to death.

SPUC website has a copy of the slides from Fr Fleming's powerpoint presentation. Many thanks to SPUC for an educative and worthwhile day.

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