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William Joseph Levada (born June 15, 1936) is an Americanmarker Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He currently serves as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Roman Curia, previously serving as Archbishop of Portland (Oregon) from 1986 to 1995 and Archbishop of San Francisco from 1995 to 2005. Levada was elevated to the cardinalate in 2006.


Early life and clerical formation

William Joseph Levada was born in Long Beach, Californiamarker, to Joseph and Lorraine (née Nunez) Levada, both natives of Concordmarker, Californiamarker. His older sister, Dolores, died on May 21, 2007.

His great-grandparents came from Portugalmarker and Irelandmarker, and immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Areamarker in the 1860s. He grew up in Long Beach and Houston, Texasmarker, attended St. Anthony High Schoolmarker Long Beach and then St. John's Seminary in Camarillomarker, part of the Roman Catholic Archidiocese of Los Angeles.

From 1958 to 1961, Levada studied at the North American College and did his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian Universitymarker in Romemarker. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 20, 1961, by Archbishop Martin John O'Connor, rector of the Pontifical North American College and president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in St. Peter's Basilicamarker.

Priestly ministry

From 1961 until around 1966, Levada worked in parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, including St. Monica's Church in Santa Monicamarker. He also taught high school and worked in college campus ministry.

After this, he returned to Rome and continued his studies at the North American College. He received a doctorate in sacred theology magna cum laude. His 1971 dissertation was written under Francis A. Sullivan, SJ. In the early 1970s, he returned to the United Statesmarker and taught theology at St. John's Seminary School of Theology in Camarillo, Californiamarker. During this time he was also named the first Director of Continuing Education for the Clergy in the archdiocese, and received the title Monsignor.

From 1976 to 1982, Levada was an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vaticanmarker, having been recommended by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. During this time, he taught part-time at the Pontifical Gregorian Universitymarker. At the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Levada served under three popes (Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, and Pope John Paul II), and under two prefects of the CDF (Cardinals Franjo Seper and Joseph Ratzinger).

In 1982, Cardinal Timothy Manning, Archbishop of Los Angeles, named Levada as the Executive Director of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops in Sacramentomarker.

Episcopal ministry

Levada was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and titular bishop of Capreae on 25 March 1983, and was consecrated by Cardinal Manning (with Bishops John J. Ward and Juan Arzube as co-consecrators) in the Cathedral of St. Vibiana on 12 May 1983. In 1984 he was appointed episcopal vicar of Santa Barbara Countymarker. In 1986 he was appointed chancellor and moderator of the archdiocesan curia. Serving under Cardinal Roger Mahony, Levada reorganized the internal structure of the archdiocese.

On July 1, 1986, Levada became the Archbishop of Portland in Oregon. During his tenure in Portlandmarker, Levada helped to revitalize Mount Angelmarker Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon; Levada briefly taught at the seminary as well. Other accomplishments in Portland included reorganizing Catholic Charities, working in outreach to the Hispanic Catholic community, and renovating St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conceptionmarker.

On August 17, 1995, Levada was appointed coadjutor archbishop of San Francisco, and on 27 December of the same year he succeeded John Raphael Quinn as the archbishop.

In November 2000, Levada was appointed one of the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he again served under Cardinal Ratzinger. This was a part-time task which let him remain in California.

Also in 2000, Levada became the Bishop Co-Chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue in the United States. In November 2003, Levada was appointed as Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine. This was a three-year term, but he resigned in 2005 due to his new duties in Rome and was replaced by Arthur J. Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson.

On September 18, 1998, he was principal consecrator at the episcopal ordination of Monsignor John C. Wester as an auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco. On January 30, 2003, he was again principal consecrator of Monsignor Ignatius C. Wang as a second auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco. Bishop Wang, a native of Beijing, is the first Chinese and first Asian Bishop to be ordained for a diocese in the United States.

Some have criticized how Levada dealt with priests who had committed sexual abuse in Portland and in San Francisco. (see sexual abuse scandal in Portland archdiocese)

Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

On May 13, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Levada as his own successor in the post of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

It was commonly speculated that the pope's reasons for choosing Levada may have included the fact that Levada had been a principal editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the fact that the two of them had worked together at the CDF in the past, and the pope's desire to have an American heading the CDF since one of its major roles today is to deal with the fallout from the sexual abuse scandal.

Levada resigned as Archbishop of San Francisco effective August 17, 2005, the tenth anniversary of the announcement of his appointment as coadjutor to San Francisco. One of his last official duties as metropolitan bishop was to serve as principal consecrator of Clarence Richard Silva as the new Bishop of Honolulu, since Honolulu is a suffragan diocese of the San Francisco ecclesiastical province. Levada was replaced in San Francisco as Archbishop by high school classmate George Niederauer.

On February 22, 2006, Benedict XVI announced that Levada was to be elevated to the College of Cardinals, a nomination which was much foreseen, given his Curial position. As a result of his elevation, Cardinal Levada is now eligible to participate in any future papal conclaves that begin before his 80th birthday on June 15, 2016. On the following March 24, Levada was named the Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnicamarker.

In addition to his position as Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Levada is the president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission. Levada's other curial positions include membership in the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued and published on May 29, 2008, in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, a decree signed by Cardinal Levada, as Prefect of the Congregation, on the existing ban on women priests by asserting that women priests and the bishops who ordain them would be excommunicated "latae sententiae".

As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Levada is the principal defender of all the moral and theological doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, sometimes acting as chief prosecutor against members of the Church who have strayed from those values. As the most influential position in the government of the Church apart from the Holy Father himself, Levada is considered the highest ranking American in the institution.

Other Americans heading dicasteries in the Roman Curia and associated institutions include archbishops Raymond Burke, Apostolic Signatura; and James Michael Harvey, Prefect of the Pontifical Household.

Head of the Ecclesia Dei Commission

Cardinal Levada, who was already a member of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the organ of the Holy See charged with seeking the reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X and similar groups with Rome and regulating celebration of the Sacraments according to the 1962 texts in Latin, was appointed its President on 8 July 2009, in accordance with Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Ecclesiae Unitatem, which makes the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ex officio head of the Ecclesia Dei Commission. However, the Commission has its own staff, consisting of a Secretary and officials.

Reception of Traditional Anglicans

On 20 October 2009, Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Joseph DiNoia held a press conference in which they announced that Pope Benedict was preparing to release an as yet unnamed apostolic constitution that would allow Anglicans, both laity and clergy, to join the Catholic Church and maintain their corporate identity. They stated that "pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy."

The press release envisaged that married Anglican clergy who join the Catholic Church will be ordained to the priesthood, but excluded ordination to the episcopate: "Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop." During the conference, Cardinal Levada compared the new ordinariates to the ordinariate that in many countries exist for the pastoral care of the military forces. The move is to result in an Anglican liturgical rite within the Catholic Church. The personal ordinariates will be established after consultation with the episcopal conferences. It has not beern indicated whether there is to be only one such personal ordinariate in a country, as for military ordinariates, or whether there could be a distinct ordinariate for each of several Anglican groups within a country who join the Catholic Church.

A joint statement on the new protocol from Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminstermarker and the Anglican Communion's head, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, occurred at the same time in London. [376199]

On 31 October 2009, Cardinal Levada responded to speculation that the rule whereby in some Eastern Catholic Churches ordination to the diaconate and priesthood is open to married men as well as to celibates will apply also to the personal ordinariates for former Anglicans. He made it clear that the canonical discipline of the Latin Rite}Western Catholic Church applies to these ordinariates. Objective criteria for circumstances in which a dispensation from celibacy may be requested will be worked out jointly by the personal ordinariate and the episcopal conference.

The apostolic constitution on the personal ordinariates for former Anglicans will contain the following rule:

Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, and who fulfil the requisites established by canon law and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates for Holy Orders in the Catholic Church.
In the case of married ministers, the norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n.
42 and in the Statement "In June" are to be observed.
Unmarried ministers must submit to the norm of clerical celibacy of CIC can.
277, §1.

§2. The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.".[376200]


Cardinal Levada's views naturally reflect the official teachings of the Catholic Church. However, with regard to certain disputed and controversial topics, the following quotes from Levada are pertinent.

Dissident theologians

On Catholics who dissent from Catholic teachings:

Catholic theology does not recognize the right to dissent, if by that we mean adopting conclusions which are contrary to the clear teachings of the authoritative, infallible magisterium and which are presented to the public in such a way as to constitute equivalently an alternative personal magisterium.

Norms of moral law

In his doctoral dissertation of 1970 in which Levada treated the question of the infallibility of specific moral norms of the natural law, he wrote:

"The human process of formulating moral norms is marked by an essential dependence upon the data of human experience....
The variabilities which marked the human process of its discovery and formulation made such particular applications inherently unsuited to be considered for infallible definition....
For such formulations must remain essentially open to modification and reformulation based upon moral values as they are perceived in relation to the data and the experience which mark man's understanding of himself....
Even though there is nothing to prevent a council or a pope from extending [infallibility] to questions of the natural moral law from the point of view of their authority to do so, nevertheless the "prudential" certitude which characterizes the non-scriptural norms of the natural law argues against such an extension....The Church has never in fact made an infallible declaration about a particular norm of the natural moral law."

Life issues

In March 1995, Pope John Paul II, however explicitly confirmed that the Church's teachings against murder (par. 57), abortion (par. 62), and euthanasia (par. 65) were, in fact, specific moral norms which the Church's ordinary and universal Magisterium had protected with infallibility.

Within 68 days, Levada publicly stated, in contrast to the conclusion he reached in 1970, that the Catholic Church's teaching regarding the immorality of directly-willed abortion had been infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium:

The individual politician, like any Catholic, who is at odds with the teaching of the Church about the principle involved, i.e., that abortion constitutes the killing of innocent human life and is always gravely immoral (cf.
Evangelium Vitae, nn.
57-62), has an obligation to reflect more deeply on the issue, in the hope of allowing the persuasive character of this infallibly taught teaching to become part of his belief and value system.
I say infallibly taught not because Pope John Paul II has assumed in Evangelium Vitae the special prerogative recognized for individual papal teachings in the First Vatican Council, but rather because he has called attention explicitly to the fact that Catholic teaching on abortion has been an infallible doctrine of the Church by virtue of the universal ordinary Magisterium, recognized for the teachings of the Pope and worldwide college of bishops together by the Second Vatican Council.

Some argue that the two statements indicate a change in Levada's views, suggesting that he altered his views to conform to the Pope's statement.

In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul was writing about a specific principle of natural law, found in Scripture, and declaring that the principle is protected by infallibility. Since the passage in Levada's dissertation refers to principles of natural law that are not found in Scripture, there is really no conflict between the two viewpoints.

Inclusive language

In 1987, Levada and six other bishops were chosen by Cardinal Ratzinger to edit the forthcoming Catechism of the Catholic Church. When the Catechism was completed in 1993, the first English translation was very loose and used a great deal of inclusive language. Along with Archbishop Eric D'Arcy of Hobart, Australiamarker and Fr. John Wall, Levada insisted that this be replaced with a more literal translation, and it was a new and more literal translation that was published in English in 1994. Levada also authored the glossary for the second edition of the Catechism.

Interfaith dialogue with Jews

According to rabbi David Rosen, Cardinal Levada made it clear that there was intrinsic value in conducting interfaith dialogue with Jews even without any ulterior motives of proselytizing. He also made a clear distinction between "witnessing," or sharing the New Testament, and proselytizing, which was wrong.

Catholic politicians

A Catholic, to be in full communion with the faith of the Church, must accept this teaching about the evil of abortion and euthanasia.
This reflects the Church's official teaching on the matter.


If both Islam and Christianity view themselves as universal and missionary, it does not mean an impasse but an opportunity to search further into the mystery of that faith to see how it resonates and relates to the other's faith.

Tridentine Mass

Some Traditionalist Catholics complained about Levada's refusal to allow Tridentine Masses to be celebrated publicly in his Archdiocese, saying that this was against Pope Benedict's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.


On slavery: "There is a long tradition in the Church of accepting the institution of slavery, but in the light of the repeated teachings of modern popes and the Second Vatican Council on the dignity of the human person, Church teaching has evolved from acceptance of slavery as part of the human condition to its eventual condemnation."


Concerning the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he has said that if corrections took place by peers, if there were a functioning process of serious review and assessment in light of Catholic doctrine by theologians competent to evaluate the work of one of their own, there would be much less work for members of the Congregation.

Homosexual activity

Addressing the issue of homosexual activity, Levada led a march of approximately 1,000 people through the streets of San Francisco in April 2005 to protest gay marriage. For his denunciation of same-sex marriage, Levada has been criticized by LGBT associations. He wrote in 2004:

Heterosexual marriage, procreation and the nurturing of children form the bedrock of the family, and the family unit lies at the heart of every society.
To extend the meaning of marriage beyond a union of a man and a woman, their procreative capacity, and their establishment of family represents a misguided understanding of marriage.

Gay adoption

In 1997, the City of San Francisco passed a law that all companies must provide the same benefits for domestic partners as for their spouses. Levada objected that this violated Catholic teaching on the unique status of marriage, but the city would not budge. Levada's solution was seen as a compromise in some circles and a strategic move in others: He ruled that unmarried employees of the archdiocese could designate any person sharing the same address as their beneficiary. This complied with the statute while avoiding a privileged status for unmarried domestic partnerships.

Gay ministries

Levada also allowed a predominantly gay and lesbian parish in the Castromarker district, Most Holy Redeemer Church to remain active in the Archdiocese.

Protestant ecclesial communities

On Protestant ecclesial communities: "According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense"Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the church;<=EN#TESTO%20IN%20LINGUA%20INGLESE<></=EN#TESTO%20IN%20LINGUA%20INGLESE<>ref>

Episcopal Succession

See also



  1. San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 2003, online here.
  2. "Levada, Card. William Joseph", College of Cardinals Biographical Notes, Holy See Press Office, url accessed March 18, 2007
  3. Vatican says will excommunicate women priests from Reuters
  4. Vatican sends threat over women priests From CNN
  5. Pope Restructures "Ecclesia Dei"
  6. Ecclesiæ Unitatem, no. 6 a
  7. Ecclesiæ Unitatem, no. 6 b
  8. Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans Entering the Catholic Church
  9. "Dissent and the Catholic Religion Teacher", Speech to National Catholic Educational Association, April 2, 1986. Printed in Origins, v. 16 (1986), pp. 195-200. Reprinted in Readings in Moral Theology No. 6: Dissent in the Church, ed. by Charles Curran and Richard McCormick, Paulist Press, 1988, pp. 133-151, ISBN 0-8091-2930-2.
  10. (Doctoral dissertation, "Lex Naturae et Magisterium Ecclesiae," Pontifical Gregorian University Doctoral Thesis No. 4276/1968, July 18, 1968, Vol. II, p. 617. This thesis was only partially published in English in 1971.)
  11. From The Catholic Sentinel, 6/2/1995.
  12. Vatican stays out of 'mission' conflict
  13. San Francisco Faith, March 1999, online here.

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