On Thursday, the Prime Minister will lobby for the canonisation of Australia’s Mary MacKillop when he meets Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

This morning Crikey asked Tony Abbott — Shadow Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and part-time spokesman on all things Catholic — about the politics of lobbying a Pope:

Do you think the fact the Prime Minister is an Anglican and not a Catholic makes him less qualified to talk to the Pope about the canonisation of Mary MacKillop?

A. He’s perfectly entitled to talk to the Pope and entitled to express a view on these things, but the idea that the canonisation process can be influenced by political lobbying is absurd and shows a misunderstanding of the way these things work.

You were quoted as saying: “The idea that you can impress Catholics in this way is just wrong. It’s spin gone mad”. So how do you impress Catholics?

You impress Catholics by not trespassing on things that are not your responsibility. These things are managed by the Catholic Church within their own rules, not amendable through political lobbying.

Is the Pope immune to spin?

I think the Pope is so far above that kind of thing that he orbits in a different sphere uninhabited by politicians.

But doesn’t the Catholic Church do its own spinning?

Like everyone, the church has to explain things. Like everyone, the church will explain things in the easiest way. What you’ve got here is a PM who thinks he should be the centre of the universe, that nothing significant should happen without his fingerprints. An attempt to gate crash the canonisation process is typical of the Prime Minister who has a totally overblown sense of self importance.

What should the Prime Minister be talking to the Pope about instead?

He might want to go to confession and tell the Pope about the lies he told on the Rove program last weekend, when he said about 9pm in the evening he would take a hit in the polls when he certainly would already have known by then the opposite was true. He should ask for the Pope’s guidance on how to avoid blatant self-promoting untruths.

Have you ever met the Pope?

No I haven’t.

What would you discuss with the him if you had the chance?

I’d probably go to confession as well. That would probably be the most appropriate thing to do.