October 8th 2016

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COVER STORY Reaper mows down first child in the Low Countries

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coalition still gridlocked despite foreign success

EDITORIAL Trump v Clinton: choice between bad and worse

GENERATION RENT The economics behind political unrest

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Kevin Andrews: defend marriage on principles

WA DRUG POLICY Forum told intervention works with cannabis, ice

OPINION "Deconstruction" fosters contempt of its object

POPULATION POLITICS Philanthropy as a weapon of mass destruction

SUPERANNUATION Take away the number you first thought of ...

HISTORY Germany and its long history of immigration

CINEMA The online madding crowd: Nerve

BOOK REVIEW Tale of forestry dynasty not quite pulp quality

BOOK REVIEW Roman refresher


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Philanthropy as a weapon of mass destruction

by John Martin

News Weekly, October 8, 2016

Fr Theodore (Ted) Hesburgh was appointed president of Notre Dame University in 1952. Although by 1960 Notre Dame had become one of the largest Catholic universities in the United States, it was overshadowed by Yale and Harvard, institutions made great by the benevolence of the philanthropic foundations of wealthy families.

Catholic universities had been funded by the gifts of parents, business and clergy who wished students to receive a tertiary education that respected Catholic teaching. Fr Hesburgh wanted to increase the stature of Notre Dame but knew it would be difficult without the support of the large foundations.

John D. Rockefeller III, left,
and Fr Theodore (Ted) Hesburgh

John D. Rockefeller III was the director of several such foundations, two of which bore the Rockefeller name. He was respected by other large foundations and was able to co-opt their philanthropy. Although the wealth of the Rockefellers had been predominately generated from mining, oil, and banking, JDR III had an interest in contraceptive manufacturing. He realised that the opposition of the Churches, especially the Catholic Church, to contraception would have a serious effect on prospective profits.

The respective interests of Fr Hesburgh and JDR III came together in the establishment of Population Crisis Conferences at Notre Dame University. The Ford foundation was another funding source. JDR III stipulated that invitees be liberal theologians (those who focused on doubt rather than faith) and that the conferences be kept secret from Catholic Bishops, who were usually prominent on university boards. As many Bishops were absent at the time, attending the Vatican II Council in Rome and perusing submissions when home, this was not difficult.

These conferences enabled Rockefeller’s lobbyists to convince large numbers of Catholic theologians of the disastrous consequences of further rises in the world population and that contraception was the only solution.

Keep in mind that the world population has doubled since the early 1960s, at least partly as famine has been reduced (now relating mainly to war zones). It is possible that Rockefeller expected a statement reaffirming the Church’s teaching on birth control to emanate from Vatican II but as it closed in 1965 this did not arrive. By this time several Bishops were aware of the Population Crisis Conferences but no action was taken.

In 1966 the Church basked in the glory of the Council Documents, but the glory was short lived. In early 1967, a document that would emasculate Catholic teaching in schools and universities was produced. Called the “Land O’Lakes Declaration”, it was signed by 26 heads of Catholic colleges, mainly from the U.S. It stated that in the interests of academic freedom Catholic colleges were no longer obliged to respect Catholic teaching.

It is believed that Fr Hesburgh was the author of this betrayal of Catholic students. Certainly he was a signatory to it. Horrified Bishops attempted to call university board meetings only to find that constitutions had been rewritten and that their positions on the boards had been taken by members sympathetic to Rockefeller’s designs. Bishops who wished to retain the Catholic character of tertiary institutions were regarded as pre-Vatican II troglodytes.

Fr Hesburgh arranged a meeting with Pope Paul VI for JDR III and he flew to Rome. In a 45-minute discussion Rockefeller offered to ghostwrite a reversal of the Church’s teaching on contraception, and it is likely that he informed the Pope of consequences if he declined. The following year, 1968, Pope Paul VI released Humanae Vitae, a document reaffirming Catholic opposition to contraceptive use.

A large body of theologians expressed the judgement publicly that rather than an authoritative and sound teaching document, Humanae Vitae was flawed. While Catholics were accustomed to Non-Catholic theologians disagreeing with the Pope, Catholics themselves, lay and clergy alike, had previously respected Papal documents. Great confusion came into the Church, and although today atheists and Protestants are usually aware that the Catholic Church condemns contraception, Catholics are more likely to be uncertain.

The “Land O’Lakes declaration” was a declaration of independence from the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. Although the initial effect was confined to graduates of these universities, liberal theologians contradicted Church teaching, especially on contraception, in written works and lecture tours. It is conceivable that universities anxious to benefit by philanthropic endowments would realise the importance of engaging and promoting liberal theologians. A theologian’s road to fame and fortune could be quickly paved by finding doubts about Scripture or Church teachings.

In addition to the above, two resources in literature were published in 1968 to reinforce doubts about Catholic teaching: Catholicism by Fr Richard McBrien; and The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Both reinforced the rejection of Humanae Vitae. Eventually, as graduates of liberal professors filled teaching positions in parochial schools, the oversight of the parish priest was diluted. As liberal theologians gained footholds in seminaries, orthodox Catholic students were rejected or ejected, creating a drought in vocations.

For his support, Fr Hesburgh was appointed to the board of directors of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Meanwhile, JDR III realised that all contraceptives have failure rates, and for users to have confidence in their effectiveness, legalised abortion was necessary. While keeping a low profile, he supported the multitude of organisations pressing for legal abortion. Critchlow (see references) maintains that JDR III also funded a database of individuals opposed to abortion and supplied it to Planned Parenthood, which would eventually become a major abortion chain. The Roe v Wade decision in 1973 effectively legalised abortion in the U.S. and government funds flowed to abortion providers.

Through the mid-1970s senators and congressional leaders tried to claw back protection for the unborn. Rockefeller saw these as the forces of darkness and rallied a multitude of philanthropic foundations to fund pro-abortion pressure. Realising that mainstream churches generated most of the anti-abortion drive, JDR III directed funds towards organisations such as Catholics for Free Choice, Catholic Alternatives, and the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights in an effort to compromise politicians. Even though most of these “organisations” were often little more than a spokesperson, they were able to grab headlines.

While Fr Hesburgh abstained from voting on abortion and contraceptive issues at the Rockefeller Foundation, he became concerned when his heir apparent, Fr James Burtchaell, publicly criticised Rockefeller for bankrolling pro-abortion organisations. He arranged for Fr Burtchaell to fly to New York to meet JDR III.

At the same time, Rockefeller sponsored SIECUS, an organisation injecting contraceptive promotions into school programs. SIECUS had been developed by a doctor associated with Planned Parenthood, Mary Calderone. Many Christians were disturbed by the affront to morality in these programs. Rockefeller’s association with these programs and pro-abortion bodies placed him increasingly offside with mainstream churches.

Rockefeller realised that his strongest ally in pushing back against the churches was the homosexual lobby. In 1977 he raised finance for the promotional film, Who Are We? featuring eight homosexuals from various walks of life. Before his death in a 1978 car accident, JDR III funded private showings of the film.

Critchlow comments: ”Rockefeller viewed homosexuality and sex education as changing the cultural context for family planning and abortion policy in modern America.”

Until his death, Rockefeller had continued to work six days a week in his New York office. In 1973 he had engaged Joan Dunlop, previously an executive of the Ford foundation, as an adviser. After his death she formed the International Women’s Health Coalition, and was active in promoting abortion until her death in 2012.

During Fr Hesburgh’s presidency, endowments for Notre Dame University rose from $US9 million in 1952 to $US350 million in 1987, research grants rising from $US735,000 to $US15 million. He served on 16 presidential appointments, was an overseer of Harvard University, and a director of the Rockefeller-controlled Chase Manhattan Bank.

By the time of his death in 2015 at the age of 97, he had been awarded many honours, including honorary doctorates from 150 universities, a Guinness Book record. At his 96th birthday party he was described by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden as “the most powerful unelected official this nation has ever seen”. He was greatly loved by this world.

Rockefeller’s legacy continues. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Inc was paid $US250,000 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016. Unsurprisingly, many grants were directed to organisations promoting contraceptives and abortions. The Gates grant database shows Planned Parenthood was awarded over $US8 million.

U.S-based Atlantic Philanthropy poured $US17 million into Irish groups supportive of same-sex marriage before the 2015 referendum. This enabled one organisation, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), to grow from essentially a voluntary organisation to a salaried lobby group. In 2009 GLEN had 348 media appearances, almost one each day, and met with 40 politicians in three months.

A spokesperson explained to The Irish Times that Atlantic Philanthropy provided only half of GLEN’s funding. Although foreign funding to influence referenda is illegal in Ireland, other donors included the Ford Foundation, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the European Commission, and the British Council.

As the sexual revolution and liberal theology diminished the influence of the churches, there were many beneficiaries. Abortion clinics, contraceptive manufacturers, IVF clinics, Sunday trading supermarkets, pornography purveyors and divorce lawyers were among those who experienced the greatest profits.

A measure of the monetary value of destroying Christian witness is given by humourist Adrian Plass, who was offered an inducement of $US10 million to “cease all forms of public communication on the subject of your Christian faith”.



Donald T. Critchlow Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America, OUP, 1999.

Victor Gaetan, “Follow the money: American entity funded Irish same-sex campaign”, National Catholic Register, May 25, 2015.

Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen PhD, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the ’90s, Doubleday, NY, 1989.

David J. O’Brien, “The Land O’Lakes Statement”, Boston College Magazine, Winter 1998.

Breda O’Brien, “Asking questions about funding for referendum campaign”, The Irish Times, May 9, 2015.

Adrian Plass, Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation, Authentic Media Ltd, 2007.

Michael S. Rose, Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church, Regnery Publishing, 2002.

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