Well before 1968, Hesburgh himself had large areas of sympathy for the sexual revolution. Since 1961, he had been on the board of directors of the Rockefeller Foundation, which advocated “population control” measures—including abortion, sterilization, and contraception—in underdeveloped nations. While he consistently dissented from the Foundation’s promotion of abortion, he concurred with the other proposals, and his priesthood as well as his personal prestige helped—as the Foundation and he knew it would—to defuse some of the Catholic resistance. Further, Miscamble documents that Hesburgh lent support to a series of meetings held at Notre Dame annually from 1963 to 1967, sponsored by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations in collaboration with the Planned Parenthood Federation, ostensibly aimed at the “population problem,” but intended to provide, in the words of historian Donald Critchlow, “a liberal forum to create an oppositional voice within the Catholic Church on the issue of family planning.” Having done what was in his power in the matter, Hesburgh was confident that Pope Paul VI would accede to a change in Church teaching, and was shocked when, in July of 1968, he was proven wrong.
Stanley Hauerwas remarked, “It has been the project of liberal political and ethical theory to create just societies without just people, primarily by attempting to set in place social institutions and/or discover moral principles that ensure cooperation among people who share no common goods or virtues.” To some extent, Hesburgh’s support of population control measures was of a piece with the “management control systems” approach to problem-solving associated with Robert McNamara and the Whiz Kids of the early 1960s, predicated on the conviction that, if the right policies were implemented by the right personnel, personal moral choice became irrelevant to social change. On the other hand, Hesburgh, together with many liberal Catholics, had been infected by the sentimentalisms that the “human face” of the sexual revolution transmitted through its summer-of-love mawkishness.
When personal morality fell victim to a rage for social change.