30 August, 2023
The Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies is tasked with ‘advancing the good name of the Catholic intellectual tradition’. At the outset it was made clear that it was to operate at arm’s length from the Church and enjoy a high degree of independence, for its brief was not so much to proclaim the Gospel as to demonstrate its reasonableness. As Christians we in the Dawson Centre insist that there is no conflict between faith and reason, but our focus is on the intellect alone, leaving the preaching of the Gospel to others commissioned and better gifted than ourselves to teach it. We maintain that to believe the Gospel is not a naive or feeble superstition, but an intelligent act of faith, firmly founded on reason, history, anthropology, human experience and that natural law written in our hearts, according to Christian belief, whose existence was recognised even by pagans such as Cicero:
There exists one true law, one right reckoning in accord with nature. It is common to all men, unchanging, everlasting. Its commandments call us to duty and its prohibitions deter us from deceit … Established by divine authority this law may not be annulled, nor abrogated wholly or in any part. Neither government nor people can absolve us from obedience to it.
When we speak of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition we take a broad view, living as we do at a time when Christians of all denominations are closing ranks against an often hostile world and appreciating each other’s grand traditions. We honour the great Protestant intellectual achievements and are proud and delighted to have Christians of the reformed tradition on our committee. Moreover we have followers who are not believers yet recognise the central part that Christianity has played in the emergence of Western Civilisation.
‘Freedom of speech’ is one of those glib notions that almost everyone claims to believe in, but few understand or even, in practice, tolerate. Much is said and written today about restrictions to that freedom being imposed upon religious people, particularly. But this is a dilemma, for one man’s freedom is another’s restraint. There never has been a time in history when all people enjoyed absolute freedom to say what they think, nor could there be: there is always a need for compromise, and in every age there have been strong and sometimes severe restrictions on free expression.
There was never a golden age. Christians have suffered persecution for their beliefs, but so have non-Christians, often at our hands. Throughout the course of the past 200 years the scope of free speech has been widened, at least in western nations, to such an extent that it is usually now thought of as some kind of ‘right’. This movement towards free expression reached its zenith in the 60s of the last century when almost all forms of censorship were abandoned, universities and even schools shied away from exercising any kind of moral authority over their students, pornography flourished in ever more disgusting ways, and self-indulgence became for most of us the only moral imperative.
Today the pendulum is moving in the other direction, though not always in ways of which we approve. ‘Wokery’ is a new and godless manifestation of puritanism. The so-called Woke, the Politically Correct, are deeply intolerant of opinions that do not fit the prevailing liberal narrative. Hypocrisy has found novel and breathtakingly dreadful ways of making life difficult for ordinary people. We are all against bullying, but there seem to be more bullies than ever out there telling us what to think, what to eat, what to do with our leisure, what words to use and not to use. Words even change their meaning: marriage, male, female no longer mean what they used to mean. The traditional mainstream media seem to be willing participants in this process: commentary seems to be taking the place of reporting, and the news we are offered has been pre-selected and interpreted for our supposed edification, not so much for the truth of its content (after all, what is truth?) but for our correction. Views that do not conform to the accepted line are either not reported at all, or else quite viciously and often ignorantly condemned. On matters such as the response to Covid, gender fluidity, renewable energy, abortion, euthanasia, white complicity in the ills of the world, there is only one position that is acceptable, and divergence is treated with scorn. Anyone who has been banned by Face Book, or who has tried to find on the internet alternatives to modern secular orthodoxy, knows that this is the case.
Many have suffered abuse or discrimination because of the non-conforming views they hold. Some have been prosecuted. Some have had their livelihoods threatened. Most have felt constrained in one way or another and unable to express openly their beliefs on matters of great weight. We are also aware that the gulf between the wokery of the so-called intellectuals who try to form public opinion and ordinary people is widening to breaking point.
The Dawson Centre and other organisations like it remind us that we are not alone: we have friends and allies who are intelligent and eloquent, and the ground is shifting at last. There will be no certain victory in this world, but the game is worth the candle, and we should enjoy the adventure:
‘For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.’
With best wishes to all,
IN THE NEWS
Later this year Australians will vote in a referendum for or against a change to the Constitution to recognise specifically the first peoples of this continent, and to establish a permanent body to represent their interests. The impetus for this was The Uluru Statement from the Heart, issued in 2017, which you can read in full here.
One of our readers writes: ‘There was a strong rebuttal of the YES case in Prof. Ramesh Thakur’s speech at the Colloquium. I wonder if you would consider sharing Mary Crook’sdefence of the YES case with those who attended the Colloquium? I find it compelling and professional.’ We’re glad to do so. View it here.
From a conservative secular perspective, at least, changes in the ways History is taught in schools (if it is still taught at all) have been disastrous. The post-modernist doctrine that there exists no objective truth and therefore no hierarchy of values, and the increasing emphasis on identity (sexual, ethnic, class) as the focus of almost all enquiry, have transformed the discipline. The transformation, disastrous to conservatives, is welcomed by many on the other side of what might be called the social/cultural divide, and the gap is growing wider. No longer will children be systematically taught the history of their own country and of the cultures that nourished it.
This article by Prof Jim Franklin examines the dire effect of these changes in thinking on the draft new History syllabus for years 7-10 by the NSW Education Standards Authority.
Gerard Henderson, Executive Director of the Sydney Institute, identifies similar tendencies in the current ‘narrative’ about the Vietnam War
RELIGION IN THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM
In this recent monograph, Dr Kevin Donnelly, Senior Fellow at the PM Glynn Institute, explains the role of Religion in the School Curriculum.
HOBART SUNDAY 3 SEPTEMBER – 7.30 PM
LAUNCH OF RABBI DR SHIMON COWEN’S NEW BOOK,
A Populism of the Spirit – Further Essays in Politics and Universal Ethics.
Readers are warmly invited to this event
on Sunday 3 September, at 7.30 pm
in the Leadlight Room, Hadleys Orient Hotel, 39 Murray St, Hobart.
The book will be launched by former Senator, the Hon Eric Abetz, in the presence of the Hon Michael Ferguson,
Deputy Premier of Tasmania
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, the son of a former Governor-General of Australia, Sir Zelman Cowen, is Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization, Melbourne. This is the sequel to his book, Politics and Universal Ethics, which received bipartisan launches by members of all six State Legislatures of Australia
HOBART TUES 12 SEPTEMBER – 6.00 PM
DR RALPH MARTIN
‘Living as Catholics in Challenging Times’
Hobart – Hope and Anchor Tavern, 65 Macquarie Street
Talk and a two-course dinner $45 per person
Dr Ralph Martin is President of Renewal Ministries and Director of Graduate Theology Programs in Evangelization, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Archdiocese of Detroit, USA. Here is a recent video of Ralph Martin discussing some pressing issues facing by the Church. BOOK HERE
SUMMER SCHOOLS JANUARY 2024
We shall be running three summer schools again in early 2024. They are listed below. At this stage we invite expressions of interest from those keen to participate.
SUMMER SCHOOL ON WESTERN CULTURE 2024
Monday 8 to Friday 12 January 2024 inclusive
Hobart – venue to be finalised
The Dawson Centre was founded to advance the notion that the Christian Faith and the intellectual tradition that grew up with it are essential components of our civilisation, not optional extras, but core elements in the very fabric of the culture. Christopher Dawson maintained that a true human culture cannot exist at all without a religious component, and the Christian religion is inherent in and inseparable from our Western culture.
What are some of the great and distinctive achievements of the West?
We are offering this course for the third time as a sort of a ‘taster’, a broad and sweeping view of the terrain and some of its principal landmarks. It cannot claim to be any more than a sketch of the panorama, but we hope it will meet a need and inspire participants to delve further into our fascinating and rich heritage.
SUMMER SCHOOL – LATE AND ECCLESIASTICAL LATIN
Monday 15 to Friday 19 January 2024
at Notre Dame Priory, Colebrook, Tasmania
The Latin school assumes some prior knowledge of the language and leads participants through a selection of important readings in poetry and prose, sacred and secular, from authors such as Augustine, Jerome, Bede, Peter Abelard, Aquinas, the Carmina Burana, and even Dante. In date our selections range from the poet Virgil to the abdication speech of Pope Benedict! Accommodation may be available on request at Bethany House in the Priory grounds.
SUMMER SCHOOL – BIBLICAL GREEK FOR BEGINNERS
Monday 22 to Friday 26 January 2024
at The Emmanuel Centre, 123 Abbott Street, Newstead, Launceston
The New Testament and Koine Greek school is for beginners who want to experience the excitement of reading parts of the Bible in the original language. We shall read extracts from the Gospel and Epistles, as well as some important passages from the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament), as well as some pieces from the early Fathers of the Church and the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. Accommodation at the Centre is available on request. We are trialling the Emmanuel Centre for the first time – it sounds ideal. We would appreciate expressions of interest at this time.