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The Vision of the Doctrinal Congregation's New Prefect

11/7/2005 - 6:30 AM PST

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Vatican Radio Interviews Archbishop William Levada

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 7, 2005 (Zenit) - What's on the mind of the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

Vatican Radio found out Oct. 31 when it interviewed Archbishop William Levada, 69. Here is an adapted text of that interview.

Q: What is it like to be prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after having worked there for 20 years?

Archbishop Levada: It is a big change for someone who was a working official in the doctrinal section and who comes back as the prefect.

I was unaware of all of the duties of the prefect and was happy to have someone else be prefect and take charge of the responsibilities for them -- but to come back as prefect!

It certainly has helped me to have the knowledge, you might say, as an insider having worked there and having a feel for what the officials do, how they go about their tasks, how to include them in what are some of the results of their tasks.

Q: You did work in the Vatican as a curial official. You were the archbishop of a rather large diocese in California. You were also the head of the California Catholic Conference, which often deals with legislative and political matters in the state. These are three very different fields and aspects of work. How have they helped you to prepare for this new position?

Archbishop Levada: I suppose if you are paying attention to what you are doing and are engaged in it, which I can say I was, all of the principal works I have done as a priest over these past 43 years working in a parish, teaching in high schools, six years teaching in a seminary -- was wonderful theological work.

I just did that prior to coming back here to serve as an official, as you mentioned, working in the California Catholic Conference, getting a feel for the work of state government in all of the various questions and issues that intersect with the teachings and moral values of the Church. [There was also] my work as the archbishop of Portland [Oregon], before going over to San Francisco. For the past 10 years, I was the archbishop of the second oldest archdiocese in the U.S.

Although they are neighboring states, they are quite different in their culture. The Northwest has had typically independent-minded citizenry and has had a low percentage of Catholics, in fact a lower percentage than any other faith. It is called the most un-churched state in the U.S. That was a new experience for me. In fact I learned a lot from it.

So I think I can bring from all these experiences, particularly from the last 10 years as archbishop of a major metropolitan center of commerce and media in the U.S. as San Francisco is. I can bring a sense of the complex pastoral realities that a bishop faces.

Q: You are the first American in this office. Many people were surprised that an American was appointed to the head of CDF. Do you think there is any significance in this?

Archbishop Levada: My read on it was that the Pope wanted someone quickly in this office as his successor; after all, he was surprised to be elected to the papacy.

He knew that if this congregation were left headless for a long period of time, the work would not go forward effectively. They would also be waiting for the appointment of a new prefect and so forth. I think he wanted to find someone quickly.

He found me because I was a member of the congregation, I had worked there before. I think he felt that experience was something that counted a lot for him.

Basically that's what he said when he told me I was going to be his successor. I gasped. I told him that I was not the person for the position. He told me I was. He gave his reasons.

[] The congregation has responsibility for a new area of disciplinary matters, which the "motu propio" of John Paul II "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela" has placed in the congregation. The responsibility for dealing with issues of sexual abuse of minors by priests, by clergy, given my experience of that, the explosion of that in the American scene over the past few years, my experience with that as both a local bishop and as a member of the mixed commission that was sent over by our conference to iron out some differences in our approach with the Vatican -- those things may have said to him that it wouldn't be bad to have someone also who has this experience. That's my read of it anyway.

Q: The norms that were decided a couple of years ago in Dallas have been renewed. Are they working?

Archbishop Levada: I would say yes, very much so. It is multi-pronged: One part is to deal with those priests who have been shown to be guilty of abusing minors, whether recently or even in the distant past.

The other is about issues such as the education of our communities, how to be ...

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