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San Francisco's antigay archbishop takes Ratzinger's old post

San Francisco's antigay archbishop takes Ratzinger's old post

Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco is a champion of Roman Catholic orthodoxy who has raised the ire of victims' advocates for his handling of the clerical sex abuse crisis and has spoken out against same-sex marriage while leading the church in a city with a large, high-profile gay and lesbian population. Levada, 68, was named Friday by Pope Benedict XVI to be his successor as prefect of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It's the first time an American has held the job, among the most powerful in the Vatican. The congregation is responsible for policing and enforcing church doctrine. Among other things, it examines writings contradicting church teachings and crimes against faith, morality, and the sacraments. It also reviews all sex abuse claims against clergy to see whether a priest should be forced out, given a church trial, or found innocent. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said Levada has a dismal record of response to the molestation crisis. Last year the founding chairman of a watchdog panel Levada formed to review claims against priests in San Francisco resigned in protest. James Jenkins, a clinical psychologist, accused local church leaders of "deception, manipulation, and control" for blocking the release of their findings. "Regarding abuse in the San Francisco archdiocese, Levada has been slow to act, harsh to victims, and committed to secrecy," the network said in a statement Friday. Levada also has been a leading voice in the church's opposition to samae-sex marriage, saying it was not discriminatory to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. "Other remedies can be found to protect the valid rights of persons in nonmarital unions," he said. The former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who served as prefect from 1981 until he was elected pope last month, was seen as an aggressive defender of church doctrine who censured several dissenting Catholic thinkers and issued a steady stream of documents condemning homosexuality and gay rights. Levada, also viewed by many as a conservative, has honed his political skills while representing the church in California and Portland, Ore., and now nationally as chairman of the U.S. Conference of the Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine. In San Francisco, city officials threatened to pull lucrative city contracts from Catholic Charities unless it offered benefits to the domestic partners of its employees. Levada brokered a compromise that expanded health care even further: He said anyone in the household of a Catholic Charities employee--including children, parents, even roommates--should be covered, and thus managed to shift the spotlight from homosexuality to health care. Calling the absence of universal health coverage "a national shame," he said at the time: "I am in favor of increasing benefits, especially health coverage, for anyone." Levada has consistently refused to label himself as a conservative or liberal. "I consider myself to be in the exact middle of the road as to where I should be as a bishop," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1995. "I have a responsibility to uphold the teaching and tradition of the church. I would hope that I would be compassionate, interested in people's situations, their problems, their difficulties." (AP)

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