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In defense of diversity

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I would like to submit a rebuttal to the Letter to the Editor by Lindsay Gilbertson that appeared on Nov. 20, entitled “Catholic Identity Valued.” The author’s essay was, in fact, a response to a previous article submitted five days prior on the subject of attracting more religious diversity to Notre Dame, authored by a Muslim student. The response’s myopic interpretation of diversity represents a very unsettling view that this university, in pursuit of academic credibility and intellectual development of its students, cannot afford to leave unadvised.

A very confusing and inaccurate contention that the author makes on the nature of Catholic values is that they are inherently not secular. I beg to differ. I, personally, come from a Catholic family, but an overwhelming majority of my friends do not. Catholic values regarding peace, responsible sexuality and, of course, the high respect for the figure of the matriarch, among others, are not exclusive to Catholicism nor to Christianity as a whole.

These values, aside from being endeared by people devoid of religious faith, have immense secular implications. Regardless of religious and spiritual context, responsible sexuality has great secular impact on society as can be extrapolated from legislation encouraging healthy construction of family units. I fear for the non-Catholic readers of the letter I write about, that they might receive the impression that our beliefs do not line up with theirs in a practical and secular manner – the secular arena being the most common place of interaction between interests from varying religious and spiritual backgrounds. While Ammar Tahir’s Nov. 15 Letter to the Editor, “Attracting Diverse Students to Notre Dame,” might have implied “universal” values, he certainly was not mistaken by use of “secular.”

Furthermore, the primary concern I have for Gilbertson’s argument is her claim that Notre Dame has no need for more diversity of religion on campus. While I agree, as most will, that Notre Dame has a duty to uphold its Catholic tradition, that certainly does not preclude the further inclusion of people of other faiths into our student body. I would assert, above Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, Notre Dame has a greater attraction to prospective students as a more generally spiritual identity. If one came to Notre Dame, surrounded by nothing but other people of the same faith in Catholicism, he or she would not be receiving the best quality of diversity possible and would be at a severe disadvantage upon graduation.

The real world will not consist of people like you, sharing your beliefs and religious practices. The real world is a world of varyingly nuanced faith, hybrid identities and, more significantly, of misunderstandings perpetuated by those who simply do not see the need to interact intimately with ideas other than their own. For anyone to claim that Notre Dame does not need religious diversity on this campus speaks volumes about the troubles facing our world today.

I have enjoyed the experience of interacting with such groups as the Muslim Student Association on a spiritual level, comparing our overlapping beliefs and taking an open-minded look at where our cultural divides stand. Though these people do not share dogma specifically held by Catholics, they still pray to one God and treasure the value of life, liberty and religious self-expression. To Gilbertson, I challenge you to interact with people such as those who share beliefs starkly different from your own Catholic background and I hope you come to see how much you share in common. The Qu’ran and its believers are a beautiful example of religiosity and faith when you examine them with an unprejudiced mind, but they are only one example.

I pray that Gilbertson comes to realize the implications of diversity, both religious and not, on this campus, and rethinks the claims in her article. She will begin to realize what people of other religions can teach that cannot be learned in a class here at Notre Dame, but the full extent of these lessons cannot be had without at least some increase in their presence on our campus. God bless.

Sean Anthony Rega

freshman

Alumni Hall

Nov. 21