- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2005

The Vatican announced yesterday that San Francisco Archbishop William J. Levada is the new head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the policy-enforcing arm of the papacy that Pope Benedict XVI headed for 24 years.

It also said the process for making Pope John Paul II a saint would be speeded up by waiving the normal waiting period of five years after the candidate’s death. The document authorizing the first step in that process, known as beatification, was signed Monday.

The selection of Archbishop Levada, 68, to head the CDF is the first significant appointment to be made by the new pope.

“Pope Benedict XVI has chosen one of the most outstanding bishops in the United States to serve as his close collaborator,” said Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, adding the archbishop is “an eminent theologian and as a shepherd of keen pastoral sensitivity.”

Archbishop Levada’s selection places Americans in two of the top three positions in the Vatican’s chief doctrinal arm. The third-ranking CDF cleric is the undersecretary, the Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, who taught for years at the Dominican House of Studies in the District before recently moving to Rome.

“The pope is picking his own man,” said Wade Hughan, a San Francisco accountant and a retired member of the board of regents of the Cathedral of St. Mary in San Francisco. “This position is something [the former Cardinal Joseph] Ratzinger is passionately interested in.

“He’s picked someone who is comfortable in dealing in nuanced situations, who has first-hand experience in dealing with the American church and who is very Roman, too.”

Archbishop Levada was on staff for the CDF from 1976 to 1982. The present pope took over the CDF in 1981.

The Rev. Thomas Weinandy, the executive director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ doctrinal committee, called the archbishop “a very personable and even outgoing person.”

“I’ve grown to admire and trust him immensely,” Father Weinandy said of the archbishop, who has chaired the committee since 2003. “He’s a good listener. When I speak to him, he always wants to make sure I say what I really think, even when I disagree with him.”

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests issued a statement criticizing the choice, calling it “an insensitive and unwise decision.”

“Regarding [sexual] abuse in the San Francisco archdiocese, Levada has been slow to act, harsh to victims and committed to secrecy,” said Dan McNevin, SNAP Bay Area spokesman.

“He has allowed credibly accused priests to remain in ministry even while facing pending civil molestation lawsuits. His lawyer has negotiated deals with local district attorneys that help keep abuse cases quiet.”

Archbishop Levada, who headed the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., for nine years before being assigned to the San Francisco archdiocese in 1995, also has been blamed for doing little to prevent the 2004 bankruptcy of the Portland archdiocese because of priest sex-abuse claims.

Although Archbishop Levada was on the editorial committee for the massive “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” and wrote its glossary, his only published work is a doctoral thesis written 40 years ago. It was on whether the Catholic Church was infallible in matters of morals — such as abortion and euthanasia — as it claims to be in terms of doctrine, such as the Trinity and the sacraments.

“Surprisingly, his answer to that matter was no,” Mr. Hughan said. “He is not the towering intellect Ratzinger was — but who is? He’s also very intellectually honest. He does consult with people and he’s not someone to rush to judgment, which is very important in that office.”

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