The Jesuits helped to instill in me this thought that our calling in life was to be … ‘a man for others’ … I am a pretty traditional Catholic… I’m not an evangelical, a charismatic Christian, I’m not. I try to attend Mass, but I don’t get there every Sunday any more… Faith has certainly helped to shape my life, but it doesn’t in any way determine my politics”.— Tony Abbott on ABC TV’s Kitchen Cabinet; September 2013.
As a former Catholic seminarian, Abbott’s religiosity has come to national attention and journalists have often sought his views on the role of religion in politics. According to John Warhurst of the Australian National University, academics have at times placed an “exaggerated concentration on the religious affiliation and personal religious background of just one of [the Howard government’s] senior ministers, Tony Abbott.” Journalist Michelle Grattan wrote in 2010 that while Abbott has always “worn his Catholicism on his sleeve”, he is “clearly frustrated by the obsession with [it] and what might hang off that”. Abbott has said that a politician should not rely on religion to justify a political point of view:
We are all influenced by a value system that we hold, but in the end, every decision that a politician makes is, or at least should, in our society be based on the normal sorts of considerations. It’s got to be publicly justifiable; not only justifiable in accordance with a private view; a private belief.— Abbott on ABC TV Four Corners, March 2010.
Various political positions supported by Abbott have been criticised by church representatives, including aspects of Coalition industrial relations, asylum seeker, and Aboriginal affairs policies. After criticisms of Liberal Party policy by clergy, Abbott has said, “The priesthood gives someone the power to consecrate bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. It doesn’t give someone the power to convert poor logic into good logic.”