Diversity is Not a Catholic Value

Diversity is a modern shibboleth. It has long become the secular creed of the United States, and in no area is it celebrated as religiously as in academia, mostly as a substitute for true religion. It has now finally invaded universities that by name are still Catholic. Under the pretext of diversity, proponents engage in a frantic drive to replace the traditional curriculum with “ethnic” or women’s or “gender” studies; they observe Kwanzaa; they “include” homosexual students and faculty; and they cultivate their self-defined cultural and other “identities.” A veritable cottage industry has sprung up, with diversity “studies,” diversity advisors, recruitment programs for “diverse” students, sensitivity training to overcome the “essentializing” and “homophobic” tendencies of all males, and many more delights of this sort. Every academic around the country can easily add examples. I certainly can from years of experience at a college that still identifies itself as Catholic yet remains practically indifferent to the deposit of faith, the teachings of the Church, and the Catholic ethos.

And here arises a first problem with diversity as a regulative principle. No individual can be diverse, but only a collectivity. For logical reasons, it is impossible to recruit more “diverse” students, for no individual is diverse from himself or herself. Basic statistics informs us that only the standard deviation of some variable describing a group such as a student body, city, or nation can be greater or smaller. For any given population, increasing “diversity” then simply means replacing some members by others with different characteristics. Diversification always implies losers, namely those members in the middle who have so far defined the standard. It produces flatter distributions. In populations that are not growing, it is a zero-sum game, a simple substitution of members, as in ethnic cleansing. It is an artificial and political move in opposition to natural justice and law.

The frantic quest for “diversity” is a deeply anti-Catholic impulse. It finds no support in Catholic moral and social teaching. There is no mention of diversity as a goal of Catholic life in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or in any of the pastoral, moral, or social constitutions and encyclicals before and after Vatican II. Diversity has never been advocated by the great thinkers of the Church, who have instead preached unity. And there is a good reason for this glaring absence: Catholics marvel at the natural diversity of God’s Creation, at the difference in people, animals, landscapes, plants, and languages. They want to preserve as much of this diversity as is possible, because it enriches all of us. But they will resist disturbing the order God has willed for the world. Erecting skyscrapers in the Sahara Desert, crossbreeding species, developing artificial languages, dying our hair green—all of these increase diversity, but at what cost? Artificial diversification drives out the natural diversity of God’s very good Creation. Enticing students of a particular race from a distant big city to move to a small rural one, or making every effort to prioritize gay and lesbian candidates for faculty positions, does not exactly exemplify the improvement of the world to which Christians are called.

The destructive quest for artificial diversification is an outgrowth of the scourge of the twentieth century—the all‐pervasive creed of relativism. If there are no truths to be known about man, physics, biology, society, or God, if everything is a matter of perspective, of opinion, or of individual feeling, then increasing diversity indeed makes sense, for in a heap of different stones one is more likely to find a gold nugget. And this still is the battle cry of most diversity propagandists: it supposedly enriches a group just like the admission of more opinions gives us a greater chance of finding the truth. But are they right? They err, of course, in assuming that truth in science or about life arises somehow randomly, if they are willing to admit the possibility of truth at all. Pope John Paul II gave the Catholic response in Ex Corde Ecclesiae when he taught that the task of a Catholic university is “to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth.” Not only must we search for the truth, but we already know where to find it: in Jesus Christ, who Himself is the truth (“I am the way, the truth, and the life”―John 14:6). A greater or smaller diversity in the domain of our studies has nothing to do with finding the truth. Turning towards the fount of truth has everything to do with it.

Thus the quest of diversity is really a political stratagem to impose an anti-Christian agenda. Mao Zedong’s 1956 slogan, “Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend” stood at the beginning of one of the most brutal crackdowns on human freedom known in history. Not even a year later, millions of Chinese were sent to labor camps. Totalitarians want artificial diversity to obtain the streamlined thought and behavior of their choice, for their intention is not to foster greater variety but rather the ascendancy of a favored group or ideology. The same is happening in this country and elsewhere, with speech codes, thought policing, and punishments targeting those who do not support the politically correct diversity campaign. The population of many nominally Catholic universities is now such that one constituent is badly needed to make them truly diverse—Catholic students, faculty, and administrators.

The categories of diversity may change, but whatever the diversity du jour may be—at the moment it is homosexuality—there is no foundation for it in Christian thought, and particularly not in Catholic thought, which is by its very name “directed at the whole.” Ironically, Catholics can always claim to want more diversity than even the most obstinate diversity fanatic: we strive at a diversity of one, the most radical option, because we see each and every human being of whatever race, class, sex, or nationality as a God‐breathed individual: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). The diversity our superficial culture cherishes is one by groups alone, where some master thinker selects the category. Catholics, on the other hand, are committed to respecting the individuality of all persons, who are without exception created in God’s image and therefore enjoy a sacred dignity. Nonetheless, relativism (sometimes disguised as pluralism or whatever else) and group diversity are now the mantras of Catholic universities just as much as state institutions, and some Catholic universities actively strive to attract more gay and lesbian students, professors, and staff, provide public forums for them, and thus cause what canon law calls scandal. On the other hand, they contribute precious little to the New Evangelization, the project the Church regards as its most pressing task.

And this is the saddest aspect of this unnecessary and destructive ideology. Its propagators do not reveal simple joy in the wondrous multiformity of God’s Creation but a dogged determination to make the world conform to a standard that they, the enlightened and righteous few, have thought up. Diversity then turns into a militant and purely secular creed. Pope Francis got it right when, in a recent homily, he castigated the “spirit of adolescent progressivism” which seductively suggests that it is always right, when faced with any decision, to move on rather than remain faithful to one’s own traditions: “Still today, the spirit of worldliness leads us to progressivism, to this uniformity of thought.” Negotiating one’s identity, the Pope declared, is squarely impossible, because it is a gift from God, a grace that must be recognized and nourished but that can be rejected or changed only at one’s own peril.

How does this go together with “constructed gender identities” as a phantasm that now circulates even on Catholic campuses? Alas, by imposing artificial diversity, Catholic universities have also abandoned the search for truth to which they are called. Thus they betray the goal of the university, which since its inception has been to unite rather than to divide knowledge. They have substituted an empty slogan for the direction laid down by Jesus Christ as the fount of truth for us and for all time. No, diversity is by no means a Catholic value. It is a fact, a gift we have received and that we should not artificially distort in order to follow a siren song that only intends to establish a uniformity imposed by the opponents of our faith and morals. As believers, Catholics are rather guided by the transcendentals of the One, the Good, and the True. If anything, they will add the Beautiful to this triad that animates the human spirit in its search for God. For the diversity of Creation, which is our gift and legacy, cannot be topped in beauty, certainly not by puny secular designs.

Editor’s note: In the image above genuine diversity is represented by Middle Eastern archbishops and patriarchs attending a synod of bishops at the Vatican in October 2010.

Wolfgang Grassl


Wolfgang Grassl is Professor of Business Administration at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. His research and writing is on branding, marketing strategy, the ontology of business, and the Catholic intellectual tradition.