|Apr. 6, 2003. 10:28 PM
Cardinal Carter dead at 91
Former Toronto archbishop's influence reached beyond Church
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter,
the Montreal Irish Catholic typesetter's son who became a prince of the
Roman Catholic Church and spiritual leader of Canada's largest English-speaking
diocese, has died.
In and out of hospital in
recent weeks, Cardinal Carter died today. Catholics had been asked recently
to include him in their prayers. He turned 91 on March 1.
"He was, first and foremost,
a man of the Church. All that he accomplished, and he accomplished much,
was in the service of God and of his Church," said Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic,
the Archbishop of Toronto.
"He was a priest, a pastor,
a bishop, a Father of the Second Vatican Council. He spoke the word of
God and acted on it with wisdom, with perspicacity, with regard for the
gifts of others, and with visionary decisiveness, meeting the vast variety
of needs in the Church."
A funeral mass will be celebrated
on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Michael's Cathedral at Bond and Shuter
Carter was a Bishop over
the course of forty years, and a priest for nearly sixty-six.
"Cardinal Carter was part
of the dying breed that represented the intellectual contributions Irish
Canadians made to the church and this country in the later half of the
20th Century," said his biographer Douglas Letson. "He was well educated,
articulate and very thoughtful. His type is much needed and sorely missed."
Cardinal Carter was installed
as archbishop of the Toronto diocese in 1978 and was created a cardinal
by Pope John Paul II a year later. He retired as Toronto archbishop on
St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1990.
In 1981, Cardinal Carter,
a keen tennis player, swimmer and skier, suffered a haemorrhage of a blood
vessel in the brain, which left his left leg and arm almost paralysed.
He fought back, and although he was never the same again physically, he
was able to carry the responsibilities of running the diocese until his
"He had been a very energetic
guy and the stroke was very hard on him because it limited his mobility.
But it made him much more reflective and pastoral," said Letson, co-author
of a 1990 biography of Carter, My Father's Business.
Carter mused on old age and
lamented the loss of physical prowess in a poem in an introduction to the
book. "But I grow old and do not comprehend/How youth and strength can
fail so soon/ No more the swish of the snow on skis, the whistle of the
wind, the steep descent/ The thrill of swing and turn and check/ No more,
the dominance of muscle and eye/ O'er motion and reflex, o'er competing
skill/We die so slowly, friends we do not see/The silent approach, the
thief in the
night/Who takes from us
what we cherish most..."
Observers of Pope John Paul
II's arrival in Toronto last summer recall the touching encounter between
the two aged churchmen, who had been so active in the prime.
"The Holy Father was seated
and so was Cardinal Carter and they were looking at one another eye to
eye. You could see them, brother to brother, so intense in their conversation,"
said Sister Margaret Myatt, General Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph
of Toronto. "The Holy Father blessed the Cardinal and they grasped each
other's hands, you could see two people who respected and loved each other.
When the Cardinal was moved away in his chair, you see he was very emotional,
and you could see the Holy Father watching him as the wheelchair was moving
Educator, author, high profile
churchman, papal advisor, and a father of the historic Second Vatican Council
of the 1960s, Cardinal Carter also moved comfortably in political and business
circles claiming friends among the province's power brokers.
A gala dinner at the Metro
Toronto Convention Centre in May 1987, marking his 75th birthday, his 50th
anniversary as a priest, and his 25th anniversary as a bishop, showed just
how far the cardinal's sphere of influence extended. The dinner was attended
by some 3,000 people and the 120-member head table read like a who's who
of church, politics and business.
"He was wildly criticized
for associating with the social elite — but he did," said biographer Letson,
adding that Carter was instrumental in converting financier Conrad Black
"Cardinal Carter was extremely
bright and attracted intelligent people. He had taken Toronto Catholicism
from a semi-invisible position, to a position of some authority and respect.
It wasn't merely a matter of an accident of time, but of his personality.
Influential people like to be around influential people."
Cardinal Carter's thinking
could be seen in the documents of Vatican II dealing with human dignity
and education — he may not have authored the documents, but they reflected
the themes that had intellectually engaged him.
He was critical of religious
education that had traditionally been based on rote learning and memorization.
"If people didn't grasp things intellectually, they didn't grasp them at
all," Letson said.
Cardinal Carter's career
bridged the pre- and post-Vatican Council church and he said that being
a bishop during the council and the years after was one of the great privileges
of his life. They were often turbulent years for the church as it struggled
to adapt to the reforms ushered in by the council. Cardinal Carter called
the years exhilarating, exciting and rewarding.
"We have lived in troubled
times and there's no fun in sailing when there is no wind and God knows
we had wind enough," he said at his triple anniversary dinner. "We all
know that in sailing we have to put our weight against the wind. I have
tried to do that in the leadership required of me in the church. That is
why I have been variously described at some moments of being progressive
or liberal, at other times conservative and reactionary."
Suzanne Scorsone, spokesperson
for the Toronto archdiocese, recalled him saying: "If the wind is blowing
heavily from the right, I lean a bit to the left; if it is blowing heavily
from the left, I lean a bit to the right. That way I can try to walk forward
with a reasonable and steady balance."
She added, "He took what
was essential in the teaching of the church and made is understandable
in the context of here and now without sacrificing an iota of content."
Cardinal Carter hired Scorsone
to head the archdiocese office of family life — the first married woman
in North America to hold that position, she said. "The people who worked
for him adore him."
An outspoken man with strong
opinions, Cardinal Carter came in for his share of criticism from both
the church's conservative and liberal wings. Conservatives chastised him
because of what they perceived to be his less than enthusiastic support
for Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul V1's 1968 encyclical that reaffirmed the church's
opposition to artificial birth control.
He had been influenced by
the ideas of Cardinal John Henry Newman on freedom of conscience, independent
thought and the intellectual life. In the Canadian response to Humanae
Vitae, Cardinal Carter wrote that Catholics were responsible for understanding
the teachings of the church, but if they found they couldn't follow those
teachings to the letter, they were obliged to follow their conscience.
Cardinal Carter was also
targeted by the Catholic pro-life movement for not taking a more active
role in the anti-abortion fight. Supporters of women's ordination took
him to task for his strong endorsement of the church's stand against women
"If you were a woman, liberal
and active, you would probably find his position on women very traditional
and somewhat frustrating," said Letson.
But he was also responsible
for opening the Toronto archdiocese to lay men and women employees and
improving salaries and benefits for working parents, holding jobs previously
held by clergy and religious. He saw the 21st Century as the century of
the laity, Letson said.
Social activists faulted
him for an alleged lack of support of social justice issues. But during
his 12 years as head of the Toronto archdiocese, Cardinal Carter was praised
for helping to improve race-relations, for his collaboration with the provincial
government in creating a housing program for the homeless, and for his
support of the educational rights of Catholics. More than anything else,
Cardinal Carter will probably be remembered best as the man who helped
bring about the fulfilment of the Ontario government's promise to provide
full funding to Catholic high schools.
"He was constructively persistent
in his pursuit of that objective," said former Ontario Premier Bill Davis.
"In spite of what some have written, he was never threatening. But there's
no question, he provided a great deal of leadership."
Davis said Cardinal Carter's
contributions went beyond the Catholic community. "He had a truly ecumenical
point of view. He had a great mind; he was a very sensitive person and
was fun to be with. He was always stimulating."
"He'll be missed not only
by members of his own faith, but many others in the province and the country
for his contributions that went beyond his own faith."
Toronto's Anglican Archbishop
Terrence Finlay recalled Cardinal Carter's broad grasp of Canadian history
and his intellectual engagement in conversation. "I have lost a good friend,"
Cardinal Carter was the youngest
of eight born to devout, Irish Catholics of modest means in Montreal's
east end. His brother Alexander
- who died last year at age 93 - also entered the priesthood and became
a bishop and two of his sisters became nuns. His typesetter father, a strong
union man, was fired from his job for trying to organize a union at the
Montreal Daily Star.
Following his ordination
to the priesthood in 1937, Cardinal Carter was appointed ecclesiastical
inspector of Montreal's English-language Catholic schools. The appointment
was the start of a long and distinguished educational career.
In 1946 he was co-founder
and first president of the Thomas More Institute
for Adult Education in Montreal. In 1955 he founded St.
Joseph's Teachers College, Montreal for English- speaking Catholics
in Quebec. In those years he wrote a book, Psychology and the Cross,
which was considered groundbreaking in its efforts to reconcile Catholic
teaching with the psychology of Freud.
In 1961 he was named auxiliary
Bishop of London. Three years later he was named eighth bishop of the London
diocese. On June 5, 1978, he was installed as Archbishop of Toronto following
the resignation of Bishop Philip Pocock.
As a bishop, Cardinal Carter
represented Canada at two Synods of bishops and was elected a member of
the permanent Synod of Bishops in Rome. He served as president of the International
Committee for English in the Liturgy, president of the Canadian bishops'
liturgy commission, and encouraged the publication of the new Sunday Mass
Book for Canada. In 1981 he was appointed to serve on a cardinals' committee
studying the Vatican's financial situation.
Cardinal Carter's doctoral
degree was in education and after his retirement received many honorary
degrees. In 1983 he was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada.
With files from Leslie Scrivener and Canadian