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LOSING TOUCH WITH THE PAST…?

The Christopher Dawson Centre has just completed its annual two weeks of summer schools.

In the first week we led a class through readings in ‘later’ Latin – extracts from historical and scientific writings, and poetry both sacred and secular, from the days before Latin yielded place to English as the common language of European culture.

In our second week we taught New Testament Greek to a small group, some of whom were complete beginners, others a little more advanced. We read extracts together from the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John, as well as a few liturgical documents such as the Our Father and the Nicene Creed.

Why do we do such things? Why do people (only a few, admittedly!) submit themselves each year to the discipline of learning another language?

The simple answer is that thinking people value authenticity and precision. They want to appreciate, from the closest possible range, the strengths of our inherited tradition and the truths of our faith.

As I drove to work on the last day the radio reported that the state opposition would strive to improve access to abortion – as a women’s health issue. Yes, a health issue. We’ve come a long way from our traditional roots if we think that the destruction of an unwanted unborn baby is a matter of health, that the supposed wellbeing of a woman lucky enough to be alive is more important than the life of a child who will be refused that basic blessing.

A society that values a child because it is wanted and destroys it if it is not, in truth possesses no values at all. People may be accorded a kind of value only if we, the current custodians of the world, decide that they are of value to us. If we don’t want them to share our world they are disposable, not human at all, surplus to our requirements.

This way of thinking is not new, but it has never before in the post-Christian world assumed such prevalence. It ignores the UN declaration of human rights, the Hippocratic oath and the teachings of the major religions. It is so commonplace now that any variance from it is seen as absurd, even dangerous. The radio report gave no indication that a contrary view existed or could be given any weight at all.

Do not blame the Labor Party alone for adopting such a policy: there are some within that party that oppose such thinking and there always have been. There are also many on the other sides of politics who share if it suits their agenda.

Our modest attempts at teaching ancient languages do nothing directly to counter the influence of evil. But we hope that they contribute in some way to the realignment of the human spirit, the search for truth, the quest for authenticity and the awareness that we have responsibilities not just to the living but to the dead and to those yet to be born.

‘A WORLD WITHOUT CHRISTIANITY’ – What would a Post-Christian world look like?

The next Dawson Centre Colloquium will take place on 29-30 June 2018

The following have promised papers so far:

Hal Colebatch

Peter Cunich

Eric Lockett

Campbell Markham

Stephen McInerney

Philippa Martyr

Erik Peacock

Karl Schmude

Margaret Somerville

Augusto Zimmermann

Nigel Zimmermann