Cardinal William Levada, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, died Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the age of 83. He was the first American to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), one of the most senior positions in the Curia. 

Levada was appointed to the position by Pope Benedict XVI, who, as Cardinal Ratzinger, had led the congregation until his election as pope. He served in the role from May 13, 2005, until July, 2012.

As prefect of the CDF, Leveda served as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and International Theological Commission. He was also charged with overseeing the Vatican’s handling of cases of child sexual abuse, and with implementing the 2010 legal reforms to Sacromentorum sanctitatis tutela, which govern the Church’s handling of the most serious canonical offenses.  

Before his appointment to Rome, Levada served as Archbishop of San Francisco for 10 years, from 1995. While in that archdiocese, Levada was known as a vocal defender of the Church’s teaching on marriage as the city of San Francisco expanded domestic partnership benefits to same-sex and unmarried cohabitating couples. 

Ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1961, Levada studied at the North American College in Rome from the mid-60s until 1971, receiving a doctorate in sacred theology.

From 1976 until 1982, Fr. Leveda returned to Rome and served as an official of the congregation which he would one day lead. In 1982, he was called back to the United States by Cardinal Timothy Manning of Los Angeles, and was named as the executive director for the California Conference of Bishops.

In 1983, Levada was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He became the Archbishop of Portland (Oregon) three years later, in 1986. The then-Cardinal Ratzinger appointed him as one of six bishops to an editorial board tasked with editing an updated edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In 1993, when the catechism was published, Levada argued that the language was too “gender inclusive” and requested that the English translation be updated. This revised translation was published in 1994.

Full story at Catholic News Agency.

Statement from Archbishop Cordileone:

Today I share the sad news that Cardinal Levada died peacefully in his sleep last night in his apartment in Italy. He was 83 years of age.

 As is well known, the Cardinal was Archbishop of San Francisco from December 1995 until the spring of 2005 when Pope Benedict XVI asked him to serve as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He served in that capacity in Rome from 2005 until 2012, and was the highest ranking American in the Roman Curia. I’ve known him ever since he was my seminar moderator in my first year of theology. I always appreciated his guidance and to his commitment to the integrity of the Church’s Faith.

 Funeral Services at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco are pending. Please join me in praying for the repose of Cardinal Levada’s soul.