Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Habemus Prefectum?

Observant readers will note my post from last week of "The Pope's Men" in Benedict XVI's Vatican. Well, one of the buzzwords is coming to light.

This morning, B16 (sounds like a vitamin, eh? Does it make you holy?) received Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco in private audience -- his first such encounter granted to an American bishop. Levada was received third, after the Italian President Carlo Ciampi and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the major-archbishop of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic church who is pushing Rome to concede patriarchal status to the UGCC. (Husar, who spent most of that church's time of trial in Stamford, CT, is an American citizen.)

However, we can be sure Benedict was happy as a clam to see his old buddy Bill. They only worked together for a year at CDF -- Ratzinger arrived in late 1981, Levada was called back to California the next year -- but he seemed to make a swift impression on his boss. Levada is one of only two non-cardinal members of the Congregation, whose membership Ratzi was practially able to have John Paul rubber-stamp.

In 2002, Levada served as a member of the mixed commission of American bishops and Curial officials which devised the compromise on the Essential Norms that finally won the recognitio. More likely than not, given the Pope's assurance to Cardinal George minutes after his election that sex abuse would be handled effectively and with great diligence by him, this was brought up, in-between showing Levada the recent renovations (which probably cost less than $25K -- Bishop Braxton, take note)....

But more importantly, could there have been a job offer on the table? It's quite possible -- the wisdom of an American prefect of CDF, given its point-man role in abuse cases, would be significant. George's name was kicked around Rome, but it would be imprudent to take the next head of the US bishops away from that mission, given that he enjoys the Pope's trust (and, they're probably thinking, God knows who those Americans would pick to replace him -- they don't want to take that risk, not to mention opening Chicago up so early on in the game). Benedict enjoys having people around him with whom he is comfortable, who have long proven their loyalty, and it seems Levada enjoys that confidence and that loyalty. Who better to lead his beloved former Office?

Whatever happens, even if Levada stays on the Bay, Benedict has sent a big signal to the family in the States that Levada is his guy. Talk about a statement worth its weight in scarlet moire'.