Saturday, March 27, 2010

The only Doctor of Theology in Canada Teaching in Full Freedom

A Brief History of Me

Because I recently devoted a post to a "day in my life," and now I have entitled this section, "A Brief History of Me," you may be thinking I am the most egotistical person ever.

I am one of them, but not 'the most.'

Rather, I wanted to expand upon what I was writing the other day about hope.

See, where I've been adds meaning to what I'm doing now. This is how I see myself in terms of my contribution to the Church in this country. I'm a Catholic theologian. I'm not the smartest one, nor the holiest one. I am one of the youngest PhDs in Catholic Theology in this country, one of the most orthodox, one of the most uncompromising, and, it seems to me, the only one who is able to teach the whole Catholic Faith without compromise. If you knew me, you would know that, although I am uncompromising, etc., I am not hard to get along with, I am not reactionary, I am rather good-natured - a soft and obliging fellow (for someone who isn't compromising). Let me put it this way: I will disagree with you till the cows come home, but I'd be surprised if you could leave my presence afterwards not feeling that I like you anyway. Thus, because of who I am and where I am (at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom - an actually faithful Catholic College) I can do something that very few teachers can do in this country: present the Catholic Faith, fully and intelligently.

I can do this 1) because I know it, 2) because I love it, 3) because my school permits it - indeed, insists - that I do so.

Now, where have I been?

I was baptized, confirmed, and received the Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil, 1992, in St. Thomas More Church, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. I'll explain how I came to make that decision in some future post. It was a few months later that I realized that alot of people inside the Church do not believe what the Church teaches - you know, the very teaching I had loved and accepted when I decided to become Catholic. These people, I learned, were called 'liberals.' So, I can say of myself what Newman said in his famous "Biglietto Speech" when he accepted the Cardinal's hat from Leo XIII, "For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion." For me, it has now been 17 years.

When I became Catholic I thought that the struggle would be that between the spirit and the flesh, and not between truth and error. Of course, error comes from the flesh, but it wasn't what I expected anyway: Catholics who were not Catholic posing as Catholics. Why, in this age when no one is forced into a religious adherence? I couldn't understand it.

Things were taken up a very serious notch when I went to the seminary. All my orthodox friends were persecuted systematically. I made it to the end of the year when I was asked to take a year off. I never went back. I needed a year off because of my belief in objective truth.

Later, I endured a heterodox climate for a decade while doing graduate studies at St. Michael's College and the Toronto School of Theology.

Toward the end of that time I taught a course at the Atlantic School of Theology when I was raked over the coals, and positively not hired back, for teaching the Catholic Faith in an anti-Catholic (i.e. ecumenical) setting. I sat in a room for an hour being tongue-lashed by the president and the dean of that school for not being 'accepting' or some such nonsense. It's the same old story: they could not accept my failure to accept. Imagine being required to apologize for being Catholic at a school supposedly ecumenical, one of whose founding bodies was Catholic!

By that point I had come to the conclusion that either my years of advanced theological study were in vain - because I would never be able to teach it, or I would have to go to the U.S. and teach. Having accumulated a student loan of $100,000 before I had made this realization made it a very bitter one, indeed.

For as much as I prefered the American political and ecclesiastical setting to the Canadian, I did not want to leave the country. I am too much of a xenophobe. Just as I started the very burdensome task of sending out resumes and getting a passport, a friend mentioned Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy. I had never heard of it. Amidst all the set-backs that I had had by that point, I expected very little from any Canadian Catholic thing. In the previous year I had watched the failure of a project that I was overseeing - trying to establish a Catholic school in Dartmouth - which failed because of the widespread apathy of people and priests. I had likewise been abandoned by a priest as I attempted to bring real Catholic education and morals to the parish where I was working.

It seemed to me that everywhere "being Catholic" was something people talked about, but that's it.

Now, having directed all my professional training with the assumption that people wanted to promote the Faith, I had absolutely nothing else to fall back upon.

I knew God wanted all of this for me, it just seemed very improbable that anything good could come of it. Not only had Anne-Marie and I amassed a massive debt, we had worn ourselves out by living in poverty for nearly a decade. If you have ever known periods of lean, I hope you have not known this length of time with the emotional toll that never knowing how you are going to pay the bills brings, of going from one apartment to another with your three children, who have to play in parking lots, whom you have to drive to parks so that they can play safely. I'll never forget the day we brought Rebecca home from the hospital. Isaiah was so excited about his new baby sister and was running up and down the hallway. The neighbour from the floor below came up to chew us out about the noise he was making.

Only a father can know the indignity of a thirty-year-old who cannot financially support his family, as it seems increasingly likely that his dream of becoming a professor was unrealistic. But these trials have made Anne-Marie and I better people. We appreciate every cent that comes our way, and the gifts of health and friends we have made. We appreciate the warm Catholic community in Barry's Bay, and especially OLSWA - the place were I can teach what I believe and make a day's wage.

The Problem

All of this, of course, is being said for a reason. You know of the hard times that OLSWA is having right now - that the staff and faculty are on wage cut-backs. I have lost 1/3 of my salary since January. Our president, Keith Cassidy, is getting things back on track, and it looks like he is saving us from summer lay-offs, not only because of these cut-backs, but also because of the great generosity of our benefactors.

There is another problem, though. We might have to cut out some of our program next year to have a balanced budget. This means a few things. It targets the theology department most of all, since we have been offering the richest program there. I may lose my job. That would mean that the only Doctor of Theology in Canada teaching in full freedom would lose his job. Is there not a great deal of symbolism in this? What does it mean when Canada cannot even support one?

The loss of a PhD. to OLSWA would be almost irreparable. Without PhDs there is no College. In this province students must spend at least 50% of their classroom time with instructors with PhDs. It's just the way things are.


  1. Colin, are you being at all hyperbolic? Why your job? Why a family man? I will pray and solicit more donations.

  2. There are no 'whys' in this crazy mixed-up world. And I would never be hyperbolic - I don't even teach geometry.

    No, but seriously, it's a real possibility. Yes, pray and solicit, pray and solicit. The only thing that will prevent big slashing to the program - a program that needs to be developed not truncated - will be donations!

  3. I am going to do everything I can to prevent something that would otherwise be a grave tragedy.

  4. Hi Colin,
    May be you teach theology to seminary in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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