TORONTO - The new evangelization isn't about condemning our culture but healing it, Cardinal Thomas Collins told an audience of doctors, nurses and health care ethicists at the annual Cardinal Ambrozic Lecture in Toronto.

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VATICAN CITY - Montreal's Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, speaking of newly elected Pope Francis, said he was "always struck by that man, who is a holy man, a man of prayer."

Published in Canada

Updated 03/11/13 - Corrections

ROME - The process of picking a pope so far has been something like a synod and something like a retreat, said Toronto's Cardinal Thomas Collins just before celebrating Sunday Mass at his titular church in Rome.

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Cardinal Collins notes decision will be made for the good of the Church

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Cardinal Ouellet high on many lists to succeed Benedict XVI

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TORONTO - The teachings of the Second Vatican Council may be more than 50 years old but they shouldn’t be regarded as irrelevant on today’s post-secondary campuses, said Cardinal Thomas Collins.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

TORONTO - Surprise and then prayer was Cardinal Thomas Collins' reaction to Pope Benedict XVI's resignation from the Throne of Peter Feb. 11.

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VATICAN CITY - Here is a list of the 14 cardinals from Canada and the United States who are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI:

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Every year is a collection of beginnings. In 2012 we began to pray a new English translation of the Mass. We began to call Toronto’s Archbishop Thomas Collins Cardinal Collins.

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Strong leadership is founded on character but can be undermined by ego, Cardinal Thomas Collins told a room full of Toronto business leaders.

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Cardinal Thomas Collins will meet and pray with faith leaders from across Toronto to start a more public conversation about violence against women in the spring of 2013.

Catholic Family Services is organizing the interfaith service, which Collins committed to attending in a message to the third annual Mass to End Woman Abuse celebrated at Blessed Trinity Church in Toronto Oct. 16.

Collins called violence against women a “terrible evil.”

“Often this happens out of the sight of the world, but those who experience it experience enormous grief and pain,” Collins wrote.

The idea that faith leaders are ready to publicly talk and pray about how women suffer at the hands of men is “a very good thing,” said Canadian Women’s Foundation president and CEO Bev Wybrow.

“What we would like to see come out of it is looking at the most effective ways to address violence in the context of faith communities,” Wybrow said. “That is very, very important to some women in particular and it hasn’t always been as appropriate as it should be.”

This year’s Mass to End Woman Abuse, organized by Catholic Family Service of Toronto, attracted about 200.

“I would want it to be standing room only,” said Kelly Bourke, who directs the Faith Connections youth program for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto. “I find it challenging that it’s not.”

Though the Church may not be full, the annual event is giving a higher profile to the issue, said Virginia Koehler, director of Catholic Family Services woman abuse programs. With each Mass Catholic Family Services has seen an increase in referrals and volunteers.

“Priests are calling — priests we haven’t heard from,” she said.

The Mass particularly concentrates on thanking and honouring survivors of spousal abuse who volunteer as mentors in Catholic Family Services’ Women Helping Women program.

The impulse to keep silent about violence within marriages is exactly the cover abusers need, said Lucia Furgiuele, Catholic Family Services of Toronto executive director.

“We stand united in breaking the silence that accompanies this issue,” she said.

Women should never be told to be obedient and pray in the face of violence, said Furgiuele.

“Our Church teaches that women should leave abusive situations that persist,” she said.

Prayer is not irrelevant, said Wybrow.

“Prayer can be accompanied by concrete action as well and help make sure action is appropriate as possible,” she said.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

ROME - Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto took possession of his titular church Oct. 23, celebrating an evening Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Rome.

"Now, after 40 years of ordination to the priesthood, I am, in a certain sense, becoming a parish priest," the cardinal said in his homily.

Cardinal Collins, who became a cardinal in February, was assigned to be honorary pastor of the Irish national church in Rome, which is entrusted to the Augustinian order. All cardinals are given honorary title to a church in Rome, as a reminder that the early popes were elected by the city's pastors.

"Although a cardinal relates to the universal church, he is also a parish priest, and that's something very, very beautiful," the cardinal told the congregation, which included pilgrims from Toronto and his former Archdiocese of Edmonton, Alberta, as well as Anne Leahy, Canada's ambassador to the Vatican.

"The church is universal and the church is always local, like concave and convex, the universal and local," he said. "Those two must go together."

The cardinal concelebrated with about 20 priests, including Archbishops Gerald Lacroix of Quebec, Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan, Alberta, and Richard Smith of Edmonton, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec.

"As Christians, we need to be solid as a community of faith in building the temple of the Lord," the cardinal said. "But it's not enough to be stable, solid, joined together. If we were only to do that, we would miss the point of who we are."

"We need to have that fire, that zeal for evangelization," he said, pointing to the example of St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland. "We are called to spread that life, that light, that fire, and kindle fire in the hearts of others."

Published in International
October 17, 2012

Won’t be silenced

“Defending the voiceless is our mission.” Cardinal Thomas Collins, addressing a packed house at the annual Cardinal’s dinner on Oct. 11, couldn’t have been more blunt in delivering that pro-life message to the Ontario government. Catholic schools largely exist to impart the teachings and moral values of the Church. On the issue of life, Church teaching is unequivocal, just as the cardinal’s position is immovable.

His comments came a day after Education Minister Laurel Broten made the outlandish claim that being pro-life was tantamount to misogyny and therefore pro-life activities were unwelcome in Catholic schools because, she suggested, advocating misogyny contravenes Bill-13, the province’s new anti-bullying law.

“Taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be considered one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take,” she said.

Catholic educators have every right to bristle at the minister’s rhetoric. She apparently believes that when Catholic teachers use the catechism to profess that life begins at conception and abortion is immoral, they are teaching Catholic youth to hate women. The suggestion is ludicrous and reflects the very intolerance that prompted the minister’s own anti-bullying laws. A minister serious about confronting misogyny would investigate the rise in Canada of sex-selection abortion that targets females. Catholic education is not the problem.

Catholic students are taught to respect life and love all. Catholic teachers are hardly women haters — they’re mostly women! To label them misogynists is as absurd as accusing ministers who send their kids to Catholic schools of being anti-Catholic.

The cardinal’s other point was to underline again that Catholic education rights are enshrined in Canada’s Constitution and are protected in the provincial Education Act. The soon-to-be-retired premier or his education minister have no authority to make Catholic schools less Catholic by coercing them to abandon a core mission. Also, parents have a constitutionally protected right to send their children to publicly funded, faith-filled school environments that promote Catholic morals and values.

“Both the Constitution and the Education Act make it clear that the Catholic identity of the school must be respected,” Collins said. “It is our mission to speak up for all those who suffer, and especially for those who are voiceless.”

After using Bill-13 to force Catholic schools to accept gay-straight clubs, Broten now seems poised to use the bill to trample other religious freedom rights. That is very troubling. Will a pretext be devised to muzzle Church teachings on, say, divorce, same-sex marriage, contraception, chastity and fidelity? The bill was sold as a means to subdue bullies, not crush Catholic education.

Broten repeatedly says she supports Catholic education. But it’s becoming increasingly unclear if she even knows what that is.

Published in Editorial

TORONTO - Comments from Ontario’s education minister that equate Catholic teaching on abortion with misogyny have provoked a letter of protest from Cardinal Thomas Collins and a call for the minister’s resignation from other irate Catholics.

Speaking to reporters on Oct. 10, Laurel Broten suggested that under the province’s new anti-bullying legislation Catholic schools should not be teaching that abortion is wrong because “Bill-13 is about tackling misogyny.”

“We’re very clear with the passage of Bill-13 that Catholic teachings cannot be taught in our schools that violate human rights and bring a lack of acceptance to participation in schools,” Broten said. She later added: “Taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions.”

Collins sent a letter to Broten to express deep concerns about her comments. He also addressed the issue on Oct. 11 when he spoke frankly to 1,700 people attending the 33rd annual Cardinal’s Dinner in Toronto.

“It is our mission to speak up for all those who suffer, and especially those who are voiceless, for those who are forgotten,” Collins said. “We all have a stake in assuring that the faith identity of Catholic schools is respected.”

Collins did not specifically mention Broten, and neither she nor Premier Dalton McGuinty, who announced his retirement on Oct. 15, were in attendance.

The cardinal pointed to Section 93 of Canada’s Constitution and Section 1 of Ontario’s Education Act that enshrine religious freedom for denomination-al schools and “make it clear that the Catholic identity of the school must be respected.”

He said that includes the right for “all in the school community to engage in pro-life activities in order to foster a culture of life . . . Defending the voiceless is our mission.”

When the ministry was asked if Broten would respond to questions or wished to make further comment or clarify her statements, a spokesman said she was unavailable. Instead the ministry issued a statement that said Bill-13 does not change the curriculum and that the government was “confident that all schools Catholic and public, English and French will be able to operationalize the Act.”

Campaign Life Coalition has demanded Broten’s resignation. It also launched an online petition calling for the repeal of Bill-13. By The Register’s press time on Oct. 16, the petition had received more than 5,000 signatures.

“We are outraged by the McGuinty government’s frontal assault on religious liberty, and on the constitutional right of Catholic schools in Ontario to teach the Church’s pro-life views,” said Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, in an Oct. 15 statement. “We have never before seen a government assault on religious freedom like what Minister Broten ispromising.”
Mary Ellen Douglas, Campaign Life’s Ontario president and a former Catholic school trustee, called on all voters, “whether Catholic or not,” to protest the infringement on religious rights, what she called a “lingering threat to our most fundamental freedom.”

Marino Gazzola, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, said that during the debate on Bill-13, abortion was never on the table and sees no reason why it should be there now.

“Catholic teachings are all about life. The act of abortion is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church and the values Catholic schools promote,” he said. “The Catholic community needs to mobilize and show that we still believe in our teachings, we still believe in the Catholic Church and that we are going to move forward like we’ve always done.”

Constitutionally speaking, Catholics are on solid ground to defend the right to teach Church doctrine in Catcholic schools, said constitutional lawyer Eugene Meehan.

“The Ontario Education Act itself enshrines denominational rights of the schools,” he said. “Section 257.52 says that the minister is not to interfere with, or control, the denomination aspects of a Roman Catholic school.”

Meehan said Broten’s comments only add fuel to a potential legal challenge of Bill-13.

“It does add additional weight because that opinion makes it clear both on the Charter and Canada’s Constitution that there are certain things that the province can do on the religious context and certainly things that they clearly can not do,” said the former legal officer of the Supreme Court of Canada. “Catholic schools and Catholic school boards being told whether they are to be pro-choice, pro-life, pro-anything doctrinally does sound awfully close to being told — in a religious context — what religious tenets can be taught and which can not.”

Published in Canada

[Updated at 12/10/12, 10:30 a.m.]

In a rebuke to comments made by Education Minister Lauren Broten, Cardinal Thomas Collins told a packed audience that the identity of Catholic schools must be respected and the mission of Catholic schools includes engaging in pro-life activities.

Collins made his comments to 1,700 people at the annual Cardinal's Dinner on Thursday night a day after Broten suggested that under the province's new anti-bullying legislation Catholic schools should not be teaching that abortion is wrong because "Bill-13 is about tackling misogyny."

"Taking away a woman's right to choose could arguably be considered one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take," she said at a press conference. "I don't think there is a conflict between choosing Catholic education for your children and supporting a woman's right to choose."

Collins did not specifically mention Broten, and neither she nor Premier Dalton McGuinty attended the dinner at Toronto's Metro Convention Centre. The Ontario government was represented by Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Charles Sousa. He heard the cardinal defend the rights of Catholic education in no uncertain terms.

Collins said the Catholic identity of Catholic schools is "recognized and protected" by section 93 of the constitution and by section 1 of the Education Act.

"Both the constitution and the Education Act make it clear that the Catholic identity of the school must be respected," he said.

Then, referring to Bill-13, the government's anti-bullying legislation, he said:

"This is true when it comes to the establishment of anti-bullying groups designed to make the school a better place for all, and in Catholic schools that means following the method outlined in the document Respecting Difference, of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association. It is our mission to speak up for all those who suffer, and especially those who are voiceless, for those who are forgotten.

"It is also true when it comes to protecting the freedom of all in the school community to engage in pro-life activities in order to foster a culture of life in which the most vulnerable and voiceless among us are protected and honoured throughout their whole life on earth from the moment of conception to natural death.

"Defending the voiceless is our mission."

Collins reminded the audience that Catholic education has been an integral component of Ontario schooling since before Confederation. He said the province was blessed to have a religious and non-religious education system that "work together in co-operation to make education a treasure for which all Ontarians may truly be thankful."

"There is more beauty in the variety of a garden than in the uniform, undifferentiated, monotony of the dull flat surface of a parking lot," he said.

"The complementary variety in our educational system is an advantage for all, producing not only a healthy competition from which all benefit, but also a fruitful collaboration, and the richness of different approaches to the key issues of life.

"That diversity reflects the reality of the differences that exist in our province. The system works."

Broten, who doubles as the minister responsible for women's issues, made her comments on Oct. 10 after Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) held a press conference at Queen's Park to promote weekend rallies that will demand the province stop funding abortion through Ontario health insurance.  The CLC press conference was sponsored by three Conservative MPPs.

In posing a question to Broten, a reporter said "the Catholic school system in this province is teaching the kind of intolerant thought that we saw coming out of that (CLC) press conference. They let kids out of school to go to anti-abortion rallies. Is that appropriate?" When Broten dodges that question, a reporter again asked: "Should schools be encouraging kids to go to anti-abortion rallies?"

"In Ontario, we support Catholic education, support the teaching of love and tolerance in our schools and at the same time we support the right to chose." she replied. "I am one that supports Catholic education and has been adamantly inn support of women's right to chose for many years and I do not see a conflict in those."

Published in Canada