The New Meaning of “Cultural Competence”

The absurdity of the mantra “don’t judge” is lost on the ideologues. Ideology is the worship of an idea and as such it is the worship of self because in deciding what ideas to worship, the ideologue makes himself the arbiter of truth and in doing so increases in his own sight.  We Catholics worship the absolute person, the author of life, the Logos, our Christ. He is the standard by which we must judge everything and in worshipping Him, we decrease.

Asking people to “not judge” is like asking them not to breathe.  Jesus himself commands us to judge when he says in John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” This is a reminder of the Mosaic Law in Leviticus 19:15,  “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”  In our Lord’s Prayer, when we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others we are best able to forgive properly when we see reality rightly. Proper judgment is also indispensable in the quest to see reality rightly. Therefore, it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of judging rightly.

The oldest intellectual error on record is one of sophistry. To “make the worse argument the better” is to ape God’s omniscience. This is what the serpent did to great effect. The three battle fronts of our spiritual warfare—Satan, a world steeped in the Culture of Death and pervasive self-deceit—make righteous judgment an elusive skill to acquire and an arduous virtue to cultivate. In Genesis 3:17, God says to Adam “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” Our fallen natures make this true of cultivating the inner landscape as well, which is so important and laborious that we have instituted universities to assist us.

The time has come for our first born to seek the assistance of a university.  Our local university is an asylum holding up the appearances of a college. The idea of a university is an enduring and worthwhile form, but outside of the Newman Society list what real Catholic options are there? We thought we would find out.

We received an invitation to a private Catholic college in Northern California, that bastion of beatnik pride and breeding ground of the barren sexual revolution. The campus is charming, it has a beautiful chapel, and saints’ names and Catholic words are flung around everywhere like rosary beads flying off a broken string. Teachers and students alike seemed very amiable before too many ideas were exchanged.

The appearance of a Catholic identity quickly began to dissipate as words of ideology began to overshadow the physical beauty of the campus. Words of inclusivity, diversity, tolerance and freedom began to paint a portrait of cultivated narcissism. There was a multicultural student panel with four students; one was the valedictorian. They were nice kids but hardly a vision of erudition or moral cultivation. Their testimonies were insipidly self-centered. The contiguous thread that ran through all four talks was the great fun they had there. Far from inspiring confidence, the valedictorian touted diversity by bragging about the LGBT and gay pride club.

After the multi-ethnic model students left, the dean of admissions took parent questions. I asked “this is a Catholic college, does it promote homosexual activity? And how do you square that with Catholic Doctrine?” A flushed silence engulfed the room. The dean of admissions took a moment to blush and regain his composure. With a mock attempt to mask mock distaste for the pedantic, he delivered a well-tempered righteously indignant response:

First of all we don’t promote anything here!
Gay people are everywhere! God created them that way!
Our goal is to promote cultural competence!

The silent tension in the room was palpable. Whether it was because I asked an uncomfortable question or whether the dean’s ideological response gave Catholics pause I am not sure.

At the end of the day in a misguided attempt at fraternal correction I approached the dean and said “that was quite an answer you gave me.” He fired “I just tell the truth.” There was a depth of sincerity in his brisk reply signaling an impassable boundary. This ended our exchange; I thanked him and went home.

To the mind that is nourished by its own authority, what passes for sophistication is childish incongruity. Cognitive dissonance is the mocking imitation of paradox and self-deceit is an abundant renewable resource in the inner landscape of the ideologue.

The dean’s three main points were demonstrably false. First he said “we don’t promote anything!” Even if they were promoting nothing, that would be foul enough. Considering that a religious order runs the school, they ought to promote Catholic truth for a thousand reasons to be found in the Holy Scriptures, explained in the Catechism, taught by the Magisterium and modeled by the Saints. Sadly, instead they are promoting the licentious ideologies that have poisoned the secular universities. But make no mistake; they are promoting plenty.

The dean’s second main point is that “God created them that way.” There is no credible evidence of a “gay” gene, but not for lack of searching. However, there is much anecdotal evidence that same sex attraction is a byproduct of disordered relationships and our fallen tendency to corrupt the natural order of things. Mark Regnerus’ study provides data to what can be observed about the nature of same sex attraction and its damaging effects on children. It demonstrates that being raised by same sex parents leads to a much higher incidence of same sex attraction.  Whether or not one is born with a proclivity towards same sex attraction is of little significance when considering the true nature of the disorder. It is an addiction, a vice, not terribly unlike heterosexual sex addiction.

We know that human sexuality is properly ordered to monogamous and faithful sacramental marriage between two complementary members of the opposite sex for the primary purpose of procreation in forming the building blocks of civilization. Another important purpose is that of communion in the struggle to attain eternal beatitude. Heterosexual and homosexual promiscuity lie outside the healthy boundaries revealed to us by the nature of the Trinity. Neither is to be condoned or encouraged nor do they represent a civil rights struggle, but a struggle with the perversion of a natural appetite

Bishop Fulton Sheen once described the three attributes of the demoniac as the love of nudity, violence, and division—a split mind. The father of lies leaves these fingerprints on his endeavors. As Catholics we are called to speak the truth with charity. If we do not, we have fallen short. But how does the “gay” community respond to Catholic Truth?  Like that of a class seeking civil rights? Or, like that of an addict?  Nudity, violence and double standards characterize “gay” parades, propaganda, and confrontations. A prime example is what happened in Belgium on April 23, 2013, when an Archbishop was attacked by four topless gay rights activists. The good witness prays and the vicious “gay” rights activists degrade with nudity, violence and double standards.

Finally, the dean’s whopper of a lie was to say “Our goal is to promote cultural competence!” That would be a fine goal if by “culture” he was referencing the great cultures throughout history, expressed in the truth, goodness and beauty bequeathed to us by our forefathers. Many cultures are worth much study and contemplation such as the Ancient Greek, Roman and Hebrew cultures.  He was not referencing these cultures; he meant “homosexual culture.”

The idea of “homosexuality” as a culture requiring competence is absurd. It would fall into a completely different category like that of “drug culture” and “sex culture” but not into that category of cultures known to organize and build up civilizations. The contrary category of so-called “cultures” of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll are known to disintegrate civilization. They have an eroding effect because they degrade the integrity of the human person.

This was our first visit to a Catholic college with our eldest daughter. It is incredibly disheartening to think that ideology has replaced the honest pursuit of knowledge, Catholic truth and the cultivation of the mind and soul through the contemplation of the good, the true, and the beautiful. We must reclaim our Catholic intellectual heritage and wrest it from the hands of the ideologues who have commandeered it and hold it hostage to pathological licentiousness.

The protestors against “gay” marriage in France are wearing pink in a clear sign of reclamation. As Catholics, we must reclaim our universities starting with the words and symbols that have been thieved and violated by the “gay” rights activists. We ought to start by reclaiming the truthful meaning of the words “culture” and “competence” and reinstate true Catholic culture to our schools. To use the words “culture” and “competence” to normalize sin is a scandal. The dean of admissions misled students and parents alike. To call such a pack of lies ‘truth’ is indeed the problem of our age.

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg


Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a Catholic convert and a teacher with over twenty years experience in the public education system. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a degree in History in 1991. He is also a husband and father of 3 children and a catechist at his parish in Bakersfield, California.

  • Objectivetruth

    Excellent article. Thankfully, there are authentic Catholic Colleges such as Ave Maria, Thomas Aquainas, Wyoming Catholic, Mount Saint Mary’s and many others. Before any parent drops $35k-$50k a year on a Catholic university, they have to ask themselves: why do I want my kid to go To a Catholic college if it promotes an environment of “lukewarm” orthodoxy of the faith? You’re better off saving your money and sending your child to a state college with a half decent Neumann Center. Sorry Notre Dame, Georgetown……you have great sports teams but my worry is that if my children go to your schools, they actually might lose their Catholic faith.

    • Malachy

      Let’s add Fordham to the list, too, where they invite a pro-bestiality speaker, from Princeton University, to promote his views. The bishops have to start controlling these hideous institutions, or at least rescue the crosses from campus.

  • AcceptingReality

    There is a lot to chew on here. I commend you for asking the pointed questions and for not bending to secular culture. I am also edified by your general statements regarding the nature of ideologues, the worship of ideas and the self. Well articulated. Thank you.

    • Steven Jonathan

      I have to give credit to Dr. Anthony Esolen who is remarkable for making difficult ideas accessible through his wonderful written words. He taught me what I know about ideology and it is very important that we Catholics understand this.

  • lifeknight

    Enjoyed the article and the analysis of your “exchange” with dean. You survived 20 years
    as an educator in public schools–now THAT is remarkable! Also, I am interested in knowing how your daughter responded to your exchange with the dean?

    Truly Catholic colleges require their instructors and professors to take an oath of sorts. I remember hearing it in 2000 when one of my children attended Franciscan University. There are only a handful of institutions willing to make that faculty requirement. Also, one would be hard pressed to find any truly Catholic institution that teaches science. Franciscan is the only place I am aware of that a degree is offered in a scientific area of study such as biology or chemistry.

    Sooner or later our children are pushed into the world. Some are ready as college freshmen to endure the culture and some still need the few years of a truly Catholic college for more “social insulation.” Only a parent can make that distinction.

    • Kevin McCormick

      “…Some are ready as college freshmen to endure the culture and some still need the few years of a truly Catholic college for more “social insulation.”

      But isn’t there a question as to whether any individual can thrive in an environment which is either openly hostile or subversive to the faith? If the student is being led astray in the classroom at one moment and then being led in the liturgy at the next moment, how is the person to process this? Even the mature adult would have difficulty thriving in such a place. As Catholics our role is more than about “enduring” the culture, we are called to evangelize it. This is particularly difficult to do when one is under supposedly Catholic leadership which is not leading the way of Christ.

      • lifeknight

        Arguably those claiming to be a Catholic college should have to enforce/proclaim the teachings. Lots of parents are unaware of the lack of Catholic culture at these schools. I do believe it is far worse to learn a mealy-mouthed version of the Faith than to be totally unexposed to any religious guidance. For some children it is better to not discuss issues than to meet with supposedly Catholic instructors who are dissenters.
        And yes, it is difficult to thrive in the world no matter where you are!

        • Kevin McCormick

          But your first post mentioned “social isolation” as if choosing to be at a faithfully Catholic college was for the faint of heart or for the less mature. I would argue that even the parents could use a few years in an environment where our Catholic faith was held up as the model rather than apologized for or ignored or undermined or attacked by the very persons who should be upholding it.

          It may be difficult to thrive anywhere, but there are certain situations which make it nearly impossible. If the leadership at a Catholic institution is neither leading nor challenging the students to live the Catholic faith to the fullest, why would any faithful Catholic want to be there?

      • msmischief

        The world is openly hostile and subversive to the faith. It is a prudential matter whether this or that exposure to it is a danger to a given person’s faith, because our strengths vary.

    • Steven Jonathan

      LIfeknight, My daughter was at a breakout session and didn’t witness the question and answer. My wife however was very appreciative of the exchange. It was strange and at the time it would not have surprised me if we had been asked to leave after that. There is the most interesting hypocrisy by those who claim to be “tolerant” for surely they are the most intolerant people.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    There is a real question, in dealing with other cultures – say, Roman culture – how one combines sound moral judgment, with the imaginative sympathy necessary to appreciate their poetry, not as mere source material for a study of Roman culture, but as poetry.

    How should a Catholic teacher approach Corydon’s love for Alexis in Virgil’s Second Eclogue, or Tibillus’s passion for Marathus in Book I or Catullus’s on/off affair with Juventius? (Poems 15, 21, 24, 48, 91, 99) More importantly, how should he treat the expression of it in the poetry it inspired?

    • poetcomic1 .

      Or Charles Ryder for Sebastian.

    • Louise Hunt

      As a cradle Catholic, mother of four adults and eight grandchildren, I share my thought on dealing with all of these points posed in this excellent article. Having been one of the first pro-life leaders also observing the Catholic schools changing while raising our children, I experienced the same qualms of where will our children attend school. I advise sticking to the basics of Catholic spirituality. Learn to pray daily and during the day to ask for help from Our Loving Father through the many graces available for us that help us through many, varied experiences. Stay close to Mary, our Blessed Mother. Pray for your families and loved ones, never ceasing. Your children must live in this world, so teach them to arm themselves with love of God through daily prayer beginning in babyhood. See your homes as Holy Chapels where the Body of Christ is present in each other. Dear friends, we Catholics have it all. God knows our most secret thoughts, words and desires. Bring Him with you and instill this Way in your children. This is how to arm yourselves to live in this world and provide influences for the good. This is a lifelong commitment that spreads, truth, joy and love to our fellow men and women. See our world as one receiving multiple graces through our prayers of daily living. Simple…yes, it works. Be holy. Be brave in this world.

    • slainte

      Does He who is Objective Truth alter based upon the culture encountered?
      The Divine Law, as interpreted by the Catholic Church, is clear in its rejection of the homosexual eroticism evoked in the ancient poetry you reference. He who is Truth and Love has, for all eternity, rejected the sin while embracing the sinner with His loving kindness.
      Christ’s crucifix was placed on top of the Egyptian obelisks to signify His victory over that form of pagan error…may the same crucifix guide those who teach the ancient pagan poetry with the “imaginative sympathy necessary” to discern it in accord with His will.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Bl John Henry Newman was alive to the difficulty, “I am speaking of University Education, which implies an extended range of reading, which has to deal with standard works of genius, or what are called the classics of a language: and I say, from the nature of the case, if Literature is to be made a study of human nature, you cannot have a Christian Literature. It is a contradiction in terms to attempt a sinless Literature of sinful man. You may gather together something very great and high, something higher than any Literature ever was; and when you have done so, you will find that it is not Literature at all. You will have simply left the delineation of man, as such, and have substituted for it, as far as you have had any thing to substitute, that of man, as he is or might be, under certain special advantages. Give up the study of man, as such, if so it must be; but say you do so. Do not say you are studying him, his history, his mind and his heart, when you are studying something else.”

        That, I suggest, is true “cultural competance.”

  • NECatholic

    Excellent article and extremely well articulated facts and conclusions. Unfortunately, in education today the trend is dramatically in ‘favor’ of the first college you visited. Look to Boston College – even a public rebuke, perhaps BECAUSE of the public rebuke by Cardinal O’Malley (not notably a traditionalist) for honoring Ireland’s abortion activist and promoter President as their commencement speaker – preening in self-congratulation for their open embrace of such ‘diversity’. But, it is both Jesuit-run and in Massachusetts – so hardly any surprise there.

  • “Catholic”colleges like this one should not be allowed to call themselves ‘Catholic.’ Some parents would assume they actually abide by the teachings of the Church as they pay extra money to send their children to liberal indoctrination camp.

    • Malachy

      Exactly. they need to contract, refuse federal monies, eliminate anti-Catholic teachings, and get back to business. This can happen over several years in steps, but has to happen soon.

  • guest

    Very nice article! Greetings from Croatia! May God bless you!

  • MK

    In addition to the oath of fidelity to the Magisterium that lifeknight mentioned, the college must be financially independent (not accept any government loans, grants, scholarships etc.) or else they will have to allow (and fund, if they fund other student organizations) all of the LGBT etc. groups.

    Our eldest daughter graduated from Christendom College in Front Royal, VA last Spring and our son will be a junior this Fall. We couldn’t be happier with the college. The opportunity to interact with and learn from the devout, knowledgeable and dedicated faculty and staff as well as the friendships formed with other faithful Catholic students and the availability of the sacraments, adoration and the truly beautiful liturgy at the campus chapel all combine to more fully form the students in all that is good, beautiful and true.

    Attending Christendom College presents a unique opportunity to be immersed in fully Catholic culture. The joyful atmosphere at all the student activities from dances to sporting events is amazing. My son was so profoundly inspired after attending just the week-long “Experience Christendom” summer program, that he voluntarily stopped playing video games! This past Spring break he went on a mission trip to Guatemala which was a beautiful learning experience in charity, humility and gratitude.

    I could go on and on but I will spare you. I cannot recommend Christendom College more highly.

    God bless you and your family in your search for a worthy college/university for your children and thank you for an insightful article.

    • Malachy

      Thanks, MK.

    • Steven Jonathan

      Thank you MK! I like what I know about Christendom. I am heartened to hear about your excellent children.

    • Bono95

      I have 2 friends at Christendom, 1 finishing his freshman year and 1 finishing her sophomore year. I’ve never been there myself, but everything I’ve heard about it (including your post) makes it sound awesome and I have read and am reading several of the Catholic history books by the college’s founder, Warren H. Carroll.

      • MK

        I have only read the first two so far, but I plan to start the third soon. I really enjoyed them. =)

        • Bono95

          I’m reading them out of order, due to my limited access to them. I read some of the first, all of the fourth, and am currently in the middle of the second.

  • John

    I live in Northern California. Based on the description of the campus (which is beautiful), this sounds like St. Mary’s College of California; they, at least, have a good philosophy department, but I would not send my daughter there for all the reasons laid out in this article. Sad that there are several colleges out here which would fit this general description, though.

  • ColdStanding

    Judgement, right judgement, is one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is commonly called counsel. It is not a natural virtue, which is can be cultivated by effort of the self, but an infused virtue which affords the faithful right judgement in moral matters. To refuse the counsel of the Holy Spirit is to refuse to submit oneself to the will of God; it is to follow the self against the end to which we are created; it is to doubt the truth taught by God through His Holy Church.

    Our desires are disordered because the self, which should be subsumed to the soul/reason in fact, dominates the soul. This is to miss the mark, to be in sin, to cut off the flow of eternal life to the soul. We suffer from concupiscence. Even if we were to assiduously cultivate natural judgement, we would only gain competence in judging practical affairs. The effects of sin would militate against right judgement in moral matters. To overcome this defect, we need the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis has really been on about this, you have to pray to the Holy Spirit that He grant us His gifts (which we gain through the sacraments) and that they flourish within us and our neighbours.

    Look, it is always going to be one of the great challenges for our Catholic leaders to recognize the quality of their relationships to Caesar. Without a deep cultivation of the interior life, they/we are near defenseless, for they/we do not have on the armor of God for the spiritual combat. Dom Scupoli says that without fighting against the forces of evil, you have practically no chance of being saved, so you might as well fight. But to be convinced of the need to fight, really fight against evil, well, there is the pickle.

    Understand that, as the Church Militant, we are not “coercing” anyone to follow Jesus Christ, but we need to be able to illustrate for people the consequences of not following Him. When this case is clearly laid out, it is compelling and should strike a note of fear, Holy fear of God (another Gift of the Holy Spirit) in those that assent to hear the Good News. Assuming we gain an understanding of this for ourselves, we must not be shy about expressing this (Note to self: Must not be shy. Must not be shy).

    Pope Francis constantly reminds us of the reality of the Devil. If the Devil is real, hell is real and therefore, the Four Last things are real. To accomplish this end of making ourselves and our Catholic institutions ready for and active in the spiritual struggle, I think we need to develop a Christian physiology. A what? I mean a comprehensive map of the dynamic relationship of the aspect of the self and the aspects of the soul in light of the first principles granted by God’s revelation through the Old Testament prophets and in the New Testament Gospels. This perspective is sitting latent in the Catholic tradition, waiting for explication.

    Sorry, Crisis mag, to carry on so. I suppose I should get my own blog instead of prattling on here.

    • ColdStanding

      Here is Msgr. Pope with a timely article on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    • Steven Jonathan

      I always find your comments intriguing. Well there is prudence
      and then there is wisdom. I didn’t mean to imply that counsel was not an infused virtue gifted to us by the Holy Spirit. But certainly you would agree that the acquisition of the gifts of the Holy Spirit requires something of us as well? Jesus will turn the water into wine, but must we not bring the water? Scupoli is great teacher for the spiritual combat. Thank you for your spirited comments. Steve

    • Objectivetruth

      Great comment. Christ was as blunt as a rock and said “If you are lukewarm about me, I will vomit you out.” This for me has always been the wake up call for me to put down the remote control, get off of my backside, and grab my lantern and be vigilant and step up.

    • Objectivetruth

      Also….I find as I get older the use of sacramentals such as the wearing of a brown scapular as a way of physically putting on “the armor of Christ” (I also like that it is putting on the yoke of Christ.) The fact that we are physical, fleshy, sensory beings the Prince of Lies attacks us at this level. I find strength against evil in crucifixes, an open Bible in the house, Miraculous medals, rosarys, holy water and praying the Guardian angel prayer every morning with my wife and kids.

      • ColdStanding

        Yes, one of the remarkable things about that I notice as I give more of my time to the practice of the Catholic faith, as I am led to love Jesus more, is how much this practice starts to resemble what the old accounts say people did while seriously practicing the Faith.

        I like the open bible idea. I see how I can rearrange my book case to give it pride of place. Thank you.

  • cestusdei

    So if someone claims to be born a pedophile then God made them that way and we should affirm it? Do they study logic anymore?

  • Bono95

    “Local Gays Show Their Pride”

    Ever notice how it’s always “gay pride” and never “gay humility”?

    • cestusdei


  • hombre111

    Whew, Steven. Snorting fire. May God finally bless your oldest with a place where she can thrive.

  • Mark Skorcz

    Unfortunately, your experience is not unique. I have 2 daughters at a ‘Catholic’ university in the Midwest and it’s no different than you describe.

    • OK Catholic parent

      Please state the college you are referring to as I am in the Midwest and making college visits this summer. This kind of info can save me time and money. I feel like everyone is protecting the nominal Catholic institutions. This info needs to be brought to light or things will never change.

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  • John Charles

    Excellent article.

  • Tony

    Don’t overlook these three tremendously Catholic-friendly schools (and full of Catholic professors in the humanities): Baylor, Grove City, Hillsdale …

  • Dick Prudlo

    My wife and I suffered the same results when we went shopping back in the late 80’s. Nothing has changed much, really. My comments to my children then and too you is “it is better to send you to a Protestant School and defend the Faith; then to a “Catholic” school and lose it.

  • OK Catholic Parent

    Excellent! Pray tell, to which college are you referring? If the dean of admissions proudly made that statement to prospective parents, that is too important not to share with other concerned Catholic parents. Things will never change if information about nominally Catholic colleges is not shared.