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Tony Abbott on why he left the priesthood

In Federal Election on March 28, 2013 at 11:40 PM


Thanks to Laurie Cousins (@sydneysiderblue)  for giving @NoFibs the hard copy of this piece.

By Tony Abbott
August 18. 1987
Source: The Bulletin

I  WAS AGHAST to realise that something within me, long sickening, had quietly died and felt as a husband might feel who, in the fourth year of his  marriage, suddenly  knew that he no longer had any de sire, or tenderness, or esteem for a once  beloved  wife; no pleasure in her company; no wish  to please; no curiosity about anything she might ever do or say or think; no hope of setting things right, no self­ reproach for the disaster… I had played  every scene in the domestic  tragedy, had found the early tiffs become more fre­quent, the tears less affecting, the reconciliations less sweet, till they engendered a mood of aloofness and cool criticism and the  growing conviction it was the loved one who was at fault.  Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

As the newly ordained priests left the chapel of St Patrick’s seminary, the congregation burst into spontaneous applause. The previous evening, at rugby training at Sydney University oval, my announcement that I was quitting priestly training drew an equally enthusiastic (if more ribald) response. Three years’ grinding struggle to meet the Church’s standard was over. But a dream had died, as well – the dream that I could join that splendored company founded by Christ which has angered, amazed and enthralled the world ever since.

Since school days I had wrestled with the idea of becoming a priest. Casually suggested by a Jesuit mentor the appalling thought was not to be de­nied, despite degrees in Economics and Law from Sydney University, tumultuous involvement in student politics and a Rhodes  scholarship  which  encompassed studies in politics and philosophy, playing for Oxford against the 1981 Wallabies and two blues as  a heavyweight boxer. I shared fully in the ordinary  foibles of  youth.  But why should personal ambivalence, parental misgivings and peer incomprehension hinder God ‘s plan?

“St Patrick ‘s is not the place for you,” a senior priest told me. “What are we going to do with you?” asked another after consulting my educational background. “You are about to experience the worst years of your life,” said a recently ordained acquaintance. What on Earth was I letting myself in for?

St Patrick's seminary: has produced good priests but inspires little affection.

St Patrick’s seminary: has produced good priests but inspires little affection.

St Patrick’s is Australia’s oldest and largest seminary. It has trained most of NSW’s and many of Australia’s parochial clergy since 1889. These priests have generally lacked heroic asceticism, great scholarship or reforming zeal. But their human warmth, quirky administration and dogged devotion to an  exhausting and often lonely ministry has justly earned the love of their people. For their many qualities, St Patrick’s must take credit. Yet the seminary, un­like its graduates, has never excited much warm feeling. Read the rest of this entry »