A Toronto cleric who has spoken strongly against the church’s response to sexual abuses by priests and denounced an Order of Canada for Henry Morgentaler was among 22 new cardinals named Friday by Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinals are the pope’s top advisers, the elite group of churchmen who will eventually elect Benedict’s successor. Of the 22, 18 are under the age of 80 – raising to 125 the number of cardinals eligible to vote in the next papal conclave. Cardinals over 80 are not allowed to vote on the next pope.
Among those being elevated is Thomas Collins, 61, who climbed through the church ranks in Ontario and then Alberta before being installed Archbishop of Toronto in 2007. He has slammed clerical sexual abuses and the church’s failure to respond adequately to them as “great scandals.”
Archbishop Collins has served before as an adviser to the Pope, appointed one of four senior Catholics tasked with examining allegations that abuses in Ireland were covered up for years. While in the country last January, he was quoted in the Belfast Telegraph denouncing the behaviour of some priests.
“We cannot escape the horror of this by pointing out that the great majority of priests serve faithfully, with integrity and compassion,” he said then.
“But even one priest gone wrong causes immense harm, and throughout the world priests have done unspeakable evil, sometimes within the very sacramental setting which should above all environments be most sacred and safe. But it is the sacred responsibility of us all, but most especially of the authorities in the church, to do what we can to prevent such evil, and to deal with it effectively whenever it is found.”
His report on the situation in Ireland, if completed, does not appear to have been made public.
The son of a newspaperman and a legal secretary, according to his official biography, Archbishop Collins studied English and Theology at universities in Ontario before entering the priesthood in 1973, in the diocese of Hamilton. He continued his education and served in a number of posts before being ordained Bishop of Saint Paul, in Alberta, in 1997. Two years later he was named Archbishop of Edmonton and in 2007 he took up the post as Archbishop of Toronto.
“The appointment of Thomas Collins to the College of Cardinals is a great honour ... a testament to his hard work and faithful devotion to the Church and spiritual life,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement, noting that the cardinal-designate will be is the 16th Canadian and the fourth from the Archdiocese of Toronto.
It was in his Toronto role that Archbishop Collins issued a 2008 statement calling it “a sad moment” that abortion activist Henry Morgentaler was being appointed to the Order of Canada.
“The Order of Canada was created to recognize the outstanding achievements of citizens who have desired and helped to create a better country,” he said. “Is a country made better when those who are most vulnerable are not allowed to continue their brief experience of the precious gift of life itself?”
Other new cardinals come from Berlin, Prague, Florence and Italy.
The Vatican officials include a Brazilian prelate who heads the office for Consecrated Life.
The pope announced the names “with great joy” following an Epiphany Mass that ended the Vatican's main Christmas celebrations. He said they will be formally elevated at a Feb. 18 ceremony in Rome.
The list includes two Americans: Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the former archbishop of Baltimore.
The pope named 16 Europeans as cardinals, including seven Italians. He also named Joao Braz de Aviz, a Brazilian who heads the Vatican office for religious life; John Tong Hon, bishop of Hong Kong; and George Alencherry, archbishop of the Syro-Malabar church in India.
The 18 new cardinals under 80 are:
Fernando Filoni, (Italian), Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
Manuel Monteiro de Castro, (Portuguese), Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary
Santos Abril y Castello, (Spanish), Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
Antonio Maria Veglio, (Italian), President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Refugees
Giuseppe Bertello, (Italian), President of the Government of the Vatican City State
Francesco Coccopalmerio, (Italian), President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
Joco Braz de Aviz, (Brazil), Prefect of the Congregation for Religious
Edwin O'Brien, (United States), Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
Domenico Calcagno, (Italian), President of the Apostolic Patrimony of the Holy See
Giuseppe Versaldi, (Italian), President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
George Alencherry, (Indian), Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church in India
Thomas Collins, (Canadian), Archbishop of Toronto
Dominik Duka, (Czech), Archbishop of Prague
Wim Eijk, (Dutch), Archbishop of Utrecht
Giuseppe Bettori, (Italian), Archbishop of Florence
Timothy Dolan, (United States) Archbishop of New York
Thomas Woelki, (German), Archbishop of Berlin
John Tong Hon, (Chinese), Bishop of Hong Kong
With files from the Associated Press