Gerard V. Bradley

Tuesday, Gerard V. Bradley writes at Witherspoon Institute’s blog: “President Obama’s Sex-Driven War on Science.” It is important to understand that Bradley is a Defender of the Faith. In addition to teaching law at Notre Dame, Bradley is a senior fellow at Witherspoon Institute. Witherspoon is an ultra-orthodox Catholic organization. Witherspoon’s president is an Opus Dei numerary (a secular celibate). Therefore, Bradley’s opinions, particularly those expressed on Witherspoon’s blog, are crafted to support the teachings of the Catholic Church and are not representative of American Catholics. Bradley writes:

For years, administration lawyers argued for “gay rights,” including
same-sex marriage, on the basis that sexual orientation was an inborn
characteristic, and that it was contrary to our constitutional
traditions to treat anyone adversely due to a trait over which one had
no control or choice. In his 2011 letter to Congress
announcing that the administration would no longer defend the Defense
of Marriage Act in court, for instance, Attorney General Eric Holder
stated that “a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual
orientation is a characteristic that is immutable.” That claim was
unsupported by scientific evidence when Holder made it. That claim is
certainly false, as a recent review of the scientific literature by Clifford Rosky and Lisa Diamond (neither a friend of traditional sexual ethics) conclusively shows.

Clifford Rosky teaches law at the University of Utah. He is a very smart guy and a consistent friend of the gay community. His paper is co-authored with Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology at University of Utah. Diamond makes the claim that sexual orientation is not immutable and Rosky asserts that immutablity is not a condition necessary for gay rights.

Dr. Diamond is an outlier who has been asserting numerous (sometimes conflicting) theories. A year ago she wrote:

… people are born with a sexual orientation and also with a degree of
sexual flexibility, and they appear to work together. So there are gay
people who are very fixedly gay and there are gay people who are more
fluid, meaning they can experience attractions that run outside of their
orientation. Likewise for heterosexuals. Fluidity is the capacity to
experience attractions that run counter to your overall orientation.

That does not fully comport to the abstract of the paper that Bradley cited (and it certainly does not represent anything remotely close to scientific consensus):

… arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are
unscientific, given what we now know from longitudinal, population-based
studies of naturally occurring changes in the same-sex attractions of
some individuals over time. 

Diamond is claiming that, because some people experience fluidity in their sexual orientation, it is not immutable. To some extent her conclusions are predicated on the definition of immutable. Unchanging over time or unable to be changed? Diamond has written many things about sexual orientation that I thoroughly agree with.

  • “For a start, same-sex attraction does not appear to be contagious.”
  • “I think all the evidence suggests that we’re born with an underlying
    capacity, and then that capacity interacts with a whole bunch of other
  • “… twin studies show that there’s a genetic contribution to same-sex attraction – but that is not the only thing going on.” 

Diamond does not support Gerard Bradley’s proposition. From her perspective (and she is a lesbian) how we got to be gay is irrelevant to gay rights and that is the fundamental purpose for her paper with Rosky. Diamond has consistently stated that sexual orientation is not chosen but can change. She has never asserted that there is a valid intervention to effect changes in sexual orientation.

Bradley continues:

Even so, in April 2015 the president called for an end to what he called
“conversion” therapies for same-sex attracted youths. In fact, the
president would ban a lot more than any sexual orientation change
regimen. He would effectively make it illegal for a psychologist or
psychiatrist to discuss with anyone under eighteen the conflicts between
his or her sexual feelings and that person’s own long-term goals and
interests. The president would brush aside a teen’s expressed desire to
develop stable heterosexuality. He would ignore overwhelming scientific evidence
that the vast majority (80-90 percent) of teenage boys and more than
half of teenage girls who report same-sex attractions (and in some
cases, a homosexual or lesbian identity) turn out by age twenty-five or
so to be peacefully heterosexual, in favor of a policy to make
professional assistance during these passing difficulties illegal. The
president’s policy would entail that the traumas and pathologies that so
often underlie these expressions of homosexuality and lesbianism be
left untreated, all so that the afflicted youth can be “affirmed” in
their self-reported sexual identity.

If there is “overwhelming scientific evidence” Bradley has not supported it with a cite (the link is to the same Diamond-Rosky paper). We do not know the source of this data. The idea that there are “traumas and pathologies that so
often underlie these expressions of homosexuality and lesbianism” is unsupportable religious nonsense. Conservative Christians frequently argue that many gay people are gay because they were abused.

I suspect that this nonsense comes from the fringe hate group and conservative Christian organization, American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds). The real peer group is the American Academy of Pediatrics. ACPeds has written:

These children need therapy for the trauma, not affirmation of a “gay identity.” Trauma (as an objective, measurable external event) lends itself to quantitative research and has been studied relative to homosexuality. One example of this is the disproportionate extent of sexual abuse during the childhoods of adult homosexuals. Another example is the increased association of homosexuality and gender identity disorder with parental separation at critical developmental stages.

There are also two forms of psychological trauma commonly associated with homosexuality …

The real science:

The above is not what the American Psychological Association has concluded. According to the APA which cites other professional organizations:

Despite the general consensus of major medical, health and mental health professions that both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality, efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy have been adopted by some political and religious organizations and aggressively promoted to the public. However, such efforts have serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.


The American Academy of Pediatrics advises youth that counseling may be helpful for you if you feel confused about your sexual identity. Avoid any treatments that claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation, or treatment ideas that see homosexuality as a sickness.


The American Psychiatric Association, in its 2000 position statement on “reparative” therapy, states:
Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or “repair” homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of “cures” are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm. In the last four decades, “reparative” therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. Until there is such research available, [the American Psychiatric Association] recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to changeindividuals’ sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm.

Bradley does what he has done in the past. Through selective observation Bradley finds support for the idiotic teachings of the Catholic Church on human sexuality. The teachings of the Church are idiotic for two reasons. First they are based in part on Bronze Age scrolls and first century chronicles written by people who knew nothing about human sexuality. Second they are predicated upon the conclusions of theologians and catechists who lack training in social or medical science. While sexual orientation is not contagious that does not seem to be true for crackpottery.

This bullshit (and that is what it is) is stated with authority by priests and bishops of the Catholic Church and then repeated by people like Gerard Bradley as if it were the word of God. Bradley chooses to defend the indefensible. It is not just harmless drivel. Gay children and their children listen to this crap. These kids often lack the ego strengths to reject what they know to be untrue. We all know as indisputable truth that none of us ever chose to be gay. It is irresponsible for Bradley to essentially call us all liars.

I might write a Part II to this piece regarding Bradley’s preposterous assertions about transgender people.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.