The Providence College Mob Comes for Anthony Esolen
By Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins
Those who doubt that orthodox Christians risk persecution should consider the case of Anthony Esolen. A prominent scholar of Renaissance literature, Esolen authored a widely used translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He writes books and essays incessantly, contributing to Magnificat, Crisis magazine, and other publications and online outlets that take seriously Christianity and human excellence. Perhaps the best description of his writing is “luminous.” In other words, he is exactly the type of person the totalitarian Left wants to silence.
Esolen is under fire for being Catholic and not having the sense to keep quiet about it. The particular objects of the current Jacobin outrage are two articles Esolen wrote forCrisis—one discussing campus movements for “diversity” and how they unfold at a Catholic college, and the other challenging faithful Catholics and other Christians to consider how they’ll respond when (as the headline-writer put it) persecution comes. For Esolen, that time is now.
In an interview with Rod Dreher for The American Conservative, Esolen related how this tempest came to be. His Crisis articles, he explained, were written in response to the mistreatment of five of his Catholic colleagues at the hands of secular professors and the college’s “Bias Response” Star Chamber. In the articles he stated explicitly that he welcomed students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, but suggested “that there was something narcissistic in the common insistence that people should study THEMSELVES rather than people who lived long ago and in cultures far removed from ours … and that there was something totalitarian in the impulse of the secular left, to attempt to subject our curriculum to the demands of a current political aim.”
A group of students accused him of racism. His attempts to discuss the issues with them were rebuffed. A band of students instead held a demonstration led by a bullhorn-wielding woman demanding “inclusion” and attention to a list of other demands to remake the university according to adolescent utopian ideals.
The band of students did meet with the president of the college, Fr. Brian Shanley. Sadly, Fr. Shanley followed the template of invertebrate college administrators everywhere: He weakly defended Esolen’s academic freedom but—and there’s always a “but”—rebuked him for causing “pain” to the protesting students. Shanley then suggested that Esolen’s truth-telling had violated “our fundamental imperative on a Catholic campus: to be charitable to one another.”
Several questions come to mind. First, did Shanley bother to read Esolen’s essay on diversity? It is truly inclusive, in the genuine meaning of that word. It focuses on what a Catholic college is supposed to be about—imparting the truth about God and his creation, where all are “truly at one with each other” when they “behold the same object of wonder, and lose themselves in that wonder.”
It rests on a central teaching of Christianity: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he create him, male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). As explained by St. Catherine of Siena and incorporated into the Catechism of the Catholic Church, man “alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.” This sources the dignity of each individual in the Almighty—all-powerful, all-loving, and infinite. That is the most profound starting point for the relationship between one individual and another, between an individual and an institution, and between one community and another. There is nothing more loving than to so treat another.
Esolen’s offense seems to lie in his taking this teaching seriously. As his essay makes clear, he sees an individual first and foremost not as a member of a group, but as a human person created in the image of God. Esolen also notes the paradox that the campus diversity movement results in enforced sameness, not the true diversity of the Church—“a political movement which is, for all its talk, a push for homogeneity, so that all the world will look not 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.”
Read more: www.crisismagazine.com