31 January 2023
Welcome to the first of our 2023 newsletters! I hope you find some useful things in it, and ask you to recommend it to your friends who are not yet on the mailing list.
We have much of importance to share with you. Firstly, I can tell you that this year’s Colloquium will be on Saturday 8 July. As a temporary working title let’s call it ‘Wokery and How to Get Over It’, but we’ll think of something a little more diplomatic for the official notice that will go out shortly.
We can also announce two guest speakers of great distinction. Their talks will be videorecorded as usual to be viewed worldwide. One is China expert Steven Mosher(‘Christianity in China’, 11 March) and the other theologian Ralph Martin (‘Living as Catholics in Challenging Times’, 13 September). Further details below.
We have just concluded a sequence of three intensive summer schools, one week each, in New Testament Greek, Late Latin, and ‘Western Civilisation’. The Greek course was aimed at beginners who managed to read some 30 pages from the Gospels and Epistles, the Ten Commandments and the Genesis creation narrative, and a good bit of St John Chrysostom as well. The Latin course (for people with some prior experience) covered a range of very important literature including the greatest hymns of the western liturgy, theological and philosophical works, a few of the Carmina Burana, and a good selection of historical writing.
‘Western Civilisation’ was the third of our summer schools, a survey of the literature, history, philosophy, theology and art of the West from the earliest times until the present. It was taught by Xavier Young, Alex Sidhu, Karina Hepner and myself. We ran it for the first time in January 2022 as a pilot and were thrilled to be able to attract an even larger number of participants this time, so that we can confidently predict that it will be an annual fixture from now on for as long as we have breath in our bodies!
I should perhaps add that our ‘Western Civilisation’ programme is neither racist nor colonialist. Nor is it sexist or chauvinistic. It merely aims to run over the territory with necessary brevity and to describe some of the landmarks – ‘the best that has been thought and said’ – that made the West what it is.
We have been asked to offer our summer schools online. Personally I don’t think the ‘zoom’ environment works well for this kind of teaching and I fear that we have to go against the flow (which is fast becoming a torrent) and insist on the unique value of face-to-face teaching. That means that Hobart (aka The Athens of the South) remains the only foreseeable option for enthusiasts. That said, I have taught summer schools elsewhere by invitation (in Australia and overseas), and would do so again if there were sufficient local interest.
We are also publishing in this issue a guest article by Matthew Ogilvie, who has written for us previously.
I hope you enjoy our newsletter and thank all our readers for your ongoing loyalty and support. I warmly welcome those who have recently joined us.
With best wishes for 2023,
IN THE NEWS
Alarming trends in Education are key concerns of the Dawson Centre. A student taking first year English in an Australian university until the end of the 60s would have read at least one tale from Chaucer, four or five Shakespeare plays, a dozen acclaimed novels written over two centuries and a wide selection of poetry of the highest quality. Such a course is now rarely available. ‘Great Books’ are no longer recognised as such: I suppose acknowledging greatness is now seen as discriminatory (‘why shouldn’t bad writers with nothing to say have the right to be on the curriculum too?’). It is possible for students today to take a degree in the Arts never having read Shakespeare, and almost entirely innocent of any history. This is a cultural catastrophe.
In this clip Kon Bouzikos, President of the Classical Education Society, describes what he calls ‘the four elements of classical education’.
What are Progymnasmata? We were intrigued by this little piece from the Logos Australis blog on the teaching of writing and rhetoric. There are some other useful things on the same site which is well worth a visit.
‘Logos in Savannah’: Joseph Conlon, Professor of Classics at Ralston College in the US, aims to ‘rejuvenate American education’. The Chancellor of Ralston, by the way, is none other than a certain Jordan Peterson.
It was Peterson, incidentally, who claimed several years ago that, the mainstream arts faculties having been captured by political correctness in its various forms, it would fall to small schools and groups to shoulder the responsibility of keeping the memory of civilisation alive. They are springing up everywhere.
ON CHRISTOPHER DAWSON
Joseph Stuart’s magisterial biography and overview of Dawson’s work, Christopher Dawson: A Cultural Mind in the Age of the Great War is available here. Recently reprinted is Karl Schmude’s much shorter but excellent ‘biographical introduction’ also now on sale here.
Pharisees of the New Age: Environmentalists and How They Went Wrong
It is a pity that the Pharisees get bad press in the New Testament. They began as a positive renewal movement and they helped many Jewish people come closer to God through their practice of the Law. St Paul spoke positively of the movement, boasting that he was, ‘a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee’ (Acts 23:6).
By the time of Jesus Christ, there were many good Pharisees, but too many others had descended into a movement of ‘hypocrites’ and a ‘brood of vipers,’ who seemed beautiful on the outside but were full of inner corruption. Moreover, our Lord noted that they made a show of their outward piety, such as tithing, but they neglected the weightier matters of the law, such as justice mercy and faithfulness.
The environmental movement, especially in the Greens Party, seems to have followed a path similar to the Pharisees. It is hard to argue against their original mission, to protect our environment and to conserve it for future generations. But the past decades have seen many in the movement divert from its original mission. Instead of conserving the environment for human enjoyment, they seem fixated on preserving it against humans, making our species the enemy. They have also become fixated on socialist economics and ‘progressive’ causes like euthanasia, abortion and population control; somehow making one think they want to preserve all species but our own.
As the Pharisees did, they make a great show of virtue. The best example of that is the Toyota Prius, a car so ugly its penitential appearance makes it clear that its driver suffers for the environment.
Their financial schemes, such as carbon credits and recycling deposit schemes operate like ‘proxy penances’ of the Middle Ages, by which one could pay others to take on their sins, and so feel a licence to sin or pollute.
The double-standards of many environmentalists parallel the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They have succeeded in banning single-use plastic straws, but as we feel our paper straws dissolve into our fast-food beverages, we may wonder how much good our suffering is doing. Indeed, even the World Economic Forum notes that ‘88-95% of all river-borne plastic comes from just 10 rivers.’ None of those rivers is in Australia, which makes one wonder if the straw ban is just an exercise in virtue-signalling, while nothing is done to confront the nations that are really responsible for that pollution.
The environmentalists have also strayed from their original vision by opposing innovative technologies for ideological reasons. Many, perhaps most, environmentalists will not even consider clean, safe emissions-free nuclear power – a source of power that could save hundreds of millions from energy poverty while making a significant contribution to decarbonisation. There are minority voices, like Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, who now co-chairs the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. He argues that, ‘anybody taking a realistic view of our country’s energy requirements knows nuclear has to be a big part of the global warming equation.’ However, he laments that environmental groups are not doing that, and that they are opposing nuclear energy not from a principled position, but an ideological one.
It is said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. It is sad that there are significant parallels between the ancient Pharisees and modern-day environmentalists. Both groups began as renewal movements with a clear and positive purpose. But they fell into the degeneration of double-standards, empty virtue-signalling, and a forgetfulness of the things that are more important than ideology.
One wonders, then, if there are also modern-day Sadducees…
The three events listed below have been finalised thus far. We have more planned. All events will be in Hobart, but all will also be uploaded to our YouTube video channel.
Saturday 11 March – 6.00 pm
1. STEVEN MOSHER
Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and an internationally recognized authority on China and population and development issues, as well as an acclaimed author and speaker.
Topic: The Present State of Christianity in China
(Location to be advised)
Saturday 8 July – All Day
2. THE ANNUAL COLLOQUIUM
Theme (to be finalised): Wokery and How to Deal with It!
(Location Jane Franklin Hall, University of Tasmania)
Wednesday 13 September – 6.00 pm
3. DR RALPH MARTIN
Dr Ralph Martin is President of Renewal Ministries and Director of Graduate Theology Programs in Evangelization, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Archdiocese of Detroit, USA. He holds a doctorate in theology from the Angelicum University in Rome.
Topic: Living as Catholics in Challenging Times
(Location to be advised)