Skip to comments.Multiculturalism, Catholicism, and American Civilization
Posted on 04/03/2013 8:03:05 PM PDT by grimalkin
There are many valid, empirically observable reasons why many orthodox Catholics reject multiculturalism in the United States. However, it is imperative that Catholics, following the sophisticated intellectual traditions of the Church, make appropriate distinctions. There are at least three variations of multiculturalism with only the first two antithetical to the Catholic world view.
The first, or what I'll call the relativist version of multiculturalism, should be rejected because it confuses the empirical reality of relative forms of human existence in social institutions like the family or in social activities like sexuality with the philosophy of moral relativism.  While it may be true that there can be found some degree of truth, goodness, and utility in most cultures, it is simply not the case that they always produce equally valid manifestations and applications of the natural law. Indeed, in many cases, cultural creations are simply outside the pale of such reasoning (e.g., human sacrifice, polygamy, homosexuality).
Often times the motives behind the relativist conception of multiculturalism are either innocent, naive, romantic or sanguine. They are usually intended to provide a kind of therapeutic relief and emotional support as well as a measure of legitimizing respect to groups located at the margins of American life. Allan Bloom's rejection of the false sense of openness presently being fostered by America's institutions of higher learning is here relevant. As he states forcefully, it is open to all kinds of men, all kinds of life-styles, all ideologies. There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything.  Translated into the important analysis of John Cuddihy, multicultural relativism offers the upper middle class guilt-stricken individual a mechanism for offering no offence to the cultural lifestyles of various minority groups.  However laudable in motive, the effects of such thinking (e.g., aggrandizing the lifestyle of the black underclass or legitimating the professional and career oriented woman who voluntarily and purposefully raises children (sans a husband) can be physically and emotionally disastrous, primarily for the groups and individuals in question but also for the greater civilization. Moral relativism in the form of multicultural relativism violates not only morality itself but the Catholic respect for realism and the intellectual truth. Arthur Schlesinger has termed the revisionist multicultural scholarship that bends the truth for therapeutic reasons a form of compensatory history.  Ironically, even the most benevolent form of multicultural relativism has a limited appeal to its intended audience, i.e., among the mass of America's immigrant and minority populations, who, instead, seek integration and assimilation into mainstream American life. Rather, it has its strongest appeal among upper-middle class, yuppie New Age types.