Cardinal Thomas Collins, French "Feminary": Listener Mail

(Pawel Dwulit / CP)

(Pawel Dwulit / CP)

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Michael Enright is on assignment this week in Pennsylvania, preparing material about the U.S. election for our program next week.  But, as ever, he has been reading the mail.  Much of it was about his interview with the Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, and David Gutnick's documentary, Baba Yaga's House, about France's first women-only seniors' residence.

Michael talked with Cardinal Collins about the 50th anniversary of Vatican II and the current state of the Catholic Church.

Dana Duizer in Mitchell, Manitoba writes: "I am a 42-year-old practising 'cradle' Catholic woman, and to say I was disappointed doesn't suffice. Your line of questioning was great but Cardinal Collins quite eloquently managed to not answer your questions.

"To your question of why the Catholic Church still endorses an all male priesthood, Cardinal Collins could only say that Jesus chose twelve male apostles. This would be similar to asking why Sir John A MacDonald only chose male cabinet ministers. The answer of course would be that females at this point in history didn't even have the right to vote or were not recognized as persons in Canada.

"Jesus himself lived during a very patriarchical time and culture. He opposed many ideologies of the time and was very compassionate toward women, but even he didn't 'think' to make women 'official' apostles.

jesusA300.jpg"Cardinal Collins definitely didn't answer your question about contraception.  I think it is time for a new survey of all Catholics (practising and not) to be undertaken, so the hierarchy can truly understand how today's Catholics are really thinking.  There is a reason why so many have left the faith. It is not because they are too lazy to go to Church or have better things to do.  It is because they feel the church is out of touch."

Michael Walker sent this from Toronto: "I learned very little except that Cardinal Collins has infinite patience. I still don't know his views, but I now have a clear picture of Mr. Enright's prejudices."

Erle Kahnert wrote from Orillia: "I appreciated your balance, grace and style in your interview with Cardinal Collins, a prince of the Roman Church. The question is, where is the princess?

"In my view John the XXIII opened the collegial windows of freedom and equality, and the current pope slammed them shut and perhaps appointed Cardinal Collins to keep them shut. I would ask Cardinal Collins to shed his robes of dominance and don the dynamics of genuine partnership with everyone he meets."

Glenn Spurrel writes from Millbrook, Ontario: "You tried very hard to have a real conversation with this 'prince of the Church' and regretfully he failed you and your listeners. I had to turn the radio off after hearing too many glib comments. The clincher was when Cardinal Collins refused to engage your question over celibacy and contraception and thought he needed only to cite the Ten Commandments to close any discussion: 'They're not the Ten Suggestions, Michael," he said with a chuckle. Thank Heavens John XXIII wasn't that glib or disdainful!"

churchA200.jpgIsaac Goodings writes from Thornbury, Ontario. "I am a straight 18 year old male who recently completed four years of high school. I take issue with your guest this morning. He stated that body image followed by grades are the main causes of bullying in our schools, and basically dismissed the bullying of LGBT students as non-existent.

"Perhaps he has simply never visited a high school, but you cannot walk down a hallway without hearing 'homo' or 'gay' or 'faggot'. Mostly these slurs are used as superficial insults toward other straight students, but it very clearly reflects the fact that there is a much bigger issue.

"Your guest is claiming these things in order to keep LGBT alliances out of Catholic schools. But this begs a question: Why is this province, the government, still funding the Catholic school system? This is not an institution I stand behind and certainly not one I want to help pay for."

Jim Peers writes from Vancouver: "As I was listening to the interview with Cardinal Collins this morning, I have to confess my mind wandered. Initially, I ruminated on what change, if any, the rest of the world can discern in the Catholic church as a result of Vatican II. It still seems staunchly conservative in its policies, particularly around reproductive rights, the role of women in the church and celibacy of the priesthood.

"It won't happen in my lifetime, but as sure as we as a species turned our backs on Zeus and Apollo, the human race will turn its back on the gods of today. May it not find others to place in their stead."

baba200.jpg"I want in."  That's a line from one of many letters to our mailbox, responding to our documentary Baba Yagas House. It's about a group of feisty, French feminists who decided they wanted no part of living in a seniors' home.  Instead, they convinced their local government to finance a residence where they live in separate apartments, in a building where they can be together and support each other.

It was Sylvia Buttner-Schnirer who wrote from Qualicum Beach, British Columbia to say, "I want in."  She added, "I have been dreaming of such a place for the past few years."  Like many other women who wrote to us, she wants to get in touch with the founder of Baba Yaga's House, Thérèse Clerc.

Doris Shields of Ancaster, Ontario wrote this: "I had discussed the idea of this type of housing with a few single (divorced, widowed, unmarried) women a few years ago. I think it is an excellent idea! 

"After volunteering at a seniors' home for some time, I realized that this is not where I wished myself or anyone around me to end up. The food smelled like the diaper disposal and people had to live without their pets, no matter whether they were capable of caring for them. Choices in anything were few and far between.

"Men from my era grew up with Mom at home. When the feminist movement had a resurgence in the '60s, I think it really caught them by surprise. They felt hurt and very indignant, and to this day carry a grudge against feminists and feminist ideas.

"Women and men need a place of their own in which to mature, age and, yes, die, without being told what to do and how to do it by other people."

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