Hereditary diseases and contraception

Answers to the questions raised

After having discussed the solutions usually proposed to the problem of defective inheritance, we still have to answer some questions that you have proposed to us. All are inspired by the desire to specify the moral obligation derived from results of eugenics, which can be considered as acquired.

It is, in the different cases presented, the general obligation to avoid any damage or danger more or less serious, both for the person concerned and their spouse and descendants. This obligation is proportional to the severity of the possible damage, to its more or less great probability, to the intensity and proximity of the pernicious influence exercised, to the gravity of the reasons that force harmful acts to be carried out and to allow the harmful consequences. However, these questions are, for the most part, matters of fact, to which only the interested party, the doctor and the specialists consulted can give an answer. From the moral point of view, it can be said, in general, that there is no right to disregard the real risks that are known.

According to this basic principle, you can answer affirmatively to the first question that you propose: Is it necessary to advise, in general, the prenuptial visit, and, in particular, the examination of the blood, in Italy and in the Mediterranean basin? This visit should be advised, and even more, if the danger is truly serious, it could be imposed in certain provinces or localities. In Italy, in all the Mediterranean coast and in the countries that host groups emigrated from these countries, it is necessary to take into account especially the Mediterranean hematological disorder. The moralist will avoid pronouncing, in particular cases, by means of a yes or a non-apodictic: only the observation of all factual data allows one to determine if one is facing a serious obligation.

You ask next: Is it permissible to discourage marriage to a boyfriend in whom the examination of the blood has revealed the presence of the Mediterranean disease? When a subject is a carrier of the Mediterranean hematological malignancy, the marriage can be discouraged, but not prohibited. Marriage is one of the fundamental rights of the human person against which it can not be attempted. If it is sometimes difficult to understand the generous point of view of the Church, it is because the principle expressed by Pius XI in the encyclical Casti connubii is easily forgotten. about marriage: men are begotten not precisely and above all for this earth and for temporal life, but for heaven and eternity. This essential principle seems strange to the concerns of eugenics. And, nevertheless, it is fair; moreover, it is the only fully valid principle. Pius XI also affirmed in the same Encyclical that one does not have the right to prevent anyone from marrying or from using a marriage legitimately contracted, even when, despite all efforts, the couple is incapable of having healthy children. In fact, it will often be difficult to match the two points of view: that of eugenics and that of morality. But to guarantee the objectivity of the necessary discussion, it is that each of these sciences knows the point of view of the other and is familiar with its reasons.

We will be inspired by the same ideas to answer the third question: If, after marriage, the presence of Mediterranean haematological disease in both spouses is proven, it is permissible to discourage them from having children? They may be discouraged from having children, but they can not be forbidden. On the other hand, you need to see the method that the counselor (be it a doctor, hematologist or moralist) will suggest to you for this purpose. The specialized works avoid the answer here and leave the spouses concerned all their responsibility. But the Church must not be content with this negative attitude; must take position. As we have explained, nothing opposes perfect continence, the Ogino-Knaus method, nor the adoption of a child.

The following question concerns the validity of the marriage contracted by spouses bearing the Mediterranean hematological evil: If the spouses ignore their status at the time of marriage, can this fact be a reason for nullity? Apart from the case in which the absence of any tared inheritance, nor the simple ignorance, nor the fraudulent dissimulation of such an inheritance, nor even the positive error that would have prevented the marriage if it had been uncovered, are sufficient to question its validity. The object of the marriage contract is too simple and too clear for its ignorance to be alleged. The bond contracted with a particular person must be considered as beloved, because of the sanctity of marriage, the dignity of the spouses and the security of the children conceived, and the contrary must be clearly and surely proven. The serious error, when it is the cause of the contract (Can. 1084)], can not be denied; but it does not prove the absence of the real will to marry a certain person.

In the seventh question you ask if you can consider the “Rh situation” as a reason for nullity of marriage, when it leads to the death of children from the first pregnancy . You suppose that the spouses did not want to commit themselves to having children, that they would be victims of an early death because of a hereditary tare. But the simple fact that hereditary defects determine the death of children does not prove the lack of will to conclude the marriage. This situation is obviously tragic, but the reasoning is based on a consideration that is not valid. The object of the marriage contract is not the child, but the fulfillment of the natural marital act or, more precisely, the right to fulfill this act; this right always remains independent of the hereditary heritage of the begotten son, and even of his own ability to live.

In the case of a couple in “Rh situation” , you also ask if it is permissible to always discourage procreation or it is necessary to wait for the first incident.

The specialists in genetics and eugenics are more competent than us in this matter. It is, in fact, a matter of fact, which depends on numerous factors in which you are the competent judges. From the moral point of view, it is sufficient to apply the principles that We already discussed above, with the necessary distinctions.

You ask, finally, if it is allowed to carry out a propaganda on the technical level to indicate the inherent dangers of marriage between consanguines . Without a doubt, it is useful to inform the public of the serious risks involved in such marriages. The severity of the damage will also be taken into account here to judge the moral obligation.

With sagacity and perseverance you try to explore all the possible solutions to so many difficult situations, using you tirelessly to prevent and cure an infinity of human suffering and misery. Although in some points certain precisions or modifications are desired, this does not damage the undeniable merit of your works. We encourage you to do so willingly. We highly appreciate the active and serious collaboration that allows you to express yourself freely to the diverse opinions, but that is never satisfied with the negative reviews. It is the only way open for real progress, both for the acquisition of new theoretical knowledge and for its clinical application.

May you continue your work with enthusiasm and with the constant care to safeguard the highest spiritual values, unique that can crown your efforts with dignity. As a pledge of Our benevolence and of divine favors, we grant ourselves and all those who are dear to you, Our Apostolic Blessing.