How could Tony Abbott get it so wrong, so often, so many ask? The answer is, of course, that he doesn’t think like most of us. He’s essentially a medieval Catholic, and his morality runs on a different model.

Consider this line about being “pure of heart”. Where does that come from? Most of us would think that presenting someone with an unfillable prescription was standard political theatre. And that a dying man probably has lee-way in any case.

Not our Tone. What seems to matter is your state of grace. In the catacombs of the mad Abbott’s mind, he’s equating a political stunt with the state of turning up for Communion without having shriven yourself of sins.

For this pre-Reformation morality, the sin is less important than the intent. We’re all born in sin after all, so committing them – playing fast and loose with an (at the time apparent) pregnancy, ‘forgetting’ that you met the archbishop, etc – simply rack up a few more days in purgatory.

Furthermore death, in this framework – what Evelyn Waugh, a believer, described as a ‘not entirely sane conspectus’ – is really just a change of address. So St T might be missing the big ‘woo-woo-woo’ sound we get in our heads when we confront someone who is soon going to be dead, for ever.

(Mind you, Howard’s unfortunate follow-up to cancer insensitivity – ‘well Tony’s taken his lumps’ – can only be described as Anglican par excellence. Dame Edna would be proud.).

Now before I get letters dipped in blood (ie wine), let me say that most Catholics are sensible people who don’t believe their morality should be determined by Dante’s back-of-the-envelope sketch of Hell mountain, and yes it is an oversimplification of doctrine.

But is there really any doubt that Abbott’s beliefs are relevant? After all, his conduct during the RU486 disgrace was a pure example of the Vatican doctrine of propaganda (their word), that you can tell a few lies for a higher truth.

And he hath been attended by a phalanx of the godly in the press, from Christopher Pearson to George Pell to the Devines (Frank and Miranda, not a doo-wop group) who all seem to hang onto some belief of this sort.

Given that St T is a possible leader of the November 25 rump – or once again health minister – should not the bell be tolled?

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.