Saturday, May 21, 2011

Christopher Dawson and Western History

I don't remember when I first read any of Christopher Dawson's work, but I have read six of his works --

The Dynamics of World History

The Making of Europe

Medieval Essays

Religion and the Rise of Western Culture

Progress and Religion

The Dividing of Christendom --

and now I have a seventh -- The Formation of Christendom (fascinating so far).

I would recommend him to anyone seriously interested in the history of Western civilization and culture.

As far as I know, Dawson is far from being the only historian who argued that Roman Catholic Christianity was one of the indispensable elements in the formation of Western Civilization.

My professor of Medieval History, at the University of Minnesota 1968-69, Robert S. Hoyt, the author of Europe in the Middle Ages, says in that book: "The Christian contribution to the transformation from late antique to early medieval culture was the controlling force that dominated the assimilation of the Germanic, classical, and distinctively Christian elements." (p. 74)

And long before him, G. K. Chesterton quipped that the Church is accused of trying to drag us back to the Dark Ages, when in fact it was the Church that got us out of them. (Sorry I don't have the exact quote or the book title.)

The point of course is that which so many good bloggers have said over and over -- in so far as the West repudiates its Judeo-Christian heritage, it will die. We in the United States are seeing religion being "marginalized," shoved out of the public square where, in my opinion, it has every right to be. And we're seeing our beloved nation going under.

Coincidence? I don't think so.

God bless you all!


  1. It's just like Pope Benedict said in his letter to the bishops about Summorum pontificum and the Mass of tradition (and quoted again in Universae ecclesiae): what was sacred for past generations is still sacred now, and cannot suddenly be judged to be non-sacred or even harmful. This is as true of the Catholic faith and Western Civilization as it is of the Mass of tradition.

    Indeed, I think the questions are not unrelated. It is quite clear that the Holy Father's agenda is to restore Catholic identity, and bringing the Mass in the Extraordinary Form back into the mainstream is a key component of that agenda.

  2. Thank you, Anita! I have to admit I'm way behind on my reading of papal letters. But I'm glad that I'm on the same track as Dawson, Chesterton, and Pope Benedict. Shows I have some sense. Catholicism built Western Civilization, and if Catholicism disappears -- poof! goes the West. It's already happening in Europe, ipt seems to me.