Killing the best of us

Killing the best of us

What do you call it when a whole class of human beings is systematically marked for termination? Would calling it genocide be out of line?

A little boy who lived only 99 days yet lived a fuller life than most because of the love that surrounded him and his undeniable witness to the glory of God.

If it's not out of line, then that’s what’s I say is happening to the “genetically imperfect” in our society. Ninety percent of children diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted. No, let’s not use the euphemism: They’re killed. And with the new obstetrical recommendations, even more are going to die.

Until this year, only pregnant women 35 and older were routinely tested to see if their fetuses had the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. As a result many couples were given the diagnosis only at birth. But under a new recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors have begun to offer a new, safer screening procedure to all pregnant women, regardless of age.

We hardly see them anymore, not because they’re hidden away in institutions, but because they’re marked for elimination. But if you’re old enough to have met someone with Down syndrome, what do you recall about them? Is it the smile? Is it the simple joy at just being?

I’m reminded of Diogenes’ “Letter to a Lebensunwertes Leben” in which he paid tribute to a young Irish woman with Down syndrome at a memorial Mass for Pope John Paul II in 2005.

In a curiously final way, most of what I consider noblest about the just-ended pontificate finds expression in your pleasingly unpleasing face.

For starters, you exist. That itself is no small achievement. There are a lot of very rich, very powerful, very intelligent people who would turn you into surgical waste with no more thought than putting down a kitten. Your life, in their eyes, is a life not worthy of living. You will accomplish none of the things that they value. You will win no prizes for cello or dance. You will pay no taxes. No Jesuit university president will congratulate you for staging The Vagina Monologues and challenging patriarchy. You’re a burden. That you’re alive at all is due to the belief that you’re more than a burden. Perhaps no man did more to diffuse that belief — in increasingly hostile territory — than the one you’re praying for.


Do you understand much of the prayers you pray when your mother coaches you through your beads? It’s not easy to say. I’d be slow to discount their value. An uncredentialed but otherwise well-informed source has taught us, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

A quality of life the world doesn't understand

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  • Keep chacking back with the NY Times to read the Letters to the Editor on this topic.  Of the six published today, only two defended the right of those with Down Syndrome to live.  The other four condemned the parents in the article as selfish and hysterical.

  • The absurdity of some of the editorials is really staggering:

    Fighting Down syndrome with prenatal screening does not “border on eugenics.” It is a “search and destroy mission” on the disease, not on a category of citizens. …

    The writer is a doctoral candidate in genetics.

    You would think that at some point during doctoral studies, one would learn the difference between disease and patient.  Or perhaps the good almost-doctor would advocate killing cancer or AIDS patients, as well?  That would certainly eliminate their diseases quickly enough.

    Heaven help us if this is the kind of person going into the field.

  • Thanks for posting the article.  I could say so much about the difficulties, struggles, and the many joys of having a daughter with Down syndrome.  Some of the difficulties are related to my daughter herself but as she is reaching school age the most difficult challenges are dealing with school administrators and the services she needs. Here are a few good things to read: <a >Trip to Holland</a> and something from the <a >USCCB</a>

  • Thank you, Dom, for the post and a video of holiness.

    At a local parish, we have several late teen and young adult altar servers who have Downs Syndrome.  They are wonderfully conscientious and very reverent young people—a joy to behold and an honor to be with.  At the “sign of peace” a few Sundays ago, one of these servers rushed down from the altar to a pew where his father sat and lovingly embraced his dad.  Then, he quietly and happily returned to serve mass.

    The deliberate murder of Downs Syndrome infants in the womb is repulsively Satanic.  It smacks of all that the Nazi party preached in its mindless attempt to create a race of so-called perfect people.  The cries of all aborted children, whether with Downs, normal, or with other potential disorders reaches to heaven…and that ultimate divine judgement should strike awe and fear in the hearts of the new eugenicists.

  • “…the spectacle of ecclesiastics placing the Body of Christ on the plump tongues of professional assassins…”

    …potent, powerful, and oh so appropriate.

  • And it isn’ even (scientifically) correct. Downs Syndrome is short-hand for a broad spectrum of capabilities according to intellectual development.

    Some individuals with Downs Syndrome can be, relatively speaking, quite high achievers with well functioning intellect. Others can have gross intellectual development and will possibly never be truly independent. All of them are capable of living lives of worth and joy and quality.