Nisha Rathode (Editor)

William Levada

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Term ended  July 2, 2012
Name  William Levada
Ordination  December 20, 1961
Rank  Cardinal-Deacon
Role  Cardinal
Consecration  May 12, 1983
Nationality  American
Successor  Gerhard Ludwig Muller
Appointed  May 13, 2005
Denomination  Roman Catholic
Predecessor  Pope Benedict XVI

William Levada US cardinal former head of Vatican39s doctrineenforcing
Other posts  Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica
Created Cardinal  March 24, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI
Born  June 15, 1936 (age 79) Long Beach, California, USA (1936-06-15)
Education  Pontifical Gregorian University

Cardinal william levada blesses and opens the porziuncola in san francisco

William Joseph Levada (born June 15, 1936) is an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. From May 2005 until June 2012, he served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope Benedict XVI; he was the highest ranking American in the Roman Curia. He was previously the Archbishop of Portland (Oregon) from 1986 to 1995, and then Archbishop of San Francisco from 1995 to 2005. Levada was elevated to the cardinalate in 2006.


William Levada William Joseph Cardinal Levada Witness Salt Light

The cardinal's resignation as prefect for reasons of age was accepted on Monday, July 2, 2012 (having reached 75 years of age in 2011, the canonical age at which all Catholic bishops must submit an offer of resignation to the Pope). He was succeeded that same day by Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Regensburg in Regensburg, Germany, who was named an archbishop.

Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the cardinalate as the Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria Dominca while Pope Francis elevated him to the rank of Cardinal-Priest ("pro hac vice") on 20 June 2016.

William Levada wwwbishopaccountabilityorgnews3news3images2

Cardinal william levada speech at the blessing and opening of the porziuncola in san francisco

Early life and clerical formation

William Levada SL BLOG Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

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

William Levada US cardinal arrested in Hawaii on drinkdriving charge

His great-grandparents came from Portugal and Ireland, and emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1860s. He grew up in Long Beach and Houston, Texas, attended St. Anthony High School Long Beach and then St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. At St. Anthony High School, his classmate was George Hugh Niederauer, later his successor as archbishop of San Francisco.

William Levada HighRanking Catholic Cardinal Arrested for Drunk Driving

From 1958 to 1961, Levada studied at the North American College and did his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. 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 Basilica.

Priestly ministry

William Levada Former Highest Ranking American in Vatican Cardinal William Joseph

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

William Levada Cardinal Levada and Catholic Apologetics in New Millennium When

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 taught theology at St. John's Seminary School of Theology in Camarillo, California. 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 Vatican, having been recommended by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. He also taught part-time at the Pontifical Gregorian University. 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 Sacramento.

Episcopal ministry

Levada was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and titular bishop of Capreae on March 25, 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 May 12. In 1984 he was appointed episcopal vicar of Santa Barbara County. 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 Portland, Levada helped to revitalize Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon; Levada briefly taught at the seminary as well. Other work undertaken in Portland included reorganizing Catholic Charities, working in outreach to the Hispanic Catholic community, and renovating St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. In 1987 he was appointed by Cardinal Ratzinger, whom Pope John Paul II asked to develop the project for a new Catechism of the Catholic Church, to serve on its Editorial Committee, one of seven bishops whose task it was to prepare a draft of the catechism, conduct a consultation among the bishops of the world and many scholars, and develop a final text under the direction of the Commission of 12 Cardinals of which Cardinal Ratzinger was President.

On August 17, 1995, Levada was appointed coadjutor archbishop of San Francisco, and on December 27 of the same year he succeeded John Raphael Quinn as the archbishop. He held that position until August 17, 2005.

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 allowed him to 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 principal consecrator of Monsignor Ignatius C. Wang as an additional 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.

Known as a lover of dressing-up, Cardinal Levada also serves as grand prior of the Northwest Lieutenancy (USA) of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and as conventual chaplain for the Western Association (USA) of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.

In 2013, Levada was a Cardinal elector during the 2013 papal conclave.

US sexual abuse scandal involvement

Some have criticized how Levada dealt with priests who had committed sexual abuse in Portland and in San Francisco.

In 1985, as a contact of Boston's Cardinal Law about the issue, Levada was given a report by a three-man panel headed by Father Tom Doyle about medical, legal, and moral issues posed by abusive clerics in an attempt to present the report to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at their June 1985 meeting. A few days later Father Doyle was informed by Levada that their report would not be heard by the bishops. Weeks later, Doyle was demoted from his post in Vatican embassy.

In a 2008 interview for Levada said:

I personally do not accept that there has been a broad base of bishops guilty of aiding and abetting pedophiles. If I thought there were, I would certainly want to talk to them about that.

In a response, Father Tom Doyle said:

I vividly recall briefing Levada in May, 1985 when he was an auxiliary bishop, about the sexual abuse crisis. I also have seen volumes of documents and sworn testimony from depositions that clearly shows that most, probably all, bishops clearly knew that priests were raping and otherwise sexually abusing kids as far back as the 1940's and I limit it to that era because I have not gone beyond that in studying documents. So, Levada's statement is either an outright lie or evidence of a very narrow understanding and perception of reality.

As archbishop in Portland, Levada removed Father Joseph Baccellieri, a parish priest accused of child molestation, in 1992. In 1993, he learned of allegations that the priest had abused not one but three male victims. Levada authorized secret payments to the victims after they threatened to make the allegations public in a lawsuit. Levada allowed Baccellieri to return to duty in 1994 after he had undergone therapy and with the condition that he couldn't be around children and couldn't counsel adults or children. Levada did not inform parishioners or law enforcement about the allegations. Baccellieri went on to serve as a pastor or associate pastor in four Portland-area parishes between 1994 and 2001, when he went on leave to study canon law.

After spending $53 million to settle more than 100 claims of priestly sex abuse, Portland in 2004 became the first U.S. Roman Catholic archdiocese to declare bankruptcy.

In February 2013, Levada told the media that Cardinal Roger Mahony should be allowed to help select the next pope, even though Mahony had obstructed the investigation of child abusers while he headed the church in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

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, the principal defender of 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.

There was some speculation that the Pope may have chosen Levada because the latter had been a principal editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Pontiff'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 on 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 March 24, 2006, Benedict XVI elevated Levada to the College of Cardinals, making him eligible to participate in any future papal conclaves that begin before his 80th birthday on June 15, 2016. Levada was named Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica.

In addition to his position as Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Levada is the president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the International Theological Commission, and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. 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 Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. On January 5, 2011 he was appointed among the first members of the newly created Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.

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 July 8, 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.

On May 13, 2011 the instruction Universae Ecclesiae was published which clarified certain aspects of Summorum Pontificum. Cardinal Levada, as president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei signed the document which was approved by Pope Benedict XVI on April 8 and is dated April 30, the Memorial feast of Pope Saint Pius V. The instruction also contains within it the fruits of the triennial examination of the application of the law, which had been planned from the outset.

Reception of Traditional Anglicans

On October 20, 2009, Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Joseph DiNoia held a press conference in which they announced that Pope Benedict was preparing to release an apostolic constitution that was later presented under the title Anglicanorum coetibus 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 been 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 Westminster and the Anglican Communion's head, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, occurred at the same time in London.

On October 31, 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 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.


Cardinal Levada's views generally reflect the conservative wing of the Catholic Church.

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 explicitly confirmed that the Church's teachings against murder (par. 57), abortion (par. 62), and euthanasia (par. 65) were specific moral norms which the Church's ordinary and universal Magisterium had protected with infallibility.

Within 68 days, Levada publicly stated 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.

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, Australia 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.

Liturgical music

While serving as Archbishop of Portland (Oregon) from 1986 to 1995, he was, ex officio, the chair of the board of directors for OCP (formerly known as Oregon Catholic Press). He oversaw its rapid growth to become the largest publisher of English liturgical music, hymnals, missals and support materials for the Catholic Church. He continues to serve on its board of directors.

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 John Paul II's motu proprio Ecclesia Dei.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

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.

Position on 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 against 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.

Position on gay civil partnerships

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 stated 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.

In 2006 Cardinal Levada stated the Archdiocese of San Francisco should stop providing same-sex adoption. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors reacted by unanimously passing a resolution disparaging His Eminence, declaring “WHEREAS, Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear;” resolving that Catholic teachings on homosexuality are, “WHEREAS, Such hateful and discriminatory rhetoric is insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors” and urged the archdiocese to “defy” Rome. In 2010 the Catholic League lost the resulting establishment clause lawsuit against the City, although the narrowly divided and fractured eleven judge en banc United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit did write, “These are traditional anti-Catholic tropes employed for centuries by anti-Catholic bigots”.


In 2012, Levada's retirement was announced. He now lives in the St Patrick seminary, Menlo Park, California.

On August 19, 2015, Levada was detained by police in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, after being observed driving under the influence. He was released from jail after posting $500 bond. After pleading no contest on January 25 2016, he was ordered to pay a fine and fees totalling $462 and had his driving license revoked for one year. His blood alcohol level was .168.


William Levada Wikipedia