Meet the Vatican's new doctrinal dawg

Now Archbishop Levada will be the new watchdog over doctrine: prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His predecessor was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who earned the nickname “God’s Rottweiler.”

But as Archbishop Levada joked in his news conference in San Francisco on Friday, he expects to be “more a cocker spaniel than a Rottweiler” — a description he apparently rued immediately, saying, “No, no, don’t print that.”
— “A Theological Hard-Liner With a Moderate Streak,” The New York Times.

An excellent bird and small-game hunter, great companion, good with children and all around friendly, lively guy.
— Description of the American cocker spaniel at TerrificPets.com.

American newspapers haven’t found quite how to classify William Levada, the Archbishop of San Francisco and Pope Benedict’s successor at the dreaded Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Because he has defended the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality, he’s called a conservative by the Los Angeles Times and The Dallas Morning News (and, as its headline indicates, a “hard-liner with a moderate streak” by The New York Times).

Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin of The Dallas Morning News dig deeper than either the Los Angeles Times or New York Times on Levada’s record regarding charges of sexual abuse by priests:

The congregation also decides the fate of priests accused of child molestation. Archbishop Levada has come under intense criticism in recent years for his handling of such cases in San Francisco.

Last fall, for example, the founding chairman of the archdiocesan panel that reviews abuse cases quit and denounced Archbishop Levada. Dr. James Jenkins, a psychologist, accused him of “deception, manipulation and control” of the panel.

Maurice Healy, the archbishop’s spokesman, said Friday that “Dr. Jenkins is flat-out wrong” and is “thrilled to throw calumny on others.”

. . . Frank Keating, the former Oklahoma governor whom U.S. bishops initially appointed to evaluate their implementation of reforms, said his experience with Archbishop Levada was largely positive.

He said that while the prelate may have made mistakes in the past, “he was very committed to the agenda of Dallas [the 2002 meeting] . . . fully committed to transparency, criminal referrals and zero tolerance.”

Mr. Keating resigned as head of the bishops’ national review board in 2003, likening some diocesan leaders to Mafia members because of their continuing secretiveness. He said he had not kept up closely with events in San Francisco since then, but had “real concern” about Dr. Jenkins’ reported experience on the review board there.

Dr. Jenkins said Friday that he couldn’t abide by the archbishop’s refusal to publicly identify all clergy who had been credibly accused. Dr. Jenkins said that naming them helps people take precautions when dealing with the men in the future and encourages other victims to get help.

Archbishop Levada also didn’t follow several of the board’s recommendations, Dr. Jenkins said.

“The review board needs to be more than an elaborate public relations scheme,” he said. He said he resigned because “my integrity was at risk.”

An SF Weekly story from May 2003 offers nearly 7,400 words, mostly discouraging, about Levada’s handling of various sexual-abuse allegations.

And Lee Penn has written for The Christian Challenge magazine about Levada’s informal support for the United Religions Initiative, a project conceived by Bishop William Swing of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of California.

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  • francis

    A mere technical thing:
    three lines are “open-ended” – meaning they go on and on and on until the paragraph is through, all in one line – at least on my browser:

    Mr. Keating resigned …
    Dr. Jenkins said Friday …
    “The review board needs …

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

    Many thanks for pointing this out, Francis, because it was a problem for everyone — but one I somehow had missed earlier. I use a “no break” code to keep ellipses together, but I had one too many of those in this post.

  • http://mysite.verizon.net/res8xw4k/ John Rigali

    Since when is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “dreaded”? It should always be welcomed!

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

    Dear Mr. Rigali,

    I used the word dreaded with irony. Look back over the Catholicism threads on this blog, and you’ll see that all three editors write from perspectives that favor creedal orthodoxy.


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