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Priesthood his most precious possession Continued from Page A2
and humility are the opposite of ambition. Collins managed a master’s in English literature from the University of Western Ontario at the same time he was studying for the priesthood at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont. That’s ambition. His doctoral dissertation at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, “Apocalypse 22:6-21 as the Focal Point of Moral Teaching and Exhortation in the Apocalypse,” ran to 732 pages — more than 700 pages on 15 verses of Scripture. That’s more ambition. If Collins’ highest ambition was for priesthood, his priesthood is also his dearest, most precious possession. His clear, unequivocal response to clerical sexual abuse makes the point. “People expect that one who is consecrated with the holy oil of Chrism will act in an exemplary manner and never betray the trust which people know they should be able to place in a Catholic priest,” Collins told the faithful at St. Michael’s Cathedral April 18, 2010. “And yet, to our shame, some have used the awesome gift of the holy priesthood for base, personal gratification, betraying the innocent
and devastating their lives.” That bitter sermon full of steadfast resolve was posted on the archdiocese of Toronto web site and distributed in every parish bulletin in the archdiocese. Collins clearly felt the betrayal of abusive priests personally. He announced new norms for handling abuse cases in the archdiocese. But his initiative went beyond legal and administrative procedures. Collins also let it be known Catholics would not indulge in self-pity, would not blame the media or minimize the damage done. “We should always be thankful when wrongdoing is revealed, for that can lead to renewal, but in the face of this constant criticism, Catholic clergy and lay people alike can feel discouraged, angry, confused and ashamed,” he said. While priests who abuse are the exception and not the measure of the Church or its ministry, that does not excuse the whole Church from repentance — repentance that begins with setting things right for victims. From the beginning, Collins linked his reforms to the Pope’s agenda. If obedience is an exciting thing, sometimes it is also hard.
Cardinal-designate Thomas Collins greets Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The two will meet again in mid-February, as the Pope has elevated Toronto’s archbishop to the College of Cardinals. (Photo courtesy of the archdiocese of Toronto)
While it might have been a bit of Vatican PR to appoint bishops of Irish descent to the apostolic visitation to Ireland, there can be no doubt that Collins was chosen for reasons deeper than a 180-yearold connection to the Emerald Isle. The Pope and his advisors clearly saw a bishop who understood the spiritual dimensions of the abuse crisis and was prepared to confront it. The investigation into a culture of cover-up in the Irish Church is an assignment that speaks volumes
about who Collins has grown to become. It is a difficult, delicate assignment which begins with the care of souls — souls who may no longer love or trust the Church. He has undertaken it in direct and generous response to the Pope and for the sake of the universal Church. It won’t be Collins’ name on the report or the recommendations in the final report that will go in confidence to the Pope. He will provide his best insights and if his recommendations are accepted
they will belong to the whole Church and Collins will slip into the background. During seven-plus years as archbishop of Edmonton, Collins demonstrated a style of leadership that had very little to do with pride of office or ostentation. “He is uninterested in the trappings of high office. It’s not his taste. It’s totally not him,” Basilian Father Timothy Scott of St. Joseph’s College in Edmonton told The Catholic Register when See A MAN on Page A4
The path taken on the road to the College of Cardinals Thomas Christopher Collins o Born in Guelph, Ont., Jan. 16, 1947 o Obtained a Bachelor of Arts (English) from St. Jerome’s College in Waterloo, Ont., 1969 o Ordained to the diaconate, May 14, 1972 o Obtained degrees, a M.A. (English) from the University of Western Ontario and a Bachelor of Theology from St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont., 1973 o Ordained to the priesthood in Cathedral of Christ the King, Hamilton, Ont., by Bishop Paul Reding, May 5, 1973 o Named associate pastor at Holy Rosary parish, Burlington, Ont., followed by associate pastor at Christ the King Cathedral, 1973 o Obtained Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (S.S.L), Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, 1978 o Became lecturer in English at King’s
The year is 1997, and Thomas Collins is ordained a bishop in Hamilton, Ont. (Register file photo) College and a lecturer in Scripture at St. Peter’s Seminary, London, Ont., 1978
o Obtained Doctorate in Theology (S.T.D.), Gregorian University, Rome, 1986
o Named Dean of Theology and ViceRector, St. Peter’s Seminary, London, Ont., 1992 o Named Rector, St. Peter’s Seminary, London, Ont., 1995 o Ordained to the episcopate in Cathedral of Christ the King, Hamilton, Ont., by Bishop Anthony Tonnos, May 14, 1997 o Installed as bishop of St. Paul, Alta., June 30, 1997 o Installed as archbishop of Edmonton June 7, 1999 o Named apostolic administrator of St. Paul, Alta, March 26, 2001 o Installed as archbishop of Toronto, Jan. 30, 2007 o Elected president of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2008 o Selected by Pope Benedict XVI to join the College of Cardinals, Jan. 6, 2012 o Installed into the College of Cardinals, Feb. 18, 2012
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