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Dawson Centre hosts first Sydney Dinner

The Hobart-based Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies hosted its first official dinner in Sydney in late October

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The Dinner, held at the Royal Automobile Club of Australia in Sydney, attracted significant interest from longtime devotees of British historian Christopher Dawson and those of a younger generation who have discovered him more recently. Photo: Ian Barnes

The renaissance of interest across all ages and backgrounds in the importance of Christianity and its contribution to civilization was on display as Sydneysiders recently turned out for the first official dinner of the Hobart-based Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies.

The Centre, named for the British cultural historian Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) is headed by former Campion College President Dr David Daintree, who delivered the keynote address on 27 October at the Royal Automobile Club of Australia on ‘Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition.’

Fr Richard Waddell, parish administrator of St Augustine’s parish in Balmain, speaks briefly before leading Grace at the Dinner. Photo: Ian Barnes

Guests ranged in age from early twenties to eighties, with backgrounds in academia, agriculture, education, law, politics, as well as the skilled trades.

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Dr Daintree offered an overview of – among others – St Benedict, Boethius, and Cassiodorus who, each in their own right, contributed extensively to the Christian civilisation being established around them in the sixth century AD through monasticism, philosophy, and innovative scholarly communities.

“Benedict – like many, though by no means all, of the Church fathers was tolerant of secular learning provided that it was morally consistent with the values of Christianity. Copying books in the scriptoria – the ‘book factories’ – of Benedictine monasteries became an important charism of monastic life,” he said.

Sydney barrister Sophie York introduces the evening. Photo: Ian Barnes

If the French 12th Century philosopher and scholar Bernard of Chartres described his age as one of ‘dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants’ with the reminder that people of his time were totally indebted to those who preceded them, then the challenge today is that, “we now live in an age of myopic loss of the spiritual dimension, when bare materialism has all but smothered our sense of the Divine,” he said.

“We have dismounted from those gigantic shoulders and for all our cleverness, and perhaps because of our cleverness, we trample in the mud.”

UNDA Law Professor Iain Benson, left, Ethicist Dr Margaret Somerville, Dr Daintree, Sophie York and Helen Jones gather after the Dinner. Photo: Ian Barnes

Given the current widespread polarisation of many societies into ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ camps, he said that, “all gatherings of like-minded people such as this dinner tonight have a kind of poignancy.

“We are outsiders and outliers now. We’re growing more conscious of the fluidity, the precariousness, of human life. St Paul’s remark comes to my mind: ‘here we have no continuing city’. But this is also a joyful and triumphant event because it celebrates the enduring power of friendship and collegiality, the kindly comfort of tradition and a sense of belonging that strengthens us.”

In 2013 Dr Daintree became the founding director of the Dawson Centre at the invitation of Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart.

We are outsiders and outliers now. We’re growing more conscious of the fluidity, the precariousness, of human life. St Paul’s remark comes to my mind: ‘here we have no continuing city’.

Since its establishment, the Centre has run public lectures on topics such as education, philosophy, history, theology, sacred music and environmental science. Its focus is to preserve and promote the intellectual traditions of the Christian West, the rule of law and representative democracy. In January 2023 it will offer week-long Summer Schools in an Overview of the Western Tradition, Medieval Latin and New Testament Greek. Previously, the Centre has also run Latin Summer Schools in Rome.

The evening’s proceedings were introduced by Sydney barrister and Naval Legal Officer, Sophie York. Grace was led by Fr Richard Waddell and the vote of thanks given by Emeritus Professor of Law, David Flint.

Information about the Dawson Centre’s summer schools and upcoming events can be found at dawsoncentre.org

To subscribe to the Centre’s fortnightly newsletter, write to [email protected]

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