I am delighted Collins will be playing this role. Though I do not know him that well, he has always been accessible to me as a journalist, generous with his time, kind and forthright. He is also a man of deep faith and joy, staunchly pro-life and unafraid to get out and mix it up in the public square, whether on a talk radio station or in a firm, but timely statement.
When a notorious abortionist was awarded Canada's highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada, Collins had a firm but blistering statement out within hours. Seeing as it was a holiday, it was all the more unusual!
He is also extremely pastoral as well as deeply devout. He rides the Toronto subway to work. He has no airs. Though I think he is shy by nature, he works at being present for people.
I remember several years ago, when he was still Archbishop of Edmonton, he was one of the Canadian bishops who was asked to make a presentation at the upcoming Synod on the Eucharist.
All bishops going to the Synod presented their five minute talk to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) plenary. Now the CCCB plenary usually strikes me as a rather bureaucratic, administrative affair. The sessions are set up business conference style in a big gymnasium, with rows of tables decked in hotel-bunting, thick binders, microphones — ZZZZZ, I know. Not an environment where one expects goosebumps from any spiritual source, only from overactive air-conditioning. (Though I have had the good kind of goosebumps over the years).
Well, Collins got up and gave his five minute talk on the Eucharist and his face lit up with joy as he presented. It was like a mini-Transfiguration. His face was radiant. Beautiful. After seeing that, I had a deep hunch he would get the nod for Toronto when Cardinal Ambrozic retired, and I was right.
As bishop of Canada's most populous diocese, he is an ex officio member of the CCCB's Permanent Council, the body that makes decisions in between the yearly plenary sessions. Collins said the Permanent Council named him to this role.
He said his first task is to meet with various groups of Anglicans wishing to join an Ordinariate. Then he would make a presentation to the CCCB's plenary, which will be held in late October. He's been in touch with Cardinal Levada as well as Bishop Peter Elliott in Australia, who has long been liaison there. He said Westminster Auxiliary Bishop Alan Hopes is the liaison for the United Kingdom.
As we spoke, I began to wonder if he saw the CCCB driving the process of the Ordinariate. When I asked him about this, he said the CDF was driving the process, but one of the crucial steps was to begin working together as the Ordinary will be a member of the bishops' conference.
He has written Anglican Catholic Church of Canada Bishop Peter Wilkinson, who told me that he welcomes the appointment and hopes to meet with Collins as soon as possible.
Collins noted the TAC was not the only group in Canada. We have no Forward in Faith, however, though we're already hearing from Anglicans who might consider jumping ship so he probably is, too. There is a relatively new breakaway group called The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) that is composed of mostly evangelical and charismatic Anglicans, folks I have a lot of sympathy with and for, but who would not want to be under the Pope's juridical authority and perhaps see the Eucharist as more of a table than an altar.
So, in Canada, we enter a new phase. I get a sense though things may move more slowly than many of us in the TAC might hope for. There are many, many things that remain to be worked out.