Monica Doumit: Faith’s an asset, not a liability

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Premier Dominic Perrottet speaks during a press conference at NSW Parliament House in Sydney, Tuesday, on 5 October 2021. Photo: AAP, Dean Lewins

There has been a lot of commentary in recent weeks about the Catholicism of our new Premier, Dominic Perrottet.

There has been some predictably ignorant and bigoted commentary in the usual publications that are unfortunately too numerous to name. These set up Premier Perrottet’s Catholicism as the Bogey Man, using his pro-life voting record and connections to Pared schools as window dressing and his wife and six children as collateral damage to push their anti-male, anti-faith and anti-life ideologies.

the things that they mock about the Premier are actually qualities that you want to see in a leader.

There has also been some very good commentary in this paper from the likes of Julian Leeser MP, Dr Kevin Donnelly and Christopher Wilks and in other publications by the likes of Senators Kristina Keneally and Matthew Canavan. These defend the right of Premier Perrottet personally and the right of Catholics and people of faith in general to hold high public office without public ridicule based on that fact alone.

I’m not going to add anything more to what has been said about the hypocrisy of the ‘inclusivity brigade’ who want to exclude a Premier on the basis of faith alone, but I want to offer some thoughts on why the things that they mock about the Premier are actually qualities that you want to see in a leader.

Let’s start with the obvious: the big family. Not only does the Premier have six children; he is one of 12 siblings himself.

His opponents see this as evidence of male dominance and an anti-choice attitude that they are worried will colour his political decisions.

As one of five children myself, here’s another way you could see large family life. You could see it as an environment where children have to get used to sharing everything: toys, clothes, bedrooms, bathrooms, choices of television program, the attention of their parents, their friends etc.

Where children get used to not getting everything they asked for whenever they asked for it. Where there is very little ‘me time’ because of the lack of private space in the house. [The lack of space usually also means that secrets are rarely kept.]

Reactions to Perrottet: some critics are more equal than others

Call me crazy, but I think growing up in an environment where you’re forced to share and find it hard to keep anything private is not a bad training ground for a person taking on a role where greed and secrecy are temptations that have claimed the careers of several people who have occupied the top job in a state or in the country.

I’m not saying that coming from a big family guarantees someone is a person of virtue any more than I am saying the same isn’t possible in smaller families; I’m just saying that in my experience, siblings have a way of rubbing off your sharp edges and so lots of siblings can polish you up quite nicely.

Then we have the Catholicism. There have been many Catholic Premiers and Prime Ministers, and so in some ways, the Premier’s faith should be unremarkable and not particularly newsworthy. The novelty, though, is that the Premier appears to believe Catholicism to be true and desires to live in accordance with its teachings.

His opponents label this as evidence of him being anti-choice and anti-LGBTI and a threat to the rights of women and the rainbow community. Here’s another way you can look at a leader who takes their faith seriously.

You can look at it as meaning that the Premier believes he is not only answerable to his constituents for what they see of his leadership and who will call him to account every four years, but answerable ultimately to a Creator God who sees everything and will call him to account at the end of his life.

If you hold high public office and truly believe Jesus’ words in Luke’s Gospel that to whom much is given, much will be expected, then you know that you are accountable to One much more powerful than the electorate or even ICAC. We are all sinners and so again, active religious faith does not guarantee virtue, but it sure helps, particularly if you are frequenting the Sacraments as part of your religious practice.

The anti-Catholic commentariat see it as the faith that opposes abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage and prompts its adherents to vote accordingly.

That might be true.

But the same understanding of the dignity of the human person that opposes anti-life and anti-family laws also underpins a vision of humanity that opposes murder and theft and assault, that helped abolish slavery, and helps uphold the rights of the disabled and their carers, of workers and refugees, and of children and families of all shapes and sizes.

Perhaps, instead of suspicion and derision, our new Premier needs our prayers, that he may live up to the great promise of what a believing and practising Catholic should do in public office. All of us, not just the Catholics, will be better off if he does.