Forsaken its original mission
Anthony Esolen practically dared Providence College to try firing him by publicly accusing his Catholic employer of embracing the “Totalitarian Diversity Cult.”
Nearly a year after the tenured English professor announced his departure from the Dominican-run school for a more orthodox college, Esolen is back to prophesying against Providence.
The reason? The college’s refusal to defend a student who was threatened with rape for publicly stating the Church’s own doctrine.
“Providence College used to be a school dedicated to giving a good education — and a thoroughly Catholic and Christian education in arts and letters — to the sons of immigrants who could not afford to send them to the Harvards of the world,” Esolen told The College Fix in an email.
As Providence’s tuition skyrocketed in recent decades, “in part the school’s reach toward a new population of immigrant children was to return to its original mission,” he added:
But persons are one thing, and actions are another. The school welcomes all persons, but cannot approve sin, the inclination to sin, or any identity that is founded upon such inclination.
To Esolen and others, Providence’s treatment of senior Michael Smalanskas suggests that it prefers sin to truth.
One Providence professor even told LifeSiteNews that the official marginalization of Smalanskas and threats against him are “the logical consequence of the Anthony Esolen affair last year.”
‘Safe space from Catholicism’
As part of his official duties as a resident adviser, Smalanskas posted a display in a residence hall bulletin board right before spring break. It read “Marriage: The Way God Intended It . . . One Man, One Woman,” and included quotes from Pope Francis and the Gospel of Mark that affirm traditional marriage.
He told National Review the bulletin board was only meant to expose hypocrisy on campus, not stir up trouble.
“It was basically to expose a double standard on campus that certain positions — mainly conservative and Catholic positions — are not welcome here and are treated with hatred,” Smalanskas said.
After posting the display the day before spring break, Smalanskas told LifeSiteNews he received “all sorts of harassing text messages.” His fellow RAs keyed into his building after hours to undo his work as a Providence employee.
He said campus security escorted him to another building for the night “as a precaution” because a mob was forming outside his room.
“There had been a pro-lesbian bulletin board up for the entire month of February in one of the female residence halls,” Smalanskas told LifeSiteNews. “But nobody was rioting outside the girl’s door.”
— Ocean State Current (@TheCurrent_RI) March 23, 2018
Smalanskas said the harassment escalated to a point where he “couldn’t even go brush my teeth for several nights without facing a mob” in the hallway.
“They’re really asking for a safe space from Catholicism here,” he told LifeSiteNews, referring to his co-workers and other students calling for him to be fired.
A spokesperson for the school, Steven Maurano, told The Fix in an email that Providence can’t comment at this point because the entire situation is “under investigation” and they will not comment while the investigation is in progress.
The Fix asked another spokesperson at the school, Madeline Parmenter, if Providence could verify the protective measures taken with regard to Smalanskas. She said it had “no further comment” on the matter.
Smalanskas said top Providence officials “made it abundantly clear that they would do nothing to affirm the mission of the college,” or express their disapproval of the harassment he faced, at a March 12 meeting with him and his faculty adviser James Keating.
Two days later, someone posted a graphic cartoon in Smalanskas’ dormitory bathroom that depicted him on the verge of being raped by another male. The same day, according to LifeSiteNews, Vice President of Student Affairs Kristine Goodwin emailed student leaders to suggest that Smalanskas’ display took Church teaching “out of context,” and she invited them to an “LGBTQQIAA*” march on campus.
According to the National Catholic Register, a Title IX investigation is finally underway to find out who posted the threatening cartoon against Smalanskas. He told LifeSiteNews that a “lawsuit’s not off the table.” The Fix could not find a method of contacting Smalanskas.
— Ocean State Current (@TheCurrent_RI) March 15, 2018
Providence is pushing ‘uniformity,’ not diversity
Shortly before leaving Providence, Esolen published Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, which argues that campuses are folding to modern and secular cultural attacks.
Now teaching at The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, Esolen put Smalanskas’ treatment in the broader context of the decline of Providence and higher education as a whole.
He told The Fix the incident shows the importance of teaching morality and religious education, as well as the dangers of conformity and diversity when based on an “inclination to sin,” which “deforms who we really are.”
Esolen said it was “self-contradictory to champion ‘diversity,’ as college professors do, while ensuring that every college in the land will be just like every other, in its approach to matters of human sexuality. That is not diversity but uniformity.”
He explained how Providence’s culture had changed over the years:
First, we are no longer talking about bringing the children of underprivileged peoples to your campus to give them the best education you know how to give, which I believe is in fact a Catholic “classical” education. That is because of contemporary identity politics. The young people have been trained to be suspicious of the classics. They think that if they are asked to read Cicero, or the Beowulf epic, there is something offensive about it, because it is not related to their identities politically defined.
This suspicion of classics and absence of Christian teachings has walled “everybody into the cells of the contemporary world,” and for the sake of diversity, young people “end up rejecting the world’s great fund of cultural diversity, which is the past,” Esolen told The Fix.
The true way to achieve diversity is to encourage students to read books and study people “whose ways of life are so different from your own, they might as well have come from a different universe,” he said.
It’s ridiculous that Providence professors tell students they can complete their diversity knowledge if they read a short story written in English by living Latina writer, but not by consuming books about the Spanish Renaissance so that they may “read the plays of Calderon in the original,” Esolen said.