Introducing The New Doctrinal Enforcer

by SDG

in The Church

Now that the rumor has been proven accurate that Pope Benedict XVI has tapped Archbishop William J. Levada to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican correspondent John L. Allen Jr. of the <shudder>National Catholic Reporter</shudder> has some helpful analysis on the possible reasons Abp. Levada was offered the job:

"Why Levada?

"First, he has a solid theological background. He wrote his doctoral thesis in theology at Rome’s Gregorian University under the direction of Jesuit Fr. Francis Sullivan, widely regarded as one of the best minds in ecclesiology of the 20th century. The subject of Levada’s dissertation was ‘The Infallible Church Magisterium and the Natural Moral Law,’ examining how the magisterium understands natural law, and especially its binding force. Levada reviewed a range of theological opinions and drew what one observer described as ‘balanced, judicious’ conclusions. Given the way that moral questions, especially on sexual issues and biotechnology, are among the most contentious matters the doctrinal congregation handles, it’s a background that would serve Levada well.

"At the same time, because Levada has not spent his career as a professional theologian, he has not developed a deep specialization in any one area. A theologian in Rome described him as a very capable ‘general practitioner.’

"Jesuit Fr. Gerald O’Collins at the Gregorian, who remembers Levada as an industrious doctoral candidate, said that Levada now phones him to keep tabs on his own men.

"’He keeps in touch,’ O’Collins said. ‘He says, "How is he doing?" … I feel it kind of encourages the student to finish, because the archbishop needs him back.’

"O’Collins described Levada as ‘an extremely decent human being.’"


(Nod to the reader who mentioned Allen’s column in a post comment down yonder.)

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Laurel May 17, 2005 at 4:36 pm

Michelle, you quote the National Catholic Reporter (shudder) article. Do you agree with what it said? Any comments? If I wanted to find out about an archbishop, I would’t normally go to the NCR for my info, except that you cut and pasted it…

Michelle Arnold May 17, 2005 at 5:01 pm

Laurel: In this case, my primary source is John L. Allen Jr., a solid journalist in spite of his employer. For the most part, his take on Vatican decisions is fair and helpful. I especially recommend his book All the Pope’s Men.

momof5 May 18, 2005 at 5:40 am

All I want to know whether or not he’s orthodox.

Ed Peters May 18, 2005 at 6:06 am

Michelle is quite right here: JA is a highly regarded religion reporter, not without his faults of interpretation, but conscientious in regard to finding and reporting facts, etc. I yield to no man in my defense of orthodoxy, but the characteristic is not dispositive, and might not even be relevant, to journalistic accuracy. In other words, if that’s REALLY all one knows (or wants to know) about a journalist qua journalist, one basically knows (or wants to know) nothing about him.

Tim J. May 18, 2005 at 6:16 am

I think momof5 was actually wondering whether the Archbishop (now head of CDF) is orthodox.
That is what I want to know, as well. It would be hard to believe otherwise, seeing who appointed him, but he appears to have been mushy at times in his response to heresy, and this troubles me.

Ed Peters May 18, 2005 at 6:50 am

Well, if that was her question, let me say: there should be no question in anyone’s mind but that Levada is orthodox. That characteristic, however, while necessary in itself of course, will get one further in a job at CDF than it will in the battlefields of archdiocesan work. Put another way, one’s fine performance in a Vatican dicastery is not an infallible harbinger of one’s success in pastoral work, nor would one’s spotty record in arch/diocesan work preclude genuine success in the Vatican. There are different tasks, requiring different gifts.

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