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A Seminarian

In 1987 a young Tony Abbott turned his back on St Patricks seminary and a future in the Catholic priesthood. Six months later he wrote an article for the Bulletin. Apparently the modern Catholic Church had failed to live up to the ideals of the young Tony who admired the judgemental, homophobic and sexists traditions of the church but was not comfortable with what he saw as more modern concepts like caring for the sick and poor, forgiving sinners and generally carrying about other people.

In an attempt to address Abbott's complete lack of empathy for others, he was put in charge of looking after the sick at the seminary and ensuring they weren't left forgotten in their rooms. Abbott did not find this task easy.

"My view was that I knew nothing about medicine and that those too sick to eat in the dining room ought to be in hospital. Anyway, I thought, most were malingering. So I encouraged 'self-service' of medicines and suggested that meals would be better fetched by the friends of the sick."

The head of the seminary, Fr Bill Wright, suggested Abbott spend a year working in a parish and sent him to Emu Plains. After a couple of months Abbott had had enough and wrote to the Bishop of Broken Bay asking to return to studying theology. The Bishop had other ideas and sent Abbott to see a psychologist. The psychologist concluded:

“He had developed an inability to be really intimate and that without the warmth and trust of real intimacy he would find life in the celibate priesthood too frustrating and lacking in peace".

Rather than develop any empathy for people, Abbott decided instead to dump celibacy, leave the seminary and join the Liberal party, where his views would not be challenged.

Fr Wright rather astutely summed up Abbott at the time.

“Tony is inclined to score points, to skate over or hold back any reservations he might have about his case.”

That was 27 years ago and, as Tony Abbot would say, people can grow. How much do you think Tony has grown since then?

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