“The golden treatise”: true diversity as always understood
By John Smeaton | 5 April 2023
This is the tenth in a series of articles, rooted in the teaching of Divini Illius Magistri, which seeks to assist parents in preparing their children to live as mature Christians in dangerous times. This series began on 18 January 2023 with The goal of education: a timeless message for parents from the Lion of Münster.
“Diversity” and “gender” are endangered words, at risk from the LGBT lobby’s attempt to revolutionise their traditional usage by brainwashing children into thinking that “gender diversity” is a natural part of the real world. It is, in fact, anything but — and young people need to be armed with the truth.
The Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED’s) historical notes on “diversity” illustrate how its usage has been enlarged over recent decades to imply something which is wholly different from the original sense of the word. The first three definitions of “diversity” provide examples of its usage which go back several centuries. They refer to differences and dissimilarities which have their basis either in the usual course of nature (such as in the statement, “People have diversities of taste”) or in the variation of plant or animal life, or in the supernatural world.
By way of contrast, the earliest usage of the term “gender diversity” is recorded by the OED as occurring just thirty years ago in the following extract from the New York Times:
“We urge the President to look beyond the traditional settings of lawyering and make racial, ethnic and gender diversity one of the principal factors in his selection of the next Supreme Court justice.”1
This usage of “diversity” introduces a radically altered context for the word. “Gender diversity” is not found in the natural world: it is an artificial creation.
The same historical pattern can be seen in the use of the word “gender”. The OED illustrates its usage to denote “the biological grouping of males and females” as far back as the fifteenth century. However, the first time “gender” is used to mean something which might not be in line with the physical sex of the subject is recorded as occurring only as recently as 1963:
“The gender role learned by the age of two years is for most individuals almost irreversible, even if it runs counter to the physical sex of the subject.“2
A good way for parents to explain to their older children the cultural manipulation at work here is to refer to a page on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website, entitled “Gender and Health”.
The World Health Organisation, the directing and coordinating international health authority within the United Nations system, is at the forefront of the culture wars and international governmental efforts to promote gender ideology, as well as abortion and contraception, worldwide. The WHO openly acknowledges that so-called “gender diversity” is not to be found in nature, but is rather the result of social engineering. They explain:
“Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed [emphasis added] … Gender identity refers to a person’s deeply felt, internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond to the person’s physiology or designated sex at birth.”
In order to inoculate young people against the virus of gender ideology, transmitted through the term “gender diversity”, parents could make use of a text by Cardinal Silvio Antoniano (1540–1603), entitled On the Christian Education of Youth, which St Charles Borromeo ordered to be read in public to parents assembled in their churches and which Pope Pius XI repeatedly recommends in his encyclical Divini Illius Magistri.3
The first chapter of Cardinal Antoniano’s “golden treatise” (as Pope Pius XI calls it) focuses on Psalm 44. The theme of the chapter is the diversity of callings of the people who make up the Church: It comprises of an uplifting hymn of praise to the Church, the “bride” of the “heavenly bridegroom Christ Jesus”.
“[The prophet, King David] turns to narrate the praises of the new bride, whom he represents in the guise of a most noble Queen standing at the right hand of her beloved consort, adorned with beautiful, and very rich attire, dressed in a golden robe, and surrounded by a mantle, embroidered with various friezes, and with the greatest artifice … of different colours of silk and gold to marvel. Now these rich friezes and embroideries, which adorn the robe of this great Queen, overshadow us, and illustrate the diversity … of the various states of the holy Church militant, that is of the virgins, of the continents, and of the married; For there are some who, renouncing the cares of the world, and having made a perfect sacrifice of themselves to God, live in the flesh, almost outside the flesh, a life more quickly angelic than human; others then, bound to the yoke of matrimony, amidst the cares of the family, and the many occupations of civil life, as though sailing on a troubled sea, toil to reach the port of true quietness.”
Parents might consider reading the above text to their older children, laying stress on the word “diversity” by asking their children: What meaning does the word “diversity” convey in this context? How does the image of the Queen’s “golden robe” help us to understand the meaning of “diversity”?
This short chapter (out of 91 chapters which make up the “golden treatise”, all of which are short) continues:
“And although among them are these and similar states in the Holy Church of different rank and dignity, all are nevertheless beautiful, all holy, all adorn the noble bride, and consequently all are grateful and pleasing to the eyes of the eternal bridegroom; who is not only pleased with those … in the holy cloisters … but also greatly enjoys seeing his beloved, adorned with numerous hosts of active and industrious men, who … toil in the exercises of the active life.”
Young people might reflect on the following questions: Are the diverse callings of people of higher rank in the Church more pleasing to God than the “numerous hosts of active and industrious men who toil in the exercises of active life”? What unites the diversity of callings in the Church?
The first chapter of Antoniano’s treatise On the Christian education of youth concludes:
“And just as from many distinct voices … a most sweet harmony and chorus is born, and just as from various distinct limbs, deputed by nature to different and separate operations, there results one body beautiful to see … a marvellous union proceeds, and this spiritual body is formed, of which Christ is the head, so ordered, and so strong that it frightens hell, so graceful, and so beautiful, that it enchants God, and all of Paradise.”
These words might prompt reflection and discussion on the riches of diversity in creation, a diversity which is found in both the natural and supernatural realms. Inexhaustible differences and dissimilarities, in both the natural and supernatural worlds, harmonise with each other to create a unity and beauty which can never be fully explored by the human mind and which serve to give God glory and reflect God’s glory.
Finally, parents can return to the subject of “gender diversity”, and to the WHO’s acknowledgement that “As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can change over time.” They might ask their children: How does this “diversity” of gender differ from diversity of plants and animals or the diversity of gifts in the Church?
Having established that “gender diversity” is not to be found in the natural world, parents can move on to explore Church doctrine — as taught, for example, by Pope Pius XII in his Address to Midwives in 1951:
“Holy Scripture says of God that he created man in his image and created him male and female, and willed, as we find it repeatedly stated in the holy Books, that ‘a man shall leave father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh.’ All this, then, is good and willed by God; but it must not be disjoined from the primary function of marriage, that is, the service of a new life … At present, in fact, people (including some Catholics) are maintaining in words and writings the need for autonomy, the distinctive purpose and proper value of sexuality … independently of the goal of procreating a new life.”4
Pope Pius XII’s warning that “some Catholics” are calling for autonomy for human sexuality was all too prophetic. And this is being played out in Catholic schools in the form of learning about “sexuality diversity” and challenging “gender stereotypes”, as the website of the boys’ Catholic secondary school in my local parish puts it in its Relationship and Sex Education policy. Catholics around the world would do well to take a closer look at what is happening in their own local Catholic schools.
- The New York Times, 21 March 1993.
- Alex Comfort, Sex in Society, ii. 42, 1963.
- Cf. Pius XI, Divini Illius Magistri, 72.
- Pius XII, Address to Midwives, Oct 29, 1951 (AAS, 43 , 849, 852).