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Remembering Jerome Lejeune

By Judie Brown

Dr. Lejeune, a beloved friend and defender of the innocent, once said,

“As no other information will enter later into the zygote, the fertilized egg, one is forced to admit that all the necessary and sufficient information to define that particular creature is found together at fertilization.”

Dr. Lejeune was a remarkable human being who poured his life into working to discover the cause of Down syndrome. He was among the world’s most gifted geneticists, but more than that he was a champion of life. Writing about his accomplishments, Solene Tadie said,

“He demonstrated through his works the unity between faith and science, in a remarkable way. Thus, he gave a depth to things and did not bring just a technical answer, but also a wise answer. Therefore, the French word that best explains this double dimension is savant. It is a word that is no longer so widespread, but it defines Jérôme Lejeune well.”

Indeed, as one of Pope John Paul II’s closest friends, Lejeune was intimately involved in the founding of the Pontifical Academy for Life as well as being renowned for his work in nearly every corner of the world.

Professor Donald DeMarco, a prolific writer, explained that because of Lejeune’s work in genetics he became “a strident opponent of prenatal diagnosis and abortion, which invariably results from such diagnoses via the culture-of-death worldview.” While some may read this and wonder how anyone could possibly be opposed to the use of prenatal diagnosis, there is more than one reason behind such a position. But the most obvious is that in far too many cases prenatal diagnosis is used as a search and destroy weapon, a way of weeding out the allegedly imperfect before they are born. In other words, it is akin to the sonar weapons of war.

In other words, it is a eugenics tool and thus anathema to someone with the devout faith of Professor Lejeune. Lejeune’s

“expert testimony convinced a Tennessee judge of the humanity and right to life of tiny human embryos conceived through in vitro fertilization and the unfortunate objects of a custody battle. He wrote his insights in The Concentration Can, a book that exposes the horrors of conceiving and manipulating human embryos in laboratories.”

From the onset of his scientific work, Lejeune never wavered from the truth, meaning that there was never a human being whose life he would be willing to dismiss, regardless of the genetic or other challenges that person might face in life. As he once said,

It is not medicine we should fear, but the folly of mankind. Every day, the experience of our predecessors increases our ability to change nature by using its own laws. But using this power wisely is what each generation must learn in its turn. We are certainly more powerful today than ever before, but we are no wiser: Technology is cumulative, wisdom is not.

Therein lies the wisdom of a great man whose devotion to Christ and defense of innocent persons defined him in every way. Those of us who knew him understand that above all else, it was Christ to whom Lejeune gave his allegiance. That is what made him such a powerful, gentle figure, a scientist who understood that serving the vulnerable was a great grace, not a curse.

Let us hope and pray that scientists emerge who are as devoted to defending humanity as this humble man was during his long, illustrious career. In 2021, Pope Francis authorized “the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree concerning the heroic virtues of Lejeune.” He is now Venerable Jérôme Lejeune.

Such an honor could not be given to a more beloved human being. Thank God for Venerable Jerome Lejeune.

If you would like to teach your children about this beloved man, visit the CLSP website for a downloadable lesson entitled Dr. Jérôme Lejeune and Trisomy 21.