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The Cult of Diversity at Providence College

One of the common propaganda techniques used by today’s cultural hucksters is known as the empty vessel — a vague “virtue word” or phrase that aims to evoke positive feelings rather than convey meaningful information. An empty vessel is often so vague that everyone is expected to agree on its appropriateness and value, though no one is really sure just what it means. Empty vessels are designed to make us approve and accept certain assertions without examining any real evidence. Consider the words change, equality, sustainability, progressive, and multiculturalism — words that are readily bandied about in our ordinary political exchanges but rarely convey anything meaningful or specific.

Anthony Esolen, a professor of Renaissance studies and an acclaimed Dante scholar at Providence College in Rhode Island, recently took on the politically correct usage of the word diversity. Esolen, an orthodox Catholic who’s taught at the Dominican-led school for twenty-five years (and who has appeared in our pages), is an enthusiastic proponent of both liberal-arts education and the teachings of the Church. In an article at the website of Crisis magazine (Crisis.com, Sept. 26), Esolen lamented his Catholic college’s manipulative misuse of the watchword diversity as a political slogan — for example, the phrase Celebrate Diversity is brightly emblazoned on a conspicuous campus mural, and the school’s website prominently features a four-page Diversity Program. “Is not diversity as it is now preached a solvent for any culture?” Esolen asked. “Is not that same call for diversity, when Catholics are doing the calling, a surrender of the Church to a political movement which is, for all its talk, a push for homogeneity, so that all the world will not look like the many-cultured Church, but rather like the monotone non-culture of western cities that have lost their faith in the transcendent and unifying God?”

The problem, as Esolen sees it, is this: Providence College (the initials of which are, perhaps fittingly, P.C.), in appealing to the vague and undefined empty vessel of diversity, is willingly suppressing its own Catholic culture in favor of an infection with Western sexual obsessions. What that means for professors like him who believe in the teachings of the Church is that they must risk anything from censure to public humiliation to outright firing for simply speaking with the voice of the Church, especially in the realm of sexual morality. The secular preachers of diversity brook no dissent from the politically correct acceptance of all celebrated sexual attractions and proclivities. Their vision, Esolen explained, is “a vision that pretends to be ‘multi-cultural,’ but that is actually anti-cultural, and is characterized by all the totalitarian impulses to use the massive power of government to bring to heel those who decline to go along.”

Esolen complained that several of his faithful colleagues at Providence had been harassed by fellow faculty members and university administrators for simple expressions of the Catholic faith and Church teaching. The college even has a Bias Response Team standing by to field any and all reported incidents of “bias” — such as explaining why the Church opposes same-sex marriage and does not condone acts of sodomy. According to Esolen, these bias investigators “are like a Star Chamber whose constitution and laws and executive power no one will know.” If a Catholic college threatens to bring its faithful professors before a diversity-review board, how can it possibly allow for expressions of disapproval toward any disordered inclination or sin, sexual or otherwise? Ironically, this is not diversity at all. It is conformity and homogeneity: Accept our politically correct principles or suffer the wrath of the Thought Police. Think like us or be bludgeoned in the name of an undefined and perhaps undefinable “diversity.”

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