May 14, 2005

For Levada, an honor and a challenge

San Francisco Chronicle

Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI's appointment of San Francisco Archbishop William Levada to one of the most powerful posts at the Vatican signals a new era in the sometimes rocky relationship between Rome and the American church.

Levada, 68, was named Friday as the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, making him the pope's top arbiter on questions of faith and morals. He becomes the highest-ranking American in church history. ...

The appointment also puts Levada in charge of disciplinary cases involving priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

Levada's toughest critics have been the leaders of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, along with a group of lawyers who have deluged the California church with some 150 lawsuits seeking damage for sexual abuse claims.

On May 4, when rumors of Levada's appointment first surfaced in The Chronicle, the survivor's network issued a press release charging that the San Francisco prelate "has proven time and again that his loyalties are to secrecy, to protecting priests instead of children, and evading justice.''

"He is no way fit for this important responsibility,'' it said.

Levada has vigorously defended his oversight of accused pedophile priests in Portland and San Francisco.

Thus far, five jury trial cases have been decided in San Francisco with approximately $6.5 million awarded, says Larry Drivon, an attorney who is representing many clergy abuse victims.

Posted by kshaw at May 14, 2005 08:01 AM