Report on the 2023 Conference
The theme of the 2023 Chesterton Conference, at Campion College on October 21, was “Chesterton and the Rise of a Counter-Culture”.
The conference attracted a larger-than-usual audience – of nearly 80 people, of varying ages, backgrounds and locations. There were more than 20 students, many studying at Campion College, but others at different universities.
A notable speaker was the Foreign Editor of The Australian, Greg Sheridan, who addressed the topic of ‘Chesterton is Good for You: Journalism and Books in the Counter-Culture’.
He discussed the surprisingly positive response to his two recent, best-selling books on Christianity – God Is Good for You: A Defence of Christianity in Troubled Times and Christians: The Urgent Case for Jesus in Our World – as well as to his many articles in The Australian and his various public addresses.
He emphasised the value of a positive approach to the presentation of Christianity in the public culture. This approach was exemplified by Chesterton’s own attitude of cheerful engagement, which he displayed in his Christian apologetics, and in the debates he had with opponents such as George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells.
Veronica Winkels, Founding Editor of the new magazine, Mathilde, spoke on “The Cultural Reclaiming of Feminism”. She discussed the development in feminism – in the current ‘cancel culture’, and for a Post-Pill generation – from an exclusive emphasis on work and career to a broader model, one that fostered a culture of life and care-giving, not simply economic participation; family-friendly rather than individual-centred, in which men and women are inter-dependent rather than independent.
The recent creation of Hartford College, a Catholic liberal arts school in Sydney, provided the focus of a joint paper by its CEO, Michael Mendieta, and teacher and student life officer, Marie Yeo. They revealed in detail the nature of the curriculum in each school year as the College develops, and the attention it gives to learning and the academic support of students as well as their spiritual
development and growth of character.
Peter Fenwick, whose recent eye operation did not prevent his coming from Melbourne for the conference, addressed the topic of “Why Subsidiarity Matters”.
His theme of distributed responsibility and ownership was explored in relation to his own business experience in Melbourne, where he ran Fenwick Software for many years. As an employer he developed an employee shareholder scheme, which culminated in his selling the bulk of the business, on his retirement, to the key staff who had worked there.
In a final paper, Karl Schmude speculated on “Would Chesterton have created Campion College?” He noted that Chesterton’s imaginative vision and sense of
possibilities had reinforced the educational ideas and proposals of the historian Christopher Dawson, and inspired the establishment of Campion in Sydney in
The 2023 Conference was the 17th held by the Australian Chesterton Society – and the 13th at Campion College. Moreover, it coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Society’s founding – in Western Australia by Tony Evans.