Left: Meredith Greenberg holds hands with her partner, Leora Pearlman, as Mayor Steven Fulop of Jersey City, N.J., presides over their wedding in Jersey City Oct. 21, 2013. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters). Right: People demonstrate outside the Supreme Court building in Washington in this photo from late March 2013, when the court heard oral arguments in two same-sex marriage cases. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)
Scholar and author Robert R. Reilly was
Senior Advisor for Information Strategy (2002-2006) for the U.S.
Secretary of Defense, after which he taught at National Defense
University. He was the director of the Voice of America from 2001 to
2002, and served in the White House as a Special Assistant to the
President from 1983 to 1985. He is a graduate of Georgetown University
and the Claremont Graduate University, and has written widely on “war of
ideas" issues, foreign policy, and classical music. His previous books
and monographs include Surprised by Beauty: A Listener's Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, and The Prospects and Perils of Catholic-Muslim Dialogue.
His new book, Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything,
was published recently by Ignatius Press. It has been praised as
“magnificent, a real achievement” (Austin Ruse, President, Catholic
Family and Human Rights Institute) and described as "rare tour de force on a defining question of our time" (Dr. Robert Royal, President, Faith & Reason Institute). Reilly recently corresponded with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about his new book and its approach and arguments.
at the start, you make the connection between contraception and
same-sex marriage, writing in the Introduction that the “progression
from the one to the other was logically inescapable.” What are the main
points of that progression? How unique is the “capstone” of same-sex
marriage; that is, how uncharted are the waters that have now flooded
Reilly: The key is separating sex from
diapers. Once you consciously subvert the procreative power of sex with
contraception, there is a very slippery slopemore like a cliff,
actuallydown to the moral pigpen where sex is simply a form of degraded
entertainment. You try to grab the pleasure from the act, while denying
the thing toward which the act is essentially ordered.
So it is
perfectly logical to go from contraception to abortion (so those whose
contraception has failed are not “penalized”) to the celebration of
sodomy as the basis of marriage. Homosexuals can easily pose the
question, “if you endorse contracepted heterosexual acts, what could
possibly be wrong with our acts which don’t even have to be
The logic of the situation makes it very easy to
see where this is going nextpolygamy and polyandry. In fact, a Federal
District Court has already taken a step in this direction in respect to
Utah’s laws against polygamy. When we allow homosexual acts to serve as
the basis for “marriage,” anything goes.
thesis, as you noted, “is very simple: There are two fundamental views
of reality.” What are those two views of reality? And if the thesis is
simple, why is it so difficult for people to either comprehend it or to
explain it themselves?
Reilly: One view of
realitythe Aristotelian oneholds that things have a Nature that is
teleologically ordered to ends that inhere in their essences and make
them what they are. In other words, things have inbuilt purposes. We
don’t get to make them up; it is what makes them what they are in
reality. They are a given. Reality exists without our permission. When
we discover what something is for according to its Nature, our job is to
conform ourselves to its purposesincluding to the purposes we have
according to our human Nature. According to Aristotle, this is how we
achieve happinessthrough virtuous actions. A virtuous action is one in
conformity with our natural ends. This requires the rule of
reasonbecause we are, above all, rational creaturesover our passions.
other view is that things do not have a Nature with ends: things are
nothing in themselves, but only what we make them to be according to our
wills and desires. We no longer have to conform ourselves to reality,
but can conform reality to ourselves. It is no longer our reason that
rules our passions, but our passions that rule reason in the sense that
reason is demoted to a servant of the passions. Its job becomes finding
the most efficient way of satisfying the passions. Therefore, we can
make everything, including ourselves, anything that we wish and that we
have the power to do. This is the modern project. However, the modern
project can only be attempted if we accept as real only those things
that we can change, and ignore the reality of those things that we
cannot change. In the 20th century, John Dewey said, “Man’s
nature is to have no nature.” If there is no Nature, then there are no
“Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” and the field of action is clear.
The only limits that really exist are the limits of our power. Right
becomes the rule of the stronger.
This is what is behind the
deliberate denial of reality. It is not based upon ignorance; it is a
deliberate, dogmatic denial. For instance, if the Aristotelian
conception is correct, then sodomitical marriage cannot possibly be
right, because it goes against the inherent unitive and procreative ends
of our sexual powers. It is against human flourishing. But if John
Dewey is right, there cannot possibly be anything wrong with sodomy or
homosexual marriage. So what is really being contested here is the
nature of reality. That is what is at stake in the debate over same-sex
CWR: There is, obviously, a deeply
moral aspect of the debate over homosexuality. But, closely
relatedintertwined, reallyare a number of essential philosophical
distinctions and arguments. What are the really key philosophical
issues? And would it be fair to say that much of the support shown for
same-sex marriage betrays a failure to think clearly, deeply, and
Reilly: Once you get rid of Nature,
there really are no standards against which to judge moral behavior or
anything else. Nature is replaced by History. In other words, man does
not have an immutable Nature; therefore, he can be essentially changed.
He is a product of his times. His times make him. This is how U.S.
District Judge John E. Jones reached his silly May 20, 2014, decision
invalidating Pennsylvania’s laws restricting marriage to a man and a
woman. Like a good historicist, he said, “It is time to discard them
into the ash heap of history.” Judge Jones is probably unaware of the
origin of the “ash heap of history” phrase, used ironically by President
Ronald Reagan in his famous Westminster speech. It was first used by
Leon Trotsky against the Mensheviks in the Russian Revolution. What we
are experiencing today is a kind of sexual Marxism. Instead of a
classless society, we have a genderless society.
If you think that
is an exaggeration, consider U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Michael
McShane’s May 19, 2014, ruling against Oregon’s constitutional
restriction of marriage to a man and woman. He said, “I believe that if
we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these
(same-sex) plaintiffs, nothing more or less than our own families,
families who we would expect our constitution to protect, if not exalt,
in equal measure.” Of course, we cannot look past gender and sexuality
and see our own families, because our own families were generated
heterosexually by people of two different genders. Had they not been,
our families would not be there. This is an illustration of how great a
part of reality must be denied for the modern project to proceed.
far as logic is concerned, these people are perfectly logical based
upon their premise in the same way that a paranoid schizophrenic is
logical based upon his premise. The problem is that the premises are
false. They both deny reality. I think Professor Robert George’s remarks
at the national Catholic prayer breakfast on May 13, 2014, are
particularly apt here. Despite assertions that Catholics are “on the
wrong side of history,” he said, “history, is not God. God is God.
History is not our judge. God is our judge.”
has homosexuality been rationalized among homosexuals themselves? And
how is homosexuality and same-sex marriage being rationalized within the
culture and the courtrooms?
homosexuals rationalize their misbehavior in the same way as anyone else
rationalizes their immoral acts. We all have disordered desires of one
sort or another. If we choose to act upon them, as Aristotle taught in The Ethics, we must present
the bad act to ourselves as a good act. Otherwise, we would be
incapable of choosing it. In other words, when we lie, we are not really lying or, when we steal, we are not really
taking someone else’s property. As J. Budziszewski puts it, we aim “not
to become just, but to justify ourselves.” Most often, after the act,
our rationalization is penetrated by the rebuke of conscience and we
admit to ourselves that we have done something wrong. Contrition follows
and moral reality is restored.
However, if we choose to be
professional thievesif we base our life on an immoral actwe then have
to construct a more permanent rationalization that can survive the
rebukes of conscience. We have to construct an alternate reality, an
ideology, in the perspective of which our immoral act becomes a moral
act. Think, for example, of the Communist who asserts that private
property is the root of all evil, and therefore justifies himself in
confiscating it. Likewise, if one should choose to center one’s life on
the act of sodomy, one will have to build an imaginary world for its
validation. Listen to this cri de coeur from a homosexual
character in Larry Kramer’s 1985, play, now an HBO special, titled” The
Normal Heart”: “I’ve spent 15 years of my life fighting for the right to
be free and to make love wherever, whenever. We have been so oppressed …
can’t you see how important it is for us to love openly without guilt?”
There is the nub of it“without guilt.” The purpose of the
rationalization is to remove guilt. This is its psychological dynamo.
This is what drives it. If sodomy is right, why can’t it be
sacramentalized in a homosexual marriage? It will then be impervious to
any rebukes. It will become holy. This is the final step in the
rationalizationthe sanctification of sodomy.
To see the
rationalizationthe absolute denial of realityin action, here is a
recent online dialogue with the homosexual (my remarks in italics):
cannot physically consummate a marriage -- which means and has always
meant coital sex. Isn't that obvious? How could you possibly deny it?
ask how anyone could possibly deny that homosexuals are unable to
consummate a marriage. It’s easy. The word “consummate” flexes a little
just as the word “marriage” has done. Consummation means something
slightly different for a gay couple than for a straight one. Does it
matter? Do we even need the word “consummation” in a gay marriage?
Simply call a giraffe a donkey and, voila, it becomes one! Magic! Just like homosexual marriage.
That's more or less the way it works, except that there has to be
widespread acceptance of the word's new or expanded meaning.
you really think your redefinition of reality actually changes reality?
If so, you are living in a magical worldand I don’t mean Disneyland.
Welcome to the world of Gnosticism and all its attendant spiritual
the way, one should mention that an essential ingredient in the success
of the homosexual rationalization is the backing it is getting from
those who have rationalized their heterosexual misbehavior. The
arrangement goes something like this: if you will rationalize my sexual
misbehavior, I’ll rationalize your sexual misbehavior. This expands the
sources of support.
However, for a permanent rationalization to
become effective, it has to be universalized. Everyone must agree, or be
made to agree, that a particular wrong is actually a right. This was
the mission of the Communist Cominternto universalize the
Marxist-Leninist rationalization. This is also what we have seen
happening in the homosexual movement. It has had to universalize this
right by engaging in a culture war that has silenced its opponents at
just about every level of our societyit’s business leadership, civic
organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, the psychiatric profession, many
churches, and, finally, the institutions of government. Now, the courts
and the institutions of government are being used to enforce the
recognition of this right against thoseincluding the members of every
major religion, Christianity, Judaism, and Islamwho might otherwise
raise an objection and therefore disturb the rationalization.
this is not an exaggeration. At the professional level even in the
private sector, openly supporting marriage as between one man and one
woman has become a career killer. In US government at the cabinet
secretary level, no one can now serve who is unwilling to participate
in, and issue a declaration on, the celebration of Gay Pride Day. Sodomy
has also become part of our foreign policy. If you think this is over
the top, please see this May 17th story in El Mundo,
with a photograph of the Gay Pride flag flying over the US Embassy in
Madrid. This is how our country is now officially represented.
are the most misleading statements being made today either in support
of same-sex marriage or in opposition to those who uphold marriage as a
lifelong union of a man and woman? How can those be countered?
celebration of homosexual behavior is terribly misleading in its
neglect of the medical facts regarding the lethality of this behavior.
Not only is there no natural right to an unnatural act, but Nature
itself rebels. The body becomes confused by the misuse of the sexual
organs and the result is the rampant spread of disease. The
rationalization for homosexual behavior even includes the denial of
death or, in some cases, its actual pursuitas in the “bug chasers” who
actively seek to be infected by HIV because of the additional thrill the
risk of catching it purportedly provides.
Today, those who uphold
real marriage are stigmatized as “haters.” This is because people who
are ruled by their passions cannot imagine any opposition to the
exercise of their passions as coming from anything other than another
passionin this case, hatred. It no longer occurs to them that the
objections to homosexual behavior are made on the basis of reason from
an apprehension of what truly contributes to human flourishing.
often use the analogy of an alcoholic. If one truly loves or respects a
person who is an alcoholic, one would not suggest to him that we
celebrate together his alcoholism in an Alcoholic Pride Day and then
invite him to a bar for some drinks. That would be a form of
condescension to an alcoholic. It would be a sign of disrespect.
Likewise, colluding in the Gay Pride movement is ultimately a sign of
disrespect for people with homosexual orientation. They certainly
deserve our compassion, as many of them have this inclination through no
fault of their ownusually from some childhood trauma. But the first
thing they deserve as human beings is the truth. Compassion does not
trump truth. And the truth is becoming harder to tell. As George Orwell
wrote, “the more a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate
those who speak it.” Nonetheless, our obligation is to tell the truth
and not participate in the lie.
As far as the best way to counter
the most misleading statements, I would suggest buying my book and using
the arguments in it. That may sound self-serving, but I was at great
pains in writing this book to give not the religious reasons against
homosexual behavior and marriage, but the rational ones.
Quoting Scripture in the public square does not work anymore. The only
chance we have of being heard is to make our arguments from reason. That
is what I try to do.
CWR: There is an increasing
insistence by those in the pro-homosexual camp, as mouthed even by the
Attorney General, that “science” has demonstrated the normality and
goodness of homosexuality. On what basis are such claims being made? And
why did the American Psychiatric Association never address any of the
“science” when it suddenly changed its definition of homosexuality in
Reilly: Homosexuality was defined as a mental illness or a “sociopathic personality disturbance” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.
Homosexual activists, like Franklin Kameny, realized that this
definition had to be changed if the homosexual rationalization was to
succeed. He said, “I feel the entire homophile movement… is going to
stand or fall upon the question of whether or not homosexuality is a
sickness, and upon our taking a firm stand on it.” This demand was
obviously not inspired by scientific inquiry, nor was the change made in
1973 the result of any new scientific research. It was the political
product of the sheer muscle of the homosexual lobby. Even some
homosexual psychiatrists were appalled at the abandonment of scientific
standards as a result of this change.
In Attorney General Eric
Holder’s 2011 letter to Congress, he explained why the Obama
administration would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which
defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, in court. A
group can be defined as a “class,” explained Mr. Holder, if individuals
“exhibit obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that
define them as a discrete group.” Therefore, everything hinges upon
whether homosexuality is an unchangeable characteristic. Mr. Holder
announced that, “a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual
orientation is a characteristic that is immutable.” So great is this
consensus that claims to the contrary “we do not believe can be
reconciled with more recent social scientific understandings.”
is complete nonsense. There is no such science. There has been no
discovery of a “gay” gene, though there may possibly be genetic
characteristics contributing to the orientation. It has become forbidden
to mention, or in certain places even practice, therapy that has
successfully changed the homosexual orientation of individuals who
wanted to change. It is against the law in California for therapists to
help young teenagers who wish to change their homosexual orientation.
This is the price the rationalization for homosexual behavior is willing
to exact. Like the Communist Party, you can enter the “gay community,”
but you can’t leave it. Traitors will be dealt with. Look what happened
to Dr. Robert Spitzer, who had been such a help to homosexuals within
the psychiatric profession. When he did a study demonstrating that
homosexuals can change their orientation, he was mercilessly pilloried.
appears inevitable that most or all states will soon accept same-sex
marriage. What next? What other legal measures are likely to follow?
Reilly: One year ago, in his dissent to the United States v. Windsor
decision, which overthrew the federal Defense of Marriage Act in favor
of homosexual marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia predicted that all of the
state laws and constitutions, which defined marriage as between one man
and one woman, would be overthrown as well. As he so often is, he was
right. This is what we are now witnessing on an almost weekly basis. As I
already mentioned, polygamy and polyandry are next.
We should not
get too discouraged. Illusions always lead to disillusion. In the end,
reality wins. However, the price for that victory is going to be great,
and we are all going to have to pay it.