In Tasmania’s Huon Valley, Catholic parishioners say there is unrest over 1960s return to church

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Jack Driessen has attended Mass in the Huon Valley of Tasmania for 66 years.

He said that the Catholic parish had been his “home”, but that he had started to go elsewhere for spiritual nourishment.

“[I’m] very well extinct really… I can’t cope with the teaching of the present moment – it’s like going back two or three generations, ”Mr. Driessen said.

A division between more traditional Catholics, like Mr. Driessen, and young Catholics who support a return to more old-fashioned teachings has arisen in the parish.

Lynette Driessen joined the ward 48 years ago when she got married and, until recently, had been an active member.

She also started going to mass elsewhere.

“I just feel like we’re a bit like lost sheep right now and there’s no compassion or empathy that people are hurt, and that’s my greatest sadness in all of this.” , she said.

Another longtime parishioner, Stephen Jacques, has become the spokesperson for a group of parishioners who say they are discouraged.

“There have been significant changes within our parish and we have had a hard time trying to figure out how best to work with this,” said Jacques.

Huon Valley Catholic parishioners say some people go to Mass elsewhere, while others have stopped going because they are uncomfortable with what they say is a sudden return to teachings in the city. ‘Ancient.(

ABC News: Loretta Lohberger

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“We are going back to the 60s”

A new parish priest, Father Warren Edwards, arrived last year and some parishioners say that since his appointment the parish has been divided.

“It looks like we turned around in Tasmania and went back to where we were in the 1960s, but it hasn’t been a gradual change backwards, it’s actually a very fast movement,” he said. said Mr. Jacques. mentionned.

“It was very difficult for people who are used to small changes in the church.”

A white brick Spanish style church with roses in the foreground
Some people have stopped going to mass in the Huon Valley, according to a group of “discouraged” parishioners.(

ABC News: Loretta Lohberger

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The 1960s were an important decade for the Catholic Church.

The Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965, brought the Church into the 20th century. Among the changes was the mass celebrated in the local language rather than Latin.

The so-called traditionalist Catholics want a return to more traditional practices and are generally opposed to the modernization of the church which took place after the Second Vatican Council. The movement is gaining ground among young Catholics.

Traditional Catholics, who generally accept the changes brought about by the council, are sometimes referred to as modernists by those who consider themselves traditionalists.

Mr. Jacques said there should be room for a range of people to worship together, and the two groups have managed to coexist happily in the Huon Valley until recently.

“For a few years before the arrival of the current priest, we had a group of people in the church who were new to our parish, young people. [who were more traditional],” he said.

Three people sitting at a table with cups of tea and reading a newspaper
Huon Valley Catholic parishioner Stephen Jacques (center) said the church had “turned around” in Tasmania, returning to where it was in the 1960s.(

ABC News: Maren Preuss

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Among the new arrivals to the parish were the Immaculata sisters, who have been in Tasmania since 2013 and then moved to the Huon Valley, with particular emphasis on the spiritual renewal of the parishes, especially their young people.

“Overall we were very happy as a group of people and we were able to get along quite well,” said Jacques.

He and the Driessens said the division in their parish was now so wide that outside help was needed to mend it.

Father Edwards declined to be interviewed.

“Unity is not uniformity”

The discouraged group of parishioners began raising their concerns with the Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, in October last year.

About 40 signed a letter to Archbishop Porteous calling for intervention.

“I think we could [heal the division] if we had a little help, a little mediation between the two, which we wanted to have and which we asked repeatedly, “Mr Driessen said.

Ms Driessen said: “We have not received any advice on how to move forward and bring unity back to the ward – and unity is not uniformity.”

A woman with short gray hair stands outside a building, smiling
Huon Valley parishioner Lynette Driessen says unity within the parish does not mean uniformity.(

ABC News: Maren Preuss

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The new generation “source of hope”

Archbishop Porteous declined the invitation to be interviewed and did not respond to written questions.

In a new book he wrote about the future of the Catholic Church.

“A new generation of devout Catholics is rising. Their number is increasing. They are scattered across the country, now by the thousands. It is a source of hope for the future of the Catholic Church in this country”, a- he writes.

“Now is the time to lay a solid foundation upon which the church can build in times to come.

An archbishop wearing robes and a hat, holding a staff, standing with a group of nuns wearing blue clothes and white veils
The Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous invited the Immaculata sisters to Tasmania, where they settled in Franklin in the parish of Huon Valley.(

Provided: Facebook

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Call for greater involvement of the laity

Concerned Catholics of Tasmania (CCT) said the division in Huon Valley Parish and unrest in Meander Valley Parish in 2019 could be avoided if Archbishop Porteous involved lay people in the decision-making.

The group is part of a national movement calling for a more accountable and transparent church.

President Kim Chen said the Archbishop was making decisions, including appointing priests, “without necessarily gathering enough information to make them.”

“There should be plenty of room for people with different points of view.

“We find that we have a group that has the opportunity and the preference and CCT and others don’t have the same opportunity.”

Interior of an empty contemporary catholic church
Concerned Catholics in Tasmania say there should be room for people with different views within the church.(

ABC News: Maren Preuss

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In his book Foundations: Preparing the Church in Australia for Full Council and BeyondArchbishop Porteous wrote that the church “by its very nature is hierarchical and not democratic”.

An aerial view of a country town showing the main street, green fields and the river
The Catholic Parish of Huon Valley includes the town of Cygnet, which is home to St James’s Catholic Church and School.(

ABC News: Peter Curtis

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He also wrote that the church had provided “many ways in which lay people have governance roles and are directly involved in consulting with bishops” and that it was “important that there not be an interest excessive for the involvement of the laity in governance to the detriment ”of the“ presence and mission in society ”of the laity.

Mr Jacques said his concerns about the church in Tasmania extended beyond his parish, to the rise of “the really conservative aspect of the church” in the archdiocese in general.

“All we really want is for the Archbishop to recognize that… [it] is of concern to a number of communities across Tasmania, not just the Huons in particular, ”he said.

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