The Catholic Thing
On Multiculturalism Print E-mail
By James V. Schall, S.J.   
Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The modern notion that all cultures and nations can and should live together in harmony requires either: a) a general agreement about the basis of virtue and truth, or b) the elimination of any difference between good and evil, truth and falsity. “Multiculturalism,” itself a construction of the mind, is what happens when the latter alternative is accepted, not as “true,” but as “workable” or “practical.”

Cultures, however, are not philosophically or morally neutral. Within each is found a certain configuration of good and evil habits, laws, and customs. In earlier ages, though massive migrations and invasions occurred, it was difficult to pass from one country to another. Each culture or nation worked out the norms of how it was to live.

When large numbers of people can immigrate, legally or illegally, to other countries, they bring their cultural practices with them. People emigrate to achieve their “rights,” what is “due” to them. In going to another culture, since all are equal, no one can be required to change his habits, language, religion, or customs. Everyone has a “right” to set up within the new system what he left.

The counter assimilationist view, however, holds that, if one moves to a new country, he should become a member of the new society, learn its language, manners, and custom. The reason the immigrant chose the new country or culture was because he thought it better than the one he left. This view assumes that some regimes are better than others. The purpose of states and nations is to provide a place wherein one can live in his “truth,” however others might live. This view implies the power to protect one’s own polity.

Many hold that all world problems are local problems. If there is a problem of poverty or tyranny in one country or area, everyone is responsible. All problems are international in scope. This position implies that we have really only one world state in which everyone is an equal citizen with equal “rights.” Taxes, armies, police, laws, and customs should conform to a common idea of culture. The real enemies are those that maintain that truth, either of reason or of revelation, is possible. Peace will only come in the world when these last claims are eliminated. The established “truth” is that there is no truth.

       Chantal Delsol

Thus, both world and national governments must guarantee those “rights” they established. Basically, we have to rid ourselves of all institutions and ideas that maintain that transcendent truth exists. We systematically have to eliminate from the public order, in the name of “rights,” all claims that are said to be rooted in a universal human “nature.” Ideas holding that the family is a “natural” institution composed of man, woman, and child, that the distinction of sexes means something, that abortion is wrong, and that we  ought not reconfigure man as we want, must be declared “anti-human,” not to be spoken. 

“The contemporary man cannot be defined by the absence of moral references,” Chantal Delsol wrote in Icarus Fallen:

but by the rejection of an Evil and the apologetics of a Good that are taken for granted and detached from any idea of an objective truth that might give them legitimacy. It would not be right, however, to see in this attitude an inability of the mind to discover their foundations. Rather this attitude signals a refusal even to go looking for such foundations, for fear of actually discovering them. Contemporary man postulates not the emptiness of truth, but the danger of truth.
And what is the “danger” of truth? It is that truth exists and measures our deeds and thoughts.

In this sense, the whole multicultural project of permitting everything, with the state as guarantor of this “right” to everything, reaches incoherence. The only kind of multiculturalism that is possible is one that recognizes a transcendent order. A multiculturalism that denies it ends up by establishing and enforcing a world order in which only what is objectively true is disallowed. The “fear” is precisely that truth does exist. The refusal to look for such truth recalls the scene in the Gorgias of Plato where the politician refuses to listen to argument, lest he be forced to admit its logic.

The “evil” that multiculturalism rejects is the “evil” that affirms the existence of truth. Truth is not “empty.” Its fullness is rejected. Proper ways to live do hold for all cultures. This latter affirmation does not necessitate one world state or language, quite the opposite. But it does recognize that the objective distinction between good and evil, truth and falsity exists in every culture. This truth is what was at the root of the transcendent spirit that was found initially in Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Christian revelation.

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent books are
The Mind That Is Catholic and The Modern AgePolitical Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Readingand, of course, Reasonable Pleasures.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.


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Comments (10)Add Comment
written by Mack Hall, March 18, 2014
Very clearly put - thank you!
written by Riki, March 18, 2014

"COEXIST" the latest command
of the "New World Order" band
live and let live
no need to forgive
for there ain't no sin
each living their own spin

Coexistence a cold and loveless word
in a cold and loveless earth
for they have declared God dead
and worship themselves instead
mankind in his selfish pride
orchestrates the worldwide divide

but LOVE will return as LOVE
He begs us to throw in the glove
to run away from the dragon
to escape the devil's paddy wagon
to turn to the Eternal Light
be our heart broken but contrite

He will cleanse us thoroughly
from all sin and iniquity
we will live as brothers and sisters
no need to send us any twisters
no more armies, no more wars
no more enemies at our doors.

be watchful, children, be on guard
keep Me constant in your heart
My return date you don't know
but Myself suddenly I will show
in a new and peaceful Jerusalem
a new birth in a new Bethlehem

Rita Biesemans November 18 2012
written by Ted Seeber, March 18, 2014
In my area of the country, just as much of this multiculturalism is coming from your fellow Jesuits (especially those in the Pacific Northwest in Washington and Oregon) as is coming from new immigrants. And not just standard culture either, but LGBT "marriage equality" and pro-abortion Catholics that either have an SJ after their name, or claim to be "Jesuit trained". I don't know what it is about the damage Academic Freedom and the Land O Lakes agreement has done to your order's famous vow of obedience, but the result is leading people away from Christ.
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., March 18, 2014
Bravo both to you Fr. Schall and to Ted Seeber! Here in California we are awash in error and heresy that is flowing from once proud Jesuit insitutions. I started at Loyola U. of LA in the Fall after the Land 0' Lakes Summer. Two years later the shcool hired an atheist to teach Theology. Heterodxy is now the new norm while fidelity to the Magisterium is derided as "Fundamentalism." The true purpose of so-called multiculturalism is to promote relativism to the point that we will not care about protecting Christendom and will in fact hate Christianity for claiming to know what is true. The day may come when faithful Catholics will have to go underground because only people who accept sexual nihilism and forced collectivization will be allowed to function as clergy. We already have at least one archbishop suggesting that international pressure be brought against the US to force it to open its borders. Perhaps some of you are aware that there is already a faux church which class itself the Ecumenical Catholic Church with members who actually sport Franciscan robes and are ready to take over when our government confiscates Church property, accusing the Chruch of being a hate organziation. We are already in the middle diabolical disorientation.
written by Lorraine, March 19, 2014
Bravo to you both Mr. Seeber and Mr. Coleman. I'm really
not quite sure what Fr.? Schall is talking about but it sounds like sophistry. Truth is truth and what does that
have to do with the RIGHT? to destroy a culture and a country. Where is the truth when the end result of your charity is destructive? To argue for it as it appears Fr. Schall does is sophistry. Fr. Malachi Martin who was a Jesuit himself wrote the book The Jesuit which is a great history of how this once great order of priests was destroyed from within. Hard to find a Jesuit today that is not been brainwashed by this now twisted order.
written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, March 19, 2014
Pascal says, "Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true." [Les hommes ont mépris pour la religion ; ils en ont haine, et pour qu'elle soit vraie.]
written by Riki, March 19, 2014
an old message (don't know anymore to whom it was given) that I will never forget, states : "the world will be cleansed, the Jesuit order will not exist anymore."
written by senex, March 20, 2014
I may be wrong, and admit that I frequently am. But my observation is that many of the comments to Fr. Schall’s article fail to discern the irony of his comments. Paragraph 1 sets out the alternative theories. Paragraph 3 to the penultimate paragraph largely ‘spout’ the multicultural argument: the danger is objective truth; therefore, we must deny such truth really exists. In place of truth governments establish workable and pragmatic rules to keep the peace that gives the largest number of people the freedom and ‘right’ to do what they please, but within limits set out by the state to guarantee no bloodshed, rebellion and dissent.
written by John B, March 22, 2014
Question - what type of immigration do you support ? What is your position on illegal immigration ?

written by WSquared, March 22, 2014
No Senex, you're spot on. Some of the readers seem to have missed the point that Fr. Schall put words like "rights" in quotation marks, precisely to show that they are dubious and questionable. And the fear that logic and the truth will indict the politician is why said politician will refuse to listen to argument-- and why many will keep fixating on "rights" so that they don't have to.

The reference to Plato's "Gorgias," which receives fuller treatment in Schall's book of essays, "Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reader," is instructive in this context, too. He soberly warns that we like to think that we're past the time where cities killed Socrates and Christ existed, but we're not.

Also, a philosopher can only persuade to the extent that the politician is willing to listen. Once the politician refuses to listen (or greets logical argument with "whatever"), the philosopher is dead, or is at least silenced. Brad Gregory recently referred to "the Kingdom of Whatever" in his book, "The Unintended Reformation," which is well worth reading also.

What Schall does is to describe modern self-deception as exhibited in the premises, assumptions (and presumptions) of multiculturalism. He's not espousing any "sophistry" here, but examining it and discussing how pervasive it is. The problem is that any government-established rules of "workable pragmatism" end up being incoherent and tyrannical unless there is a recognition of the existence of objective truth and a transcendent order.

That he states that the only truly possible multiculturalism must be rooted in the transcendent order and the Truth of What Is (if there's anything that amounts to a consistent Schall takeaway throughout his work here and elsewhere, it's this) is nothing more or less than the logical implication of the Catholic Church's claim to have been given the fullness of the Truth. This is what Catholic orthodoxy has on offer: it's just bigger; it can meet people where they are and recognize what's good in what they already have, but then invite them to go further and deeper. Catholic orthodoxy can do this in a way that denominationalism and seeing Catholic culture merely as "one culture among many" can't.

There is a difference between truly understanding and respecting other cultures on their own terms, and respecting someone's dignity, even while disagreeing for very good reason, and indulging in the cultural-smorgasbord approach that reduces other cultures to commodities to be consumed at one's pleasure and convenience.

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