A Response to Bill O'Reilly on Homosexuality and Marriage

April 19, 2013 - 2:22 PM

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly (AP Photo)

In recent weeks, Mr. Bill O'Reilly has reached his very large television and web site audience with several claims that more than "Bible thumping" will be required to defend marriage. He has stated that the battle to preserve marriage is in fact lost. He has reported that his libertarian position on the matter makes the defense of marriage irrelevant. And, further, he has implied that biblical teaching is unacceptable in the public square.

As far back as 2008, in an interview with PBS, O'Reilly stated, "Do I care about this? Not really. I don't care what Lenny and Squiggy do. They want to get married, let them get married. If you open it up for one group, you've got to open it up for all the groups. And they have done that in Holland, by the way..." Interviewer: "In terms of gays, you would have no problem with marriage?" O'Reilly, "Personally? I don't care."

I think there are several issues that O'Reilly and others might be overlooking in this matter.

Nonetheless, one has to agree with O'Reilly on one count, namely as he claims: "...You rarely hear those arguments articulated in the media, which is largely sympathetic to gay marriage. And not only that, but people who feel strongly about maintaining a special status for traditional marriage have allowed themselves to be intimidated."

Bill O'Reilly's cavalier attitude toward something so serious is quite astonishing. And, as his April 3 nationally televised tussle with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham reveals, his attitude on this matter is also intellectually superficial. This is not an issue for Americans of any persuasion to take lightly. It seems to me that serious fundamental issues of law and justice are involved.

On Religion in the Public Square

O'Reilly fails to make clear distinctions. For example, on the issue of religion in the public square, his claim that theological arguments are unacceptable in the public square is meant to indicate that if someone does not have faith in the authority of Divine Revelation, such argumentation holds no sway. This is true.

It is incorrect, however, to grant the further implication that religious argumentation should not be used in the public square. O'Reilly, who is the best-selling author of several historical books, rewrites history on this point. He fails to recall the great religious and moral arguments delivered in America's public square-the argument against slavery, segregation laws, the Declaration of Independence, among them. Furthermore he ignores many actual constitutions in effect today around the world which are markedly religious. Policy, as far as I am concerned, ought to be constitutional. Furthermore, the culture of the West is in profound debt to the Judeo-Christian tradition, and much of the law, institutions, ethics, art, and scientific progress of the West sit squarely within that tradition.

O'Reilly's own roots in Ireland should remind him of the Irish constitution for instance, which states in its Preamble:

"In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,

Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,

And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,

Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution."

I doubt most Irish citizens are embarrassed about the statement of these religious principles in their own public square.

Jurgen Habermas a most serious philosopher and a self-proclaimed methodical atheist has this to say:

"... the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just postmodern chatter."

To presume that the public square is owned or exists because of the atheists of our modern day is historically false and an easy way out of a more complicated debate.

The post-modern secularists have been endeavoring to rewrite history and ignore the Christian roots and foundations of European and Western civilization. O'Reilly, while making the sound point that a faith argument presupposes belief in Revelation, goes too far in conceding the platform to the atheists of today's society. To ignore that the civil law against murder and stealing, for instance, is no different than the Mosaic commandments, "Thou shalt not kill" or steal, is an obvious example. To think that all this is a triviality without any relevance betrays a superficial understanding of the crisis of our time.

The clamor for same-sex marriage is symptomatic of but not the root cause of our demise. The eroding of the philosophical and cultural foundations of the West is at the root of the problem. To ignore this is to miss the forest for the trees.

On the Relationship Between Faith and Reason

The second clarification comes from a philosophical direction. The argument from faith, being revealed by God is essentially the strongest argument per se. It may not be understood to be so, by those who do not believe in Divine Revelation, but, if God exists and Christian revelation is true, it is undoubtedly the strongest. God does not have opinions, or positions on issues. God is simply Truth. The fact that the argument from eternal law cannot be used with the homosexual lobby, which is markedly atheistic, does not grant the further claim that Divine Revelation is a weak argument. The weakness of it is not due to the argument itself but to the condition of the hearer, who does not recognize Divine Law.

So, as to Mr. O'Reilly's assertion that "more than Bible thumping" is needed in the discussion regarding the nature of marriage:

Indeed, we may need to appeal to reason principally, in our day and age, due to the lack of faith of those to whom we speak. But, as a Catholic, Bill O'Reilly should also know that it is the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church that reason and faith do not contradict. Therefore, as a Catholic priest, it is unproblematic for me to argue either way. I may indeed argue against the "Anglicans gone wild" that electing bishops who are acting on homosexual tendencies is contrary to Christian teaching and revelation. Yet I would indeed not appeal to the highest science, Divine science, if arguing with Bill O'Reilly, the libertarian.

If Bill O'Reilly believes in Divine Revelation and the divinity of Christ, he surely should realize that theology and reason (philosophy) are simply two different ways of arriving at the same conclusion. Theology and revelation are necessary, even in cases where one can arrive at the same conclusion on by reason alone, because not every individual has the time or ability to arrive at correct conclusions from reason. Revelation in this sense is a service to the human conscience, for it affords another way for many people to arrive to necessary conclusions, quickly, and without the admixture of error. Revealed doctrine is a service to reason, not an obstacle.

But since Mr. O'Reilly demands "more than Bible thumping," I argue from reason, that homosexuality is simply not a normative inclination in the individual and therefore its existence constitutes shaky ground to make a norm for society as a whole. One has to take a deep breath and depersonalize the issue. We speak at this level when evaluating policy. The question before us is whether the tendency of some men and some women toward a same sex attraction is reasonable grounds to legislate for an entire nation or state.

Homosexual Marriage and the Question of Justice

The question at hand has three aspects:

  • Is normalizing the homosexual tendency in law in the best interest of men and women with a homosexual tendency?
  • Is the common good in society furthered by such a step?
  • Is it in the best interest of children who undoubtedly would be involved through adoption, step-parenting, or surrogate motherhood in such situations?

The policy maker need not derive his or her conclusions from theological reasoning to answer these questions, because constitutionally America is not a confessional state. Neither must he or she become a moral ethicist and proceed to characterize homosexual acts and the marriage claim of those with homosexual tendencies as good or evil.  Rather, the policy maker must determine if first, there is a reasonable ground to legislate on the matter; if second, it is in the interest of the common good to pursue such legal actions; and finally, whether the ius (the previous existing rights and the obligations in justice towards others) would be violated or infringed upon by such legislation.

Here are my conclusions.

Regarding some of the principle parties involved-men and women who have homosexual tendencies-I argue that normalization of their homosexual tendencies at the level of law, would be an injustice. Furthermore, I argue that it would be unjust for the nation's children.  To fully explain the basis of this injustice, I will begin by discussing the children.

Justice for the Children

Regarding the rights of children: they undoubtedly will be involved in the question at hand, given that the men and women with homosexual tendencies will no doubt seek to adopt children.

It seems to me that the right of the child to a father or mother is absolutely being ignored in our society. I submit that the greatest discrimination in our day and age is against the most vulnerable who have no say and are not able to argue for themselves for the need and importance of both father and mother. The need for two parents, one of each gender, is an unwritten need of the child, but one which in justice cannot be ignored.

Our current trajectory to deny the child his right to a father and a mother from the moment of birth should come as no surprise. For more than 40 years, America has denied the child in the womb his right to protection against bodily harm (caused by abortion), owed to him as a scientifically verifiable member of the human species.  The same legal system that has condoned this now contemplates denying some of those that are allowed to be born a father and a mother. Having eliminated the first fundamental right, through abortion, in positive law, they continue down that path, logically consistent and undeterred.

It is, indeed, nothing  surprising  that, after U.S. law and its citizens have allowed the child in the womb to be massively exterminated in the most brutal fashion, the nation is proceeding to claim (as Bill O'Reilly now seems to be doing), that depriving children of a father and mother is also reasonable, or irrelevant. Indeed, if you grant that depriving him of the right to life is also acceptable.

But children have this ius (debt in justice) from us all: a mother and a father. Most can see the moral, social, and economic consequences of the lack of a father or a mother in the home. No one likes this. The family is breaking up and we are reaping the bitter fruit of these breakdowns in society. To now legislate for the institutionalized denial of a father and mother from birth, is to enshrine in law, that which from the outset is prejudicial and gravely disadvantageous to children. To deny a father and a mother to some children by law would be to institutionalize a situation we are in fact trying to correct in our society. For law to positively make this situation into an institution, are to deliver an unjust verdict on the fate of many children, from the get go. Fairness to all children should not be trampled so trivially.

Not to foresee the consequences of denying a child a father and mother is obtuse. It is not a question of having two adults in a family; it is a question of having a father (male) and a mother (female). To not see the difference is to deny that gender per se exists, since the implicit claim is that gender makes no difference. Indeed, good nuns can raise children, but as even Mother Teresa always stated, their love and care cannot replace the father and the mother. Mr. O'Reilly claims to love common sense, and I hope he can see this much. Why would you normalize in law, something that is so hindering child development in our society--namely the absence of a father and a mother? I argue that to set in law the possibility for this to be the fate of a child from birth is clearly a violation of justice against that child.

The innovators of society wish to deprive the child without an argument, of something most of us had and are grateful for, the just right to a father and a mother. This is the real discrimination of our days. Nothing in our empirical data or experience should lead anyone to believe that this absence will be a good for the child.

Furthermore, there are other problems one can easily foresee. Given that men and women in same sex arrangements would seek to have children who are at least partly genetically theirs, we can expect the continued and increased production of babies in laboratories, the destruction of embryos, and the freezing of other members of our species.  Trivialities as well, Bill?

Justice for the Adults

But a further injustice towards men and women with homosexual tendencies is at stake. The question here remains whether there are reasonable grounds to legislate the normalizing of the homosexual tendency in law. Is this in the best interest of men and women with a homosexual tendency?

The answer is no. The "normalization" of homosexual tendencies into an institution (solidifying it in law) is an injustice against men and women with such tendencies.

We must first distinguish between the very small percentage of men and women with homosexual tendencies (2-4%), and the vociferous homosexual lobby. The radical homosexual lobby does not speak (however much they assert they do), for the many men and women with homosexual tendencies who revere their parents (father and mother), who are not advocating for the abolition of marriage, who are not atheists, and have no axe to grind against people of good will, religious or not, who disagree with them on this issue. Most men and women who feel these homosexual tendencies, are not trying to shut down businesses, destroy careers, oust academics, and discredit public figures, who disagree with them. It is not these men and women who are represented by the unbelievable spectacle in speech and action of the homosexual lobby. In fact most men and women with homosexual tendencies are grateful to have had a mother and a father. The radical homosexual lobby that is agitating on the issue, and exercising such huge influence over the media, and even the Supreme Court, is a tiny minority of less that 1% of the U.S. population. I know many men and women with homosexual tendencies who find the homosexual lobby's behavior to be absolutely undemocratic, lacking in civility, and frankly reprehensible.

It is therefore necessary to establish some clarity on the marriage issue. Facts are needed to steer the discussion properly and deal with the problem correctly.

The Facts

1. Homosexual tendencies are not normal.

Note that there is no ethical implication in this claim. No one is saying that people with homosexual tendencies are undesirable or evil. The affirmation is a simple statement of fact. Homosexual tendencies are present in men and women in a percentage fluctuating between 2% and 4%.

To make the point clear, if O'Reilly shows up late (for the sake of argument) to tape his popular TV show two times out of a hundred, it would be a false to state that O'Reilly is normally late. His tardiness is outside of the norm. Normally O'Reilly shows up on time (98 out of 100 times). Likewise, normally, men and women have a sexual tendency oriented towards the opposite gender. It is outside of the norm to have homosexual tendencies. This is simply a fact.

Non-normative tendencies are not limited to sexuality.

Anorexia-a  non-normative tendency as regards food-is found in about 1-2% of the population, Bulimia in women-another non-normative tendency in relationship to food-is found in about 1-3% of all women. We say that these tendencies vis-à-vis food, are non-normative because the universal tendency toward food normally does not incline in either manner. Anorexia and Bulimia are outside the norm, not on account of a conventional social belief regarding whether anorexia is an acceptable tendency to be embraced and promoted, or a bad tendency to be despised. No, these tendencies in relationship to food are simply non-normative as a sociological and empirical fact. It is this that I mean when I state that the homosexual tendency is not normal. It is in this sense specifically that the tendency toward same sex attraction in men and women (homosexuality) is indisputably outside the norm.

Now, when we discover non-normative tendencies, we seek causes. We ask: Why is this non-normative behavior taking place? We don't start making laws for an entire population based on the non-normative tendencies of a tiny segment of the population. More clinical, sociological, and medical science is needed here, not lawyers and judges acting by fiat to institutionalize in the nation's law non-normative tendencies of any type. This is, I submit, an unreasonable and insufficient ground for law.

We have some real understanding of some of the leading factors and indeed many of them have to do with experiences that have serious impact upon the human psyche.

2. Homosexual tendencies in men and women do not make them members of a different class or gender.

Homosexuality is a sexual tendency experienced by a small percentage of men and women. Men and women with homosexual tendencies do not constitute a different gender or race.

Men and women with such tendencies are like all of us-simply men and women. The particularity of the non-normative sexual tendency does not make them some new class of people. We all deal with tendencies, normative and non-normative, in sexuality, food, love of self, and the rest. Non-normative tendencies are therefore reasonably seen as an improper subject of law for an entire nation or state. The comparison to race issues fails for, as it should be clear by now, race is not a tendency. No one is black or white because of a tendency. Color of skin is not a tendency, neither is color of eyes or Down Syndrome. Experiences, no matter how dramatic, cannot change your race. You cannot change skin color, or acquire it later in life, or after a dramatic life experience. Race (meaning at present only color of skin) in this sense has no psychic component to it.

This is simple science and anthropology.  There are only men and women in the world. There is no such thing as a third gender, or a fourth gender, or a fifth gender. Monozygotic twins (two individuals with precisely the same genetic makeup), exist where only one individual develops homosexual tendencies not at birth, (sexual tendencies become latent only much later in life), while the other does not. To ignore therefore the psychic and experiential component I submit is unscientific.

Homosexual tendencies do not determine a different class of people; individuals with these tendencies are simply men and women dealing in different ways with a non- normative sexual tendency.

Now, how these tendencies are formed, largely determines the precise particular object that they will pursue in following such tendencies.

Man's tendencies or natural inclinations to food, sexual union, love of self, knowledge and truth can clearly tend-with cause-toward a non-normative aim. All tendencies can by excess or defect seek non-normative aims. The universal love of self and self-preservation by excess can become a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Tendencies towards nutrition can by excess become bulimia and by defect anorexia. None of this is the proper object of new rights and constitutional law.

The problem here is that if non-normative tendencies become the criteria for constitutional or state law, law itself will become biographical. This atomization of law, culminates in the inability for us to have fundamental rights, as human beings. Things are institutionalized after centuries in law and custom, because they are recognized as normative, and, in the case of marriage, as a good for society. The legal institution of marriage is the normalization of that which is de facto normative in man. Marriage institutionalized in law and by religion is the proper effect the fruit of a normative tendency in man. Heterosexual, monogamous unions were not simply admitted into the marriage franchise (to which others now seek entry), it is rather the author that produced marriage as we know it. They have as it were, authorship rights over marriage since they produced the institution.

Creating institutions in law and possibly at a constitutional level, using non-normative tendencies (which are many and vary greatly in our society), as the justification is unreasonable and theoretically unsound.

Equality under the law in this sense is already being assaulted by post-modern philosophy, as unfair. Precisely for this reason, "the notion of "equality under the law," is now seen by many as failing to address the biographical preferences and tendencies of all kinds of biographical groups in society.

If we continue down that path, there will be no end, except the end of what we now know as the rule of law. It is unreasonable to legislate on constitutional order in this fashion.

In the sexual realm, non-normative tendencies appear not only toward adults of the same gender. Some women have sexual tendencies that are heterosexual yet non-normative (nymphomania), some sexual tendencies can be oriented towards both sexes (bisexuality). Other such non-normative examples abound. Homosexuality is merely one of many non-normative tendencies. The sexual tendency is indeed a fluid and fragile thing.

Men and women with homosexual tendencies are not therefore a special case or class or group which requires new laws and institutions. They are like all of us men and women dealing with the complexities of human desires and the passion for such ends. Non-normative tendencies are real and possible in many ways for all of us. But they are not matters for legislation.

How do you legislate for all this? Whoever taught the Justices that this is the proper subject of law?

3. It is not a reasonable justification or function of  law to seek to normalize non-normative tendencies.

Here is the situation we are facing with a few changes of particulars: Assume that non-normative tendencies in eating have caused a tiny band of anorexic men and women, to create a lobby to shut down restaurants, hide food, tax food producers, and never to allow anyone to talk about food, or eat in the presence of others. The anorexic sees eating as an evil and pursues the avoidance of food as a good. But this negative relation toward the normative aim, is a symptom not the cause of the cause of the non-normative behavior.

Therefore, society proceeds to legislate based on the vocal political action of a group of activists with a non- normative tendency, to legislate and act as if eating were not a good. Is this sensible and a reasonable foundation for the rule of law?

Let Us Ask Why

Therefore, when non-normative tendencies appear, we have a duty to ask: Why? Why is this taking place? What experiences are triggering and augmenting the non-normative behavior?

Unfortunately, the homosexual lobby is trying to keep anyone from asking or answering these questions. In California, for example, it is against the law for a private counselor or psychiatrist to counsel patients on the root cause of their non-normative sexual behaviors. This is contrary to simple justice. It ignores the fact that real suffering lurks in the background in many of these cases. To seek to impose normality and silence on the issue is an injustice, first and foremost against many who are experiencing non-normative sexual tendencies and who wish to speak and exercise their right to have adults and professionals listen to them.

Men and women get counseled in America for everything under the sky. Some may not want to avail themselves of a compassionate ear to listen and ask the questions related to their non-normative sexual tendency: They are certainly free not to do so. But to legislate and make it virtually forbidden by institutionalizing and blessing the matter as completely normal is scientifically and morally unreasonable. It is here that compassion is needed.

Conclusion: The Injustice of Demanding Society Ignore Non-Normative Sexual Behavior

A tiny fraction of the men and women with non-normative same sex tendencies (the homosexual lobby), has engaged in trying to silence anyone who simply states the facts and happens to care enough to ask the questions. This is by far the worse consequence of the dogmatic stance of the homosexual lobby.

Compassion obliges us to lend an ear, and many of us have found, while doing so, that much pain, tragedy, and sadness exists and is shared when these conversations take place. This used to be unanimously admitted among psychologists until the homosexual lobby intimidated the profession.

Teenagers and adults, when free to speak regarding their same-sex non-normative tendencies, often reveal that they have experienced sexual trauma, sexual abuse, sexual violence, dysfunctional homes, improper relations with one or more of their parents and/or other trauma that were clearly major contributing factors to their non-normative behavior. There is no guilt finding to be delivered, in these cases they are victims. No one is pointing fingers, it is their desire to speak but they can no longer find interlocutors.

Many experience other symptoms, which they themselves attribute to the non-normative behavior: depression, suicidal thoughts on a regular basis, hatred of self, drug and alcohol abuse, and so forth. Real cases exist of women who are abused by men at certain stages of their lives and this experience has for instance been strong enough to affect their previous normative sexual inclination towards men.

These cases are real and may be varied. However, to deny them and pretend all is well, always-and not just well but institutionalize and solidify it as normative for all-is at best unreasonable. To teach in faculties of psychology that there is no issue here and that what is non-normative is to be ignored by all, is a tremendous injustice, and it is easily verifiable as false by anyone in the field of serving and counseling men, women, and especially teenagers. To sweep it all under the rug, pretend that there is no real human suffering in these cases is cowardly and bad counsel. Society can "bless" it, and push the normalization, but that does not take away the pain and real suffering of these men and women, who in many cases are being told to ignore that they have been victims of great moral and human abuse.

I have listened to heterosexual male teenagers who became addicted to drugs, and to pay for their vice, prostituted themselves with men. This activity was contrary to their heterosexual tendency. After years of this, they found themselves still in sexual relationships with men even after they had beaten the drug addiction. You think they do not suffer? That they deserve no more than a shrug of the shoulders from our society?

I must ask if Bill O'Reilly has ever met such people. So many of these young people are being put into a situation where no adult is willing to listen to their suffering and pain. The mantra, "just embrace it " is irresponsible adult counsel in so many of these cases. In many of them, it translates into embracing their victimizers and the abuse they have gone through. Legislating the matter is simply "just embrace it" done by legal fiat. It is to tell so many young people, just "toughen up" and accept it joyfully. Absurd and unjust.

This, I say without any compunction, is in many cases a lie and a terrible injustice. The homosexual lobby does not speak for the many who seek help, and are searching for an adult and a society in which they can freely speak about these matters.

Parents should not simply offer their children the mantra "just embrace it (its normative)." Often parents do not know what their children have gone through in school and elsewhere. They should realize certain tendencies are non-normative and should therefore inquire into the matter. This is not a hateful but a sensible approach. Being willing to listen, often reveals great human tragedy. Maybe not, you say, but how will you know if we shut down the conversation.

Men and women of good will, church leaders and not, academics and psychologists, should stop the self-flagellation, get a back bone, and do more to make it publicly known that they are present and available. Therefore to the Bill O'Reillys of our day, we should humbly say that indeed, there is more than Bible-thumping involved in the defense of marriage. There is plenty to be considered regarding the issue under the banner of simple human justice and compassion. This matter is anything but trivial.

What the Church Must Do

Shepherds in the Church and so many others that know of what I speak, should courageously defend their ministry and obligations towards all. They should not, because of fear, discriminate (by denying them a fair hearing), against those with non-normative tendencies who wish to speak.

Every diocese in this country should have a ministry that is open and invites men and women with a non-normative sexual orientation to feel safe, welcome, and invited to talk about the matter. All men and women should have the right to speak on any issue that may be afflicting them. Some will indeed retort that they are fine, indeed. But that is irrelevant, because so many say just the contrary. It is because of this that we must not shut the door and normalize everything as if this were a non-issue. It is not.

Our nation is on the verge of a great error: Enshrining in an institution as enduring as marriage the non-normative behavior of the same-sex attraction tendency in an attempt to make perfectly normative without scientific, or psychological basis something that is verifiably non-normative and a source of suffering for so many. Who will you run over in this mad rush? Precisely many of the people whose rights you claim to be defending.

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