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Robert Reilly’s “Making Gay OK” (Exclusive Interview)

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Mary Claire Kendall - published on 12/15/14

A work of compassion and reason

I recently interviewed Robert R. Reilly about his latest book, “Making Gay OK: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything.”

Come again? 

He’s taking on what, in the Year of the Lord 2014, is now touted and spouted as Gospel truth — that Gay is OK?

Is he nuts?

No, actually, his motivation is compassion and truth, rooted in experience and reason.

He comes at it from the vantage point of a former actor, who knows the world of the theater, and its subculture, where gays make awe-inspiring contributions, but who are oh so vulnerable when the curtain comes down; and later as a principled conservative in the Reagan White House, who believes “ideas have consequences,” and knows Socrates and Aristotle and argues from their perspective of reason. The counterpoint is Rousseau’s thesis, centuries later, when Man was supposedly so much wiser and capable of transforming himself into whatever he wants — irrespective of the Nature with which our Creator endowed us.  A rather lofty task. But if anyone is up for it, Bob Reilly is.

How has your book been received in the popular press? Have Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart invited you on their shows yet, Bob?

There’s been a blank-out on the book, not just in the general press but in the conservative press. In most cases they have refused to review it and that includes National Review, The American Spectator and, as far as I know, The Weekly Standard, which has never responded. The first two definitively said that they would not review it. I think they are running scared.

Now, maybe they didn’t read your introduction because I was really touched. You know I’m in the arts as well, and you have this statement in your introduction that “this critique of the homosexual cause is not an attack on homosexuals, nor is it generated by an animus against them.” Can you expand upon that?

Yes, I was both a professional actor in my youth and I have written about classical music for 35 years as a consequence of which I have worked with many homosexuals, particularly in the music world — some truly great composers. And, indeed I have published interviews with them in Catholic magazines to promote their work. And, I have occasionally been asked, "Why don’t you say anything about their being homosexual?" My answer has always been: because they didn’t. If they told me there was something homosexual about their music, then I would have had to address the subject. But that has not happened in any single instance. And I respect that. So, though I felt impelled to write this book, in all my years, I have never been accused of discriminating against homosexuals or being a homophobe.

Now you make a distinction between the person and the behavior.

Yes, exactly. It’s not my job to judge someone. That’s God’s job. That does not mean we cannot know, through our reason, the goodness or evil of actions; whether they’re moral or immoral. And, as I make the case from natural law and reason in the book, sodomy is an inherently, morally disordered act.

And, this goes back to Socrates. I may be getting ahead of the story.

No, that’s a good place to begin because Socrates and Plato were unambiguous in their loathing for sodomy. Socrates said some things about male love and, of course, some of the great poems in the world have been written about male love. But, he deplored sexualizing that love and found it completely inappropriate. So the people who try to idealize classical Greece as some sort of homosexual heyday really misunderstand the situation and ignore the fact that the creators of philosophy found from their own rational powers the moral standards by which to judge that act as morally odious. 

What did Aristotle say about the subject?

Aristotle really doesn’t address the subject of homosexuality except in a brief sentence when he remarks upon its disorder. But, one thing Aristotle did emphasize was the virtue of chastity as a political principle, meaning he understood that the family was the foundation stone of the polis and the principle of the family is chastity — the exclusive sexual relationship between a husband and a wife, which virtue must be protected for the integrity of the family in order to protect the integrity of society and ultimately of the polis. So Aristotle is very strict, particularly about infidelity in marriage and said it should be thought of and treated as tremendously shameful. In fact, he goes into some detail and says should a husband be unfaithful to a wife when she is pregnant, this is particularly disgraceful.

So, in our sex-obsessed culture, most people don’t know that at the very beginning of our civilization in classical Greece, chastity was spelled out as the political principle indispensable for public order. Now, Aristotle never addressed the idea of homosexual marriage because it would be incomprehensible to him since every act of sodomy is an act of un-chastity. How could you base a family, whose principle is chastity, on an act of un-chastity? It’s a contradiction in terms and is a violation of the principle of contradiction.

Only in the upper classes were there these mentoring relationships between an older man and a teenage boy, which were sometimes homosexual. But as soon as the boy reached maturity, he was expected to marry and have a family. There was no notion, or indeed even a word, for homosexuality.

You write, “Socrates asked ‘Is there something in the constitution of Man which makes the sexual use of boys shameful because it is wrong?’” They didn’t even get to the men.

To have two adult males engaged in homosexual behavior was in all classes of Greek society considered beyond the pale. Absolutely unacceptable and shameful.

I want to see how we got from here to there but let me ask about the thesis of your book to illuminate that discussion. In a nutshell, it’s the nature of reality and the two approaches to it. Can you explain?

I use Aristotle for the example of the realist, which says that we have Natures that order us to certain ends as human beings that make us fully human. And, therefore there is a teleology in Nature that is normative. That is, those things which lead us to the fullness of our humanity and the fullness of human flourishing are the right things, the good things. And, those things that prevent us from that development are the bad things, the evil things, so that morality is rooted in what came to be known as Natural Law — not laws imposed from the exterior but laws expressed in our very being and by the structure of our being. That’s "the teleological notion of Nature."

I use Rousseau to illustrate the anti-teleological view, which says that Man really has no Nature, or as a modern proponent of that view, John Dewey, said, “Man’s Nature is to have no Nature.” Therefore Man can be made into whatever one wills or has the power to affect. In Rousseau’s case, Man is the product of history and accident. And, if you can get control of these forces of history and accident, you can then remake Man in some way. He doesn’t really have a permanent nature. And, in this case, since Man’s nature is not immutable, there are really no permanent standards by which to judge what’s right and wrong for him to do. Marriage then can therefore be changed into what anyone wants it to be and has the power to affect.

So there are objective moral standards in the Aristotelian school of thought in which Man is the product of immutable Nature; and there are no objective moral standards in the latter, in which Man is the product of history and accident, which not only allows for homosexual marriage but just about anything else.

It seems like history and accident are winning the day. What are some of the major touchstones in history along the path by which we arrived at this point? I was struck by the example you cite in which Nazi euthanasia program head claimed he was doing it out of love.

Yes, as my former political philosophy professor Harry Jaffa has said, we are suffering from the triumph of History over Nature. As a result, you see many manifestations of the denial of reality. Whereas Aristotle posits the primacy of reason in which Man must do what is reasonable in order to be good; the other posits the primacy of force and will in which you make reality what you will. Of course, in the latter case, the first requirement is to deny the reality that is already there. Otherwise, how are they going to create this "brave new world?"

So they refuse to accept the reality of the things they can’t change — like gender — and insist that they can. This is a denial of what is. Socrates said the worst thing a Man could do is to deny what is — what is in reality, in his soul. The homosexual movement is as profound a denial of human Nature, as you find in Nazism, which, of course, posited the supremacy of History over Nature, and the will to power over reason. In 1935, the Nazis promulgated the Nuremberg Racial Laws to discriminate against Jews and Slavs, Gypsies, and so forth. Their teaching was that these people are racially inferior and therefore are not to be treated as human beings. This, of course, is a huge distortion of reality, a massive lie about what is, and it was enforced upon the German society through these legal lies. We are having a distortion of comparable magnitude forced upon us by the court system in the United States.

Who is this impacting?

Everyone, because the family is the centerpiece of society. The homosexual movement is insisting on adherence to a lie about what is, to which all of us have to conform ourselves in terms of myriad laws, including, of course, most dramatically, the new laws on marriage, and we will be affected by the enforcement mechanisms against those who, according to their conscience, refuse to conform themselves, which would mean any believing Christian, Jew or Muslim. The power of the rationalization for homosexual misbehavior is so great that they are insisting that everyone conform, or at the very least keep their mouths shut. This brings to mind another insight, again from Aristotle, in which he says, “Men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives.” This, of course, includes revolutionary cultural changes.

What does this mean?

In The Politics Aristotle says that Man is constitutionally is incapable of choosing anything he does not see as good. So when he actually does choose evil, he has to go through a process of rationalization in which he presents the evil as good, and only then is he capable psychologically of willing that evil.

Now we are all familiar with this problem because we have all done evil things, but in most cases our conscience intervenes afterwards. We realize what we had presented to ourselves as good is an actual evil. And, remorse overtakes us and we try to do something to restore the moral order from which we’ve deviated.  That happens in any healthy society.

If, however, you choose a morally disordered act as the defining centerpiece of your life, then a more thorough rationalization is required. But, in order for that rationalization to be secure, it has to be universalized.  Everyone must agree that sodomy is a moral good. They begin with propaganda to this effect, then they try to get the instruments of government to enforce it.

We have now reached the enforcement stage where it is almost impossible for anyone in the public life of the United States to say openly that marriage is what it has been considered in Western civilization for 2500 years. Because if they do say it, they will be removed — even CEOs of corporations will be removed. Certainly no one in political life is allowed to say those things. I think Senator Rick Santorum was the last one who stood up in the Senate and said something about it when he was still a Senator from Pennsylvania. Everyone took notice of the enormous drubbing he took and generally have kept their mouths shut.

I can tell you from having worked in the government for many years that it is now impossible to serve in the upper reaches of government unless you are willing to endorse and embrace this rationalization. If you are the head of a cabinet agency in the government, you must issue Gay Pride Day, Gay Pride Month declarations. You must do this publicly and participate in it. If you are opposed to it, you will not serve in senior capacities, at least not at that level in the U.S. Government. And, of course, this has also become part of our foreign policy in which we are using our foreign policy to universalize the rationalization for homosexual acts. Anyone who doesn’t think that’s so should read the chapter in my book on this subject.

(Reilly then pointed to Spain, where his wife hails from, and how, on Gay Pride Day, the LGBT flag was flying over the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, as reported in El Pais in a front page photo. “Of course,” he said, “that was not the only embassy that did that.”)

You’re writing this to protect the view of reality of the 98% who are not homosexual.  Is there any way to reconcile the conflict of realities?

First of all, I don’t think that’s true. This rationalization could never have ensconced itself without cooperation from everyone else who has chosen a life of sexual disorder as the centerpiece of their life. What we know from the 1960s sexual revolution, including abortion and no-fault divorce etc., etc., is that there is an alliance between that sexual revolution and the promotion of sodomy that goes something like this. "If you will support the rationalization of my sexual misbehavior, I will support the rationalization for your sexual misbehavior." So all of these groups are allied in promoting the anti-teleological view of our sexual powers. That is to say, they can be used for our entertainment in any way in which we so choose. That view, of course, has now been embraced by Justice [Anthony] Kennedy and some of his confrères in the Supreme Court of the United States. They think their job is creating a “safe space” in which one can allow oneself to be dominated by one’s strongest passions. This is the exact opposite of the Aristotelian view of politics and society.

So you’re saying sexual powers have a purpose that has a public dimension, which when disordered, weakens society. If it were just a private affair, would it be fine?

Even if it’s private, it’s not fine because it’s not objectively good. And, as Aristotle said, the order of the soul is the order of the city writ large. So if you have a lot of disordered souls in the city, this will affect the kind of political order you have. If everyone’s soul is disordered, you will have a tyranny.

But as St. Thomas More said, there are limits to the law’s ability to affect personal behavior. Again, is there anyway of having a peaceful coexistence?

No, there’s not.

That’s the problem.

To sustain their rationalization, homosexual activists need to enforce it and universalize it. If they don’t, there might be people like us, saying, "Excuse me, but sodomy is inherently wrong" —  a statement that could awaken their conscience, the thing they fear the most. That would threaten the status of the rationalization that allows them to continue the behavior which they have chosen as the center of their lives. They do not engage in dialogue. Their purpose is not to arrive at the truth in a dialectical exchange, but to enforce the rationalization so they can continue to live within it securely.

It seems like our society doesn’t realize the bad fruits of this rationalization. 

It’s an indication of the wholesale abandonment, at the level of the intelligentsia of this society, of the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God on which our existence as a country and free people depend.  The success of the homosexual movement requires the denial of the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. Ironically, the Supreme Court and many Federal District Courts have endorsed this view. What they are really doing is undermining their own authority to say anything because their authority is based upon the laws of Nature and Nature’s God, the existence of which they deny in their rulings.

One of my favorite lines from the ruling of US District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, who overturned the Virginia Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman is that, “Homosexual persons meet all the legal requirements for marriage in Virginia except for the fact that they are the same gender.”  Abraham Lincoln had a famous quiz, and I’m quoting him, “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog?" As if for Judge Wright Allen’s future benefit, he answered, "Five? No, calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” And that’s exactly what we have here. As Lincoln also said in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, one “cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong.” So there is no right to sodomy even though Justice Kennedy seems to have discovered that in some penumbra of the Constitution. It can never be right, nor could you have such a right.

It seems to me the assessment of what is right and wrong is so masked that we are like blind men walking around, we don’t know what’s right and wrong and our very Supreme Court has buttressed that.

As I have said, they are denying the very foundations of this country. Their rulings on homosexual marriage are an affront to the Declaration of Independence.

People will always ask, well, how can you tell what is a proper use, or an abuse, of our sexual powers? The answer comes from examining the reality of our sexual powers, just as we would examine any bodily organ, such as our eyes or our ears, in order to find out the purpose that’s inherent in them. If we can’t see, we go to an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, with the expectation that the doctor knows what the eye is for, and how the eye functions. As a result, he may be able to restore or improve our sight. The same goes for all the other bodily organs. And, what’s clear from the examination of our sexual powers is that it serves two primary, essential functions.

One is unitive and the other is generative.  It can’t be generative unless it’s unitive, and the unitive is often generative.  To return to an earlier point, there may be nothing wrong with two men loving each other or two women loving each other, so long as they don’t sexualize the relationship. Why? Because that sexual relationship can be neither unitive nor procreative. That’s Nature’s way of letting us know that this kind of love is not, by its nature, spousal, because it cannot meet the end of either of those purposes that is inherent in our sexual powers.

Have you convinced many people in your non-confrontational way? You’re just going back to Socrates and Aristotle, and the others, and gosh you make a pretty good case.

The reaction I’ve gotten most often is one of relief from people who say, thank God, there is a case that can be made rationally. As you know, I don’t quote scripture, there are no religious arguments in this book, which are not welcome in the public square or before the courts. It’s about what we can know by reasoning about this, and know for sure. Many people are relieved at this.

I think the most touching moments I have had as a result of this book are the individual occasions in which homosexual members of the organization “Courage” have come up to me to thank me.

It’s really a compassion in the sense that many of them don’t understand.

They’ve lived the lie and they know the damage from it. So, they appreciate hearing the truth and they know the truth is presented without any animus towards them.

You’re just here to say, "Here’s the truth."

I’m here to say the same thing I would say to an alcoholic or someone else who is suffering from a disordered appetite.

And, you’re discovering people who have this same-sex attraction are saying this is very helpful to me?

They say, "Thank you for laying out the case and pointing to the truth of the harm from this and what the true path to human flourishing is, even for those of us who suffer from this inclination." It’s the same thing for an alcoholic. Would we have an Alcoholic Pride Day and endorse a state of alcoholic stupor that is going to ultimately destroy that person’s health and most likely their family and other social relations? No, we’d say, "How about an AA meeting? How about getting a grip on yourself because of the damage you are doing to yourself and others." That would be the person who loved the alcoholic.

Right, but you’d have to admit the damage that is being done. Right now, it’s not a subject of discussion.

The mortality rate from this behavior is staggering. Even before the arrival of AIDS, it was estimated by some that active homosexuals clip almost 20 years off their life expectancy. This should not be surprising. In the body, an exit is not an entrance and, when you use it as one, you spread disease, you confuse your body, and it ends badly for many of them.

And, that’s the reality.

That’s the reality. And, of course, with AIDS it got dramatically worse. Though in many respects it’s improving, thank God, due to the medicines, but it’s still catastrophic. So, I don’t understand how you could have any compassion for people with homosexual inclinations and not tell them how they are physically endangering themselves, aside from the moral endangerment.

So your book, more than any animus, you have more of a feeling of compassion, because you worked in the arts?  Is that an accurate statement?

Well, it is an accurate statement, but not only because I worked in the arts. I do understand that many homosexuals are afflicted with this inclination through no fault of their own. It’s not something they chose. Though I have also seen people choose it. When I was an actor, I saw active recruitment, successful recruitment. There were attempts to recruit me. I know the homosexual subculture from that experience.

But in many instances, it’s the result of a childhood trauma. It’s extremely hard to recover from when it’s because of an absent father or an abusive father, some sort of trauma at that level. I remember watching one extremely moving testimony from a young man who described the homosexual relationships in which he sought the male affection that his father never gave him. His own father was more interested in alcohol than in either his mother or him. And it was only at one stage later as an older teenager that he confronted his father in one of his sober moments. For the first time in his life, his  father unburdened himself with his own struggles, hugged his son, and whispered in his ear, “I love you,” at which point the homosexual inclinations disappeared. The young man was later able to marry and have children.  

Of course, not all homosexuals suffering in this way have had that reconciliation, therefore the damage is enduring. So compassion? Absolutely.

It seems to me cinema could play a role because it evokes an emotional response. Your book is rooted in reason. It seems, people now think with their emotions. How can cinema help?

There is a very powerful film, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills.”  It’s a documentary of a number of homosexuals who came to understand the nature of the moral disorder in which they were engaged and how they recovered from it. It’s very, very powerful.

What would you like to say in closing?

You asked what might be the outcome of this. What we can say with certainty is illusion always leads to disillusion, and so will this. It’s only a question of how much damage it will do in the interim, and that will depend on how forthright we are in insisting on the truth in the face of this lie.

Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. Her book, Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends, is being published this spring by Franciscan Media.

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