The Birth and Youth of the
Kennedy Institute of Ethics
I would like to explore some of the factors that contributed to the establishment, the development, and—if it is not too immodest to talk this way—the success of the Kennedy Institute during its first thirty years. This exploration will inevitably be an interpretation of the Institute's thirty-year history. Because of space constraints, it will also be highly selective.
The Institute would not be here were it not for the vision of André Heilegers and Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Thus, I would like to begin by acknowledging a debt to these three creative and thoughtful people.
A first characteristic of the Kennedy Institute, from the time of its inception, was its international focus. André Hellegers himself was a citizen of the world. He had been born in the Netherlands and educated in England, Scotland, and France before moving to the United States as his new home in 1953. While living in the United States, André maintained close ties with the rest of the world, and especially with his native Europe. In the 1960s, before most of us had ever met him, he served as deputy director to the Papal Commission on Birth Control. He thoroughly enjoyed interacting with this international group of scholars, which sought to review and perhaps to revise the Catholic Church's traditional teaching on contraception. I remember his frequent trips to Europe and his desire to stay in touch with intellectual and ecclesiastical developments there during the 1970s. Not long before his death André compiled a summary of recent developments in bioethics for the Vatican, totally on his own. He was constantly aware of the global character of his church and of the questions that faced the then-just-emerging field of bioethics.
Since the 1960s, the Shrivers have also had a keen interest in the international dimensions of bioethics. Already in 1967, the Kennedy Foundation and Harvard Divinity School had cosponsored an international conference on abortion, to which both European and North