Father Theodore Hesburgh's death in 2015 was followed almost uniformly by eulogies of high praise from leaders across the nation, who recounted his impact at the university over which he presided for over three decades. He was called a "champion for human rights," a "titan," and "a giant of American Catholicism," and his public service was praised as "historic."
The adulation he received in death strongly suggesting, and in some cases definitively stating, that he is in Heaven were, frankly, sickening. Even at Notre Dame, a school known for its lack of subtlety, the praise for a man who opposed the Church on every defining issue of the day was over the top.
Hesburgh overlooked the murder of tens of millions of unborn children, sat in league with organizations doing the work of the diabolical, paraded the rich and powerful before the Pope to influence his decision on contraception, partnered with pro-abortion Democrats — the list is seemingly endless.
It is precisely a case like this that is so public and so spectacular that Catholics can truly wonder about his eternal disposition. The same thoughts occurred about Sen. Ted Kennedy, also despatched to eternity with fanfare and trumpet blasts and lauds from Churchmen, in spite of a life devoted to advancing abortion.
The wonder is not about Fr. Hesburgh per se. He is an example of those who have made public careers out of demolishing the Church. The speculation about his eternal fate serves the larger point of underlining something so overlooked and obscured these days: that there is a Hell, and it is occupied by those who chose to be enemies of Christ the King.
No one knows who is damned and who is not — but the discussion of eternal damnation in large part is made more pressing by considering (not concluding) th possibility in individual cases — just as people do with Adolph Hitler. This keeps alive a discussion with regard to our own individual destinies that many in the Church today would prefer not to be had.
Father Hesburgh's opposition to the Church disguised as leadership was not praised by all. In the midst of the eulogies last year, a handful of individuals were less sanguine about his legacy.
Father Peter West of Human Life International wrote an article titled "Hold the Applause: Father Hesburgh Deserves Prayers, Not Praise," highlighting the aspects of Hesburgh's life less known and less discussed — actions that not only opposed the Catholic Church but wrought untold damage to the Faith.
"Father Hesburgh was a staunch Democrat who consistently supported a long line of liberal political leaders," West noted, "including Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Governor Mario Cuomo of New York."
"In fact," he continued, "he chaired the fund that helped President Bill Clinton pay for legal defense fees associated with the Whitewater land deal investigation in the mid-1990s."
Dr. Christopher Manion, graduate of Notre Dame, wrote a piece titled "Tears for Old Notre Dame," where he compared the fidelity of law professor Charles Rice with the infidelity of President Theodore Hesburgh, both of whom passed away within hours of each other.
"Named president of the university in 1952," Manion wrote, "he immediately sought to give Notre Dame a makeover, in the image of the eastern elites."
Toward that end, he enlisted the help of population control advocate and billionaire John D. Rockefeller — a man with whom he'd partner for the next few decades to push contraception here and abroad.
Hesburgh had never made a secret of his promotion of contraception. "[H]e supported Notre Dame faculty members who dissented from Pope Paul VI's encyclical 'Humanae Vitae,'" West wrote — including, among others, Catholic law professor John T. Noonan, who published a book advocating Church reform on birth control, and whose seat on the papal birth control commission was due in no small part to Hesburgh's influence. Noonan opened the first session of the Commission arguing in favor of contraception.
The Rockefeller Foundation did more to push population control and eugenics than any other organization of the 20th century, giving today's equivalent of millions of dollars to Margaret Sanger's Birth Control League (now Planned Parenthood) and to the architects of Nazi Germany's eugenics program, which would go on to conduct horrific experiments on Jews, the disabled, and other "undesirables."
Both Rockefeller and Hesburgh worked together closely for decades, Hesburgh himself securing a private meeting between Rockefeller and Pope Paul VI in 1965 to sway the Pope to relax Church doctrine on contraception in order to prevent overpopulation.
That same year, Hesburgh's Notre Dame hosted a conference where 37 scholars signed a statement urging the Church to allow the use of artificial birth control.
And it was in the middle of that period — from 1963–1967 — that Hesburgh hosted a number of secret meetings on the Notre Dame campus between the Rockefeller Foundation and Planned Parenthood. Their purpose: to push the population control agenda through acceptance and promotion of contraception.
In turn, Rockefeller appointed Hesburgh to his foundation's executive board in 1966, and afterwards sat as the Foundation's chairman from 1977–1982. Even though he had agreed to abstain from any votes on contraception, sterilization or abortion, Manion notes that he "never used his gavel to end the foundation's population control programs. Had he done so, he would have been sent back to flyover country in a heartbeat."
"Fr. Ted triumphantly brought to campus a dissenting theologian, Fr. Richard McBrien," Manion went on, "who became the school's resident Pope-critic. He even gave McBrien's catechism ("Catholicism") an imprimatur (the bishop didn't)."
McBrien died only weeks before Hesburgh passed away, and as far as we know went to his deathbed unrepentant of his lifelong dissent. There is no indication that Hesburgh's passing was any different. Please pray for their souls.
Watch the full episode: "The Download—Notre Dame Deceit."