Who Knows What Jesus Would Do?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Feb. 7, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Factor follow-up" segment tonight, last week, we reported on a decision by Villanova University (search), a Catholic college, to honor a history professor who committed suicide after murdering her baby. The woman was thought to have postpartum depression.

After "The Factor's" report, Villanova removed the plaque honoring the professor, but that isn't sitting well with some. Writing in The Philadelphia Inquirer, columnist John Grogan says quote, "Commentator Bill O'Reilly had a field day with the topic. In a January 25th broadcast...he brayed: 'I mean, do we now honor people who kill babies, even if they're mentally ill?'....In the black and white screaming-heads world of talk radio and cable news, there was no room for the complexities of this tragedy."

Of course we wanted to know exactly what those complexities are, but Mr. Grogan is hiding under his desk. However, standing tall in Philadelphia is Father Richard Malloy, director of Campus Ministry at St. Joseph University, also in Philly.

Now I'm a bad guy again. You know, father, I'm a bad guy wherever I go. I'm just trying to hold people accountable for what they do. Catholic college, Augustinian philosophy, Villanova. Life is sacred, OK? And then we walk into the library. There's a little memorial honoring a woman who slit her baby's throat. To me, that's a little dubious. What say you?

RICHARD MALLOY, FATHER, ST. JOSEPH'S UNIVERSITY: Bill, I sympathize with Villanova here. And that's strange for a Jesuit, the other Jesuit — or the other Catholic university here in Philadelphia.

The complexities are what we have to look at. It's very easy to say Villanova should do this or should do that. It's not that simple. What would Jesus do was the question in the article today. Who knows what Jesus would do? He'd probably say let the pundit who's without sin cast the first sound bite.

Villanova is a university, just like St. Joseph's. And we get these conflictual cultural currents running through our institutions all the time. How do you respond in a way that's pastoral and loving, but also prophetic and standing for what the Catholic Church stands for. I don't think putting up this plaque said that Villanova was not for life. I think it was more of a family matter at that level. That's where the complexity comes in.

O'REILLY: Well, I think it was a poor decision. And I'll base it upon two things. The Villanova student newspaper took a poll: 62 percent of the students there thought the plaque was inappropriate.

Now the students are part of the university. If 62 percent of college kids, who are usually liberal, OK, think it's inappropriate, you might want to take that into consideration.

And then the real reason that Villanova caved, father, was because the alumni said if you keep this thing up, we're not going to give you any money. So they said whoa, in the face of a firestorm within and without, they said maybe we made the wrong decision. And I think they did.

MALLOY: Well, I had an uncle who had Downs Syndrome. When I first heard about this, I was a little surprised, but my basic point is that no one should tell Villanova how to be Villanova but Villanova. No one should tell St. Joseph's how to be St. Joseph's but St. Joseph's.

O'REILLY: OK, so I can't hold St. Joseph's...

MALLOY: It's a university.

O'REILLY: Father, I can't hold St. Joseph's or Villanova accountable for anything they do, is that what you're telling me?

MALLOY: Well not unless you're going to get into the institution and really play by the rules of academe and of the church. And that's a delicate balance to maintain. If we're going to be true universities where we have differences of opinion, where we have true dialogue, we have to do things that aren't going to please everybody.

O'REILLY: OK, but I don't know if there was any dialogue here at all.

MALLOY: ... 50 percent, where were they?

O'REILLY: There wasn't any dialogue. I mean, they just threatened...

MALLOY: Well, the dialogue has what's going on now.

O'REILLY: They slapped the plaque up without talking to anybody. They even admit it. And then when I get in, I want a little dialogue. I'm a big dialogue guy, father. We invited them all on here to explain what that deal was. None of them would come on. That doesn't sound like dialogue to me.

MALLOY: Well, it sounds like dialogue to me, if you go out there and talk with them. But...

O'REILLY: They wouldn't talk to us.

MALLOY: ...the media don't get at those complexities. It's either black or white. What would Jesus do?

O'REILLY: What complexity?

MALLOY: What would Jesus do?

O'REILLY: I don't understand the complexity. Look...

MALLOY: You have a tragic situation at Villanova.

O'REILLY: Yes, right.

MALLOY: A woman has killed her baby, has killed herself. There are people hurting on all sides of the issue. You try to respond to one side. And then the other side isn't happy about it. But then the media comes in and just throws gas on the fire.

O'REILLY: But wait a minute, father.

MALLOY: I think real dialogue is open to some real transformation and conversation here.

O'REILLY: If you wanted to have a fund honoring this woman by saying please give money to the fund so we can research postpartum depression, or we can help postpartum depression clinics, whatever it may be, I think people would be overwhelmed and would help out.


O'REILLY: But if you're going to put up a plaque honoring a woman who slits the throat of her baby. A woman in Texas, as you know, has been sentenced...

MALLOY: We're not honoring a woman who slit the throat of her baby. We're remembering a friend at the university.

O'REILLY: Well, that's what she did.


O'REILLY: That's what she did.

MALLOY: And all of us have made mistakes. And that is a horrendous mistake.

O'REILLY: Mistake?

MALLOY: Who's going to defend her? But a family comes together and tries to do something in response to a tragedy. The whole world can't come at the university pointing fingers.

O'REILLY: They say it's inappropriate. They can say it's inappropriate.

MALLOY: Well, they obviously reconsidered. But then you say that they caved. They didn't cave. They actually dialogued and they changed their minds.

I sympathize with administrators who have to deal with these very complex issues. It's not simply black and white. It's not simply this or that. You really have to negotiate these things and really try to do what's best for all.

O'REILLY: I agree with you.

MALLOY: That's very hard to do in today's world.

O'REILLY: I agree with you. Where I disagree with you is I don't think there was any dialogue on the part of Villanova. I think the history department wanted this thing. They liked this woman, they felt bad for this woman...


O'REILLY: ...they got it. There was no input from the students or the alumni. And then when I put the light on it, all hell, pardon the pun, broke loose. And now they're mad. I'll give you the last word, father.

MALLOY: Well, I think the basic thing is to try to be loving and compassionate and prophetic. And that is not easy to do. And I admire those universities to step up to the plate and try to do that in our times and culture.

O'REILLY: OK, father.

MALLOY: It's a challenge. And we set the meter.

O'REILLY: Thank you very much.

MALLOY: And we're still wearing our green for the Eagles in Philadelphia.

O'REILLY: Thank you.

MALLOY: Thank you.

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