Press-Telegram (Long Beach, California)
Posted: 01/01/2012 10:16:57 PM PST
Updated: 01/01/2012 10:18:10 PM PST
By Greg Mellen Staff Writer
LONG BEACH — Cardinal William Levada makes one of his periodic homecomings from the Vatican this week. But this time there will be a special added attraction.
Levada, who usually hangs low with family and friends during his trips, will be recognized at a rare public event.
“He usually likes to take it easy,” said George Murchison, a classmate of Levada in high school and organizer of the upcoming event. “He’s truly looking to get away. He has family in Long Beach.”
Levada, a graduate of St. Anthony High who has risen to become the highest ranking American in the Vatican, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest.
On Tuesday, Levada will join a celebration to help in the effort to endow a $1.8 million William J. Levada Chair in Systematic Theology at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. Levada attended the seminary after graduation from St. Anthony.
Levada was ordained to the priesthood Dec. 20, 1961, by Archbishop Martin John O’Connor. Since then Levada has consistently risen through the ranks of the Roman Curia, or central governing body of the church.
In December, Levada celebrated the anniversary in the Vatican at St. Peter’s Basilica, where he repeated his priestly vows.
Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was elevated to his current position in 2005 when he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI. He was named to the College of Cardinals in 2006.
When the pope was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he worked with Levada in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Levada, who first joined the CDF in 1976, was the principal editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which are the official teachings of the church.
Prior to moving to Rome, Levada had been the Archbishop of San Francisco and Portland, Ore.
One of Levada’s main duties is to adjudicate sex abuse cases against priests in the Catholic Church. Levada has been criticized and praised for his handling of sex scandals over the years.
He was one of the early church leaders to set up independent committees to examine abuse cases and require more accountability and rigorous standards for church leaders. At the Vatican, he has discussed the need for bishops to collaborate with civil authorities in reporting abuse.
Levada has also said the zero-tolerance approach that has been in place in the U.S. since 2002 for clerics could become a model for bishops internationally.
However, he also has been criticized, particularly between 1988 and 1998 in a couple of high-profile cases during his tenures in Portland and San Francisco, for giving accused priests the benefit of the doubt and allowing them to remain in the ministry.
The Associated Press reported that “over a 20-year period reviewed by The Associated Press, Levada allowed molesters to remain in the priesthood, didn’t respond to pleas to notify parishioners of an abusive priest and worked with an alleged abuser to establish a lay review board.”
Supporters of Levada note that policy and understanding have changed considerably since that era when not only the church, but also justice and medical experts believed sex offenders and pedophiles could be rehabilitated and treated cases more leniently.
They also note that Levada in many ways has been at the forefront of the new, tougher reforms.
At Tuesday’s celebration, Levada will be introduced by his best friend and St. Anthony classmate George Niederauer. Maybe the second most renowned member of the St. Anthony Class of 1954, Niederauer succeeded Levada as the Archbishop of San Francisco.
Tuesday’s celebration is from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Michael’s on Naples Ristorante, 5620 E. Second St. A $125 donation is requested.