Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Bob Hawkins

Mammon’s rules lead our churches astray …

St John’s “is a living history of the lives of the people of Franklin and of Tasmania”, wrote Pat Lee

What right has any religious establishment to sell the physical manifestations of its faith system?

Churches and other “holy” faith structures — in Tasmania and the rest of the world for that matter — are largely there because their parishioners built them and have since paid for them in cash or kind.

Today, as an atheist, I contribute occasionally to a fund in Franklin to save from private hands the township’s lovely old St John’s Church.

For a century or more, it was a meeting place for followers of a specific, but now rapidly failing, belief system.

In 2014, St John’s hierarchy succumbed to the demands of Mammon and deconsecrated it as a “House of the Lord”, the intimation being that it would eventually be put on the market as a choice piece of real estate ( see http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/at-franklin-desecration-before-deconsecration/ ).

Logically, St John’s should be handed back to the people of Franklin, free of charge, so that it can continue to serve the needs of its ever-evolving, disparate and vibrant, community. It should not be sold on the open market as a money-earner for a religious establishment that time is proving cannot even sell its own fantastic story. — Bob Hawkins

Bob Hawkins’ “faith” lapsed circa 1960, when – as a British soldier in Singapore (two years’ compulsory national service) and after listening to his padre praying for his safety in the face of the enemy – he had his request for a “prayer for the enemy” bluntly rejected. However, he still tries to convince himself that he lives by many of the better aspects of Christian teaching.

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times, by Bob Hawkins …

At Franklin, desecration before destruction

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Shane Johnson

    June 3, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    #17 … It’s probably a good idea that you acquaint yourself with the Burials and Cremations Act. A cemetery must be maintained and made available for public access for 30 years after the last interment. Even then it must remain a place of quiet recreation only.

  2. George Smiley

    June 3, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Whether or not the sale of churches is a de facto betrayal of parishioners (who might not have been so keen to donate, had they known their money would ultimately be frittered away compensating victims of unholy lusts) I wouldn’t mind owning one for conversion to a beautiful residence or air b&b or a tourist attraction/hotdog stand.

    Some of us thrive on architectural challenges. The high ceiling vaults and small (high) windows plays hell on the practicality of putting in another floor with regard to living comfortably within, and heating, those cold monstrosities. But if it happened I would be pleased to allow parishioners to continue making good their responsibilities of maintaining my yards, graves and gardens.

  3. Lynne Newington

    June 1, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    I’m not sure why I’m connecting you with someone else I know, but maybe it’s because her views are very strong and informed as yours in her claiming to be an atheist, whereas you are coming from a secular point of view.

    I met Judy Courtin back in 2012 when she was organising a protest I participated in on the steps of Parliament House to force the church hierarchy and government (politicians and police) to open up the files of those who had committed suicide over the years.

    The rot was pretty evident then too, as your paternal grandfather stated. She was given the third degree, not only by the church, but cohorts with their own media influence.

    If you take the timeline of 2012, and now with what’s been revealed, she was pretty much on the mark. Her bio has links to the article presented here: https://quadrant.org.au/papists-bed/

  4. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    June 1, 2018 at 2:23 am

    Re #14 … Lynne, it was the sale of indulgences by the mother church which purported to allow people to buy their way out of the post mortem consequences of their sins on earth, that were the final straw for Martin Luther who saw the practice as corrupt and corrupting of everything the church was supposed to stand for.

    Indulgence is a corruption of toleration, it undermines rules based behaviour and makes the practice of virtue seem rigid, puritanical, and only one degree separated from bigoted judgementality.

    Indulgence has a salesman’s easy smile, a readiness to take the short cut and preparedness to cut wrongdoing some slack with excuses and rationalisation. It seems innocent enough at first …

    And sure, if you build an economy, society and ideology around indulgence, the decline in governance will not seem too immediately affected. But giving it two to three generations to do its work and the social infrastructure relentlessly turns to stinking muck that swallows entire populations.

    Religious institutions were hit for six by this corrupt system whose totalitarian power ran over them like a tank. It is no coincidence that religious institutions have survived far more robustly where indulgence capitalism’s writ does not reach. That is why the African-American congregations of the righteous that gathered in behind Martin Luther King evaporated in the ten years after his death into guns, gangs ‘n the ‘hood, whereas the 70 year suppressed Russian Orthodox Church sprang out of the woodwork after the collapse of the Soviet Union as bright as a daisy, as if nothing had happened since the death of the Czar.

    When I went to Ukraine in 2016, the power and the wealth of the Orthodox church was everywhere, and they were busy plastering the domes of their buildings with gold leaf …

    The sub-Saharan post-colonial churches threaten to take over as the biggest Christian community on the planet by the latter part of this century, and they are reaching the point of deciding to break it off with the effetely compromised and secularised religious revisionists in the west, because the African churches have a future and the European ones don’t. The former colonial masters have been swallowed by their own beast.

    And that little church above, in Tasmania, is part of the evaporated tradition spat out by indulgence capitalism, and while I am irretrievably secular myself Lynne, I hate to see an old dog being kicked when it’s down.

    My paternal grandfather, Nicholas Nagle, was one of bishop Montgomery’s curates in the late nineteenth century in Tasmania, and Montgomery was noting, even then, that the rot was setting in. The late 1960s and 70s finished them off. The young stopped coming …

    But you go into the Melanesian and Pacific Islander churches, and they are booming …

    And when indulgence capitalism eventually bites the dust, the old time Christians and their Islamic mates are going to clean up, because when the shop troops lose their temple malls and they can’t go shopping any more, their already chaotic lives will just keep falling to pieces even faster.

    The missionaries are going to have a field day. But that will probably be too late to save this little church, although the bubble we are now living in could be irretrievably pricked tomorrow. Who knows?

  5. Lynne Newington

    May 31, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    An old book I have somewhere mentions indulgences given by the pope, in mockery of the gospels, to Christian knights incited to kill Muslims in the name of Christ, something equal to their Jihadi heavenly bliss at death. Maybe the author is Hillare Belloc whose warnings are still classified reading within the church today.

  6. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    May 31, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Re #12 … The point is well made, Wining. These issues are part of our nature, but the extent that they impinge on us varies with time, and how well the society at a particular time is managing those issues.

    Sometimes societies do a good job of cutting down on corrupt malfeasance within their ranks, and sometimes they lose the plot for a while. The latter happened during the reformation when the church in particular, amongst numerous other forms of corruption, got a filthy reputation for the licentiousness of its employees.

    When it became apparent that protestantism was getting traction, the church cleaned up its act across the board in what was called the counter reformation, and the poor practices that had been tolerated in the past, ceased. The malfeasances didn’t disappear, but they were driven deep underground .. and that worked well for centuries.

    In the twentieth century however, that puritanical intolerance of sin started coming unstuck under enormous pressures coming out of secular society, and the economy that was driving it.

    The church and anyone else standing up for responsible and disciplined adult behaviour and values didn’t stand a prayer.

    Indulgence capitalism stream-rolled everything that got in its way because indulgence was the main driving force of economic expansion and product and services development. The social ideology that came in its wake just ramrodded indulgence at every turn, and the church was no more immune to that than anyone else.

  7. Wining Pom

    May 29, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    #5 … [i] ‘This one is a popular sport with secular social libertarians, because it shifts onto the church all the blame for the social and moral chaos that libertarian capitalist ideology has inflicted on civil society (including religious institutions) with ever increasing intensity, particularly since the … wretchedly damaging sexual revolution of the 1960s …

    It turned liberty into irresponsible disinhibition and life without boundaries, that made predatory sex-on-demand seem almost respectable.'[/i]

    Right, so the 1960s caused it all. I think you will find that church abuse of children started well before that, probably hundreds of years before.

  8. Geoffrey Swan

    May 29, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    #4 … I need to correct my comment at #4 … idle gossip, it seems. Published in today’s Huon News is this:

    [i]Judbury church sold to anonymous investor

    The Anglican Church’s plans to sell around half of its property assets began earlier this month with the auction, by local real estate agents Harcourts Huon Valley, of the former St Luke’s Church in Judbury.

    The Federation style structure, originally built as the Congregational Church on the corner of Maxfields Road between Franklin and Huonville in the 1860s, fell into disuse and was transported, by the Wallis family, to its current site opposite Calvert Park in Judbury in the 1950s.

    The church was sold to an anonymous investor with ties to the Huon Valley who wants to assure the community that there should be no concerns that the old building will be demolished, or even noticeably altered in any way. The buyer said that, as a builder and lover of the Huon Valley, he was always scouring the real estate market in the area, and had come across the old church and fallen in love with it.

    The building is located on an average size block and connected to town water, but comes with several caveats under the Land Use and Planning Act. The property is zoned community purpose, which means that residential use is not permitted under the current zoning. The buyer said that he had done his due diligence before the sale, consulting with Harcourts Huon Valley regarding the expected sale price and the possible development limitations.

    “I simply fell in love with the architecture of the building, and I really, really wanted it,” he said. “I’m not a religious person, and I will be removing the cross, but that is the only thing that will change, I bought it because I love the structure.

    “I will be doing maintenance, replacing weatherboards and fixing the roof, planting a garden, perhaps some fruit trees around the perimeter and mowing the lawns, but that’s it. “I can assure the community that I don’t have any plans for demolition, or for commercial development on the site,” he concluded.[/i]

  9. Lynne Newington

    May 29, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    “The Church hasn’t stolen anything. That property was always theirs and parishioners gave to the Church on that basis so that they could participate in its worship as long as they remained practising Christians.”

    I notice it’s all gone quiet on the arson scene since the royal commission. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/arson-fears-prompt-catholic-church-security-warning-ahead-of-easter-20160322-gno027.html

  10. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    May 29, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Re #7, My dear Bob. The Church hasn’t stolen anything. That property was always theirs and parishioners gave to the Church on that basis so that they could participate in its worship as long as they remained practising Christians.

    If they left the Church, they left behind their donations. That was the deal, always and everywhere. And as to the remnant flock that lost their place of worship, they knew that there were not enough of them to justify it and would have been more than happy to see the money go to places where public worship was still viable.

    All the churches are struggling to maintain their buildings and pay their staff.

    As to atonement for sin, I do not think any libertarian secular is in a moral position to cast the first stone at the church. They need to take a good, hard, honest look at their own abysmal track record over the last 50-70 years and start doing a bit of atonement of their own.

    The institutional disaster that we have seen unfold over the last couple of decades came out of the secular firmament and eviscerated everything and everyone it touched, including churches, who did no worse than anyone else in dealing with internal sexual malfeasance, for reasons that were overwhelming for everyone affected in all walks of life.

    The culture of silence was universal, whether institutional or familial, so pointing the finger at the churches is just the worst kind of hypocrisy and perfidious blame shifting.

    It is only when it became apparent this century that the abuse of children had become a pandemic that anything was done to make it easier to uncover and deal with it, so that the institutions and families of victims didn’t become victims too.

    If the finger is going to be pointed anywhere, it is going to be at an economic and ideological system that trades in indulgence, desire and sating it, the takedown of social discipline and proper character building, the normalisation of grotesque excesses and sexual/social disinhibition.

    The churches were particularly hard hit by an overwhelming totalitarian culture of indulgence and the social cancer it causes.

    Hitting on them for their property is just another piece of baseless secular bastardry.

  11. Lynne Newington

    May 29, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Respecting Christopher as I do, I am loathe to include the church’s predispositions needing no assistance from anyone by fair means or foul.


  12. Bob Hawkins

    May 29, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Re #5 … The churches shouldn’t be trying to atone for their sins by selling off stolen goods.

  13. Ivo Edwards

    May 29, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    How about if the government buys these largely disused churches, and use them in the Correctional Services Department.

    Under this scenario convicted criminals would avoid jail but would have to sit upright in the pews for several hours each day. Less controversial than waterboarding but arguably more effective as a punitive measure?

  14. Christopher Nagle

    May 29, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Bob, the faith community that built and maintained St John’s church has departed, leaving what remains of the church organization with an asset that is vested in its name. The Church is and always has been the owner, both legally and morally, and can, like any other owner, dispose of it in any way it sees fit.

    The now overwhelmingly secular current local community has washed its hands of the place. The people who gave donations are either dead or are no longer part of the congregation of the faithful.

    What have the local seculars ever done for the church? Nothing.

    Even those old remnants of the congregation still living only provided ever increasingly partial monies for building maintenance and the services of a priest, which has long ago been spent to provide the amenity the place once had, as a place of worship. They got that amenity for as long it lasted.

    They got not just exactly what they paid for, but received increasingly heavy external subsidies towards the end, which the church could ill afford.

    In the end, there wasn’t the money coming in to keep maintaining the place as a church. Ergo the best use of the value of that asset is to sell the place and use the money, amongst other things, to maintain those parts of the Church which are still viable; that still have a sufficient congregation to justify a church.

    And much more importantly Bob, the Church has some very hefty institutional compensation claims to pay out, which has involved a lot of asset divestment throughout Australia.

    They have to sell their real estate because those assets are the only major funding streams left to pay off child victims of institutional abuse. How the hell do you think they are going to pay for it from their ever shrinking congregations and still maintain their priests and basic organizational infrastructure?

    And I say ‘pay off’ advisedly, because what the church as a charitable institution is now being perversely forced to do is rob the current crop of potential charitable recipients to pay compensation to people who left their system thirty to sixty years ago, as a result of a behavioural pandemic that was so excruciatingly difficult to deal with at the time, no one made a fist of it. Nobody did.

    Only now are we putting in place policy and procedures that can legally expose perpetrators by protecting not just children, but all the collaterally affected parties, such that transparency actually works for them, instead of landing them, as well as the victims, in hopelessly deep reputational, moral, social, economic and character deforming shit.

    Behind your demand for a property handover is a subtle assumption/suggestion that the church is a discredited loser that doesn’t really deserve to own anything, and is therefore ripe for some moral pressure and I think, vulturing.

    This one is a popular sport with secular social libertarians, because it shifts onto the church all the blame for the social and moral chaos that libertarian capitalist ideology has inflicted on civil society (including religious institutions) with ever increasing intensity, particularly since the wretchedly damaging sexual revolution of the 1960s. It turned liberty into irresponsible disinhibition and life without boundaries, that made predatory sex-on-demand seem almost respectable.

    The churches were as much victims of that as everyone else, and I think it is an execrable cheek for libertarian seculars to pin the collapse of moral infrastructure and boundaries on them, instead of indulgence capitalism and its social libertarian lackies, with all their bullshit about getting rid of ‘repression’ and hang ups…and letting it all hang out….They did that alright.

    My view is that the secular neighbours of this church should raise some money for it in recognition for the enormous amount of work, effort and good that the church put into that community over a long period, without which, the place would have been a lot poorer, particularly in earlier times when there wasn’t a welfare state.

    And more, I think that that should come with an apology for the way a thoroughly corrupt secular libertarianism has so mercilessly scragged the church and everything good that it and its faithful stood for.

    That sounds fair to me…

  15. Geoffrey Swan

    May 29, 2018 at 2:21 am

    Word on the street today is that the former St Lukes Anglican Church in Judbury, which sold for $107,000 on May 11th, has been purchased by a Bikie group.

    I wonder if that is Hell’s Angels …

  16. Steve

    May 29, 2018 at 1:14 am

    I’m surprised this topic hasn’t had a greater discussion, unless of course I’ve missed an article.

    To me the bottom line is that most of the smaller properties were never the property of the Church. Land was donated, materials and labour was donated. The properties belonged to the community.

    Because they were houses of God, the Church administered them and technically it had legal ownership, but morally the property was never theirs to sell.

  17. Lynne Newington

    May 28, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    … I’m hopeful for a better link ..

  18. Lynne Newington

    May 28, 2018 at 11:37 am

    It’s a true and sad fact of life, your St Johns is just another example.

    All those devoted hands, whether elevated in prayer or service given.

    Your bio is interesting in recalling Vietnam padre Gerry Cudmore who was more understanding than the padre you referred to: https://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/27/1082831569516.html

    He was a man of integrity, unlike many of his confrères.

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