William J. Levada

Cardinal William Levada

William Joseph Levada is an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, named in the Consistory of March 24, 2006, and assigned to the titular diaconal church of Santa Maria in Domnica, also known as the “Navicella” on the Caelian hill in Rome. He was born in Long Beach, California, on June 15, 1936, only son of Joseph and Lorraine (Nunez) Levada, both natives of Concord, California; his older sister Dolores died on May 21, 2007. His great-grandparents immigrated from Portugal and Ireland to the Bay Area in the 1860s.

William attended Catholic grammar schools in Long Beach, California and Houston, Texas, and St. Anthony High School in Long Beach. He attended seminary college in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, graduating from St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo in 1958 with a B.A. in Philosophy. From 1958 to 1962 he continued his seminary formation at the North American College in Rome; he did his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University, receiving a licentiate degree in theology (STL) in 1962.

Fr. Levada was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on December 20, 1961 in St. Peter’s Basilica by Archbishop Martin John O’Connor, Rector of the North American College and President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He served two parishes in the archdiocese: St. Louis of France, La Puente from 1962 to 1963 and St. Monica, Santa Monica from 1963 to 1967, where he also taught religion at St. Monica High School, and was chaplain for the campus ministry at Santa Monica City College.

In 1967, Cardinal James Francis McIntyre assigned Fr. Levada to Rome for doctoral studies in theology; he received his doctorate (STD) in fundamental and dogmatic theology in 1971. From 1970 until 1976, he taught theology at St. John’s Seminary School of Theology, Camarillo. He also served as the archdiocese’s first Director of Continuing Education for Priests, and was elected Chair of the Council of Priests.

From 1976 to 1982, Fr. Levada served as an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican; he continued to teach theology part-time as an instructor at the Gregorian University. During his service at the Congregation, he served under three popes: Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II; and under two Prefects: Cardinals Franjo Seper and Joseph Ratzinger. In 1980, he was named a chaplain of the Holy Father, with the title of Monsignor.

Ministry as Bishop

From 1982 to 1984, Monsignor Levada oversaw the office of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops in Sacramento as Executive Director. During this period, he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Titular Bishop of Capri, and was ordained Bishop by Cardinal Timothy Manning at St. Vibiana Cathedral in Los Angeles on May 12, 1983. In 1984, he was appointed Episcopal Vicar of Santa Barbara County in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

In 1985, Bishop Levada’s seminary classmate, Most Reverend Roger Mahony, was appointed Archbishop of Los Angeles. Archbishop Mahony asked Bishop Levada to chair a task force to create an internal restructuring of the archdiocese into five regions, in which an Auxiliary Bishop would oversee the deaneries, parishes, and regional offices; the chancery and pastoral offices were also given a new structure. With the implementation of this plan in 1986, Bishop Levada was named Chancellor of the Archdiocese and Moderator of the Curia, and Regional Bishop of the San Fernando Valley region.

Archbishop of Portland

On July 1, 1986, Bishop Levada was named eighth Archbishop of Portland in Oregon, the second-oldest archdiocese in the United States. Among the particular duties Archbishop Levada assumed there were service to Mount Angel Seminary as chair of the Board of Regents; approving the reorganization of Catholic Charities into a single agency; restructuring the archdiocese’s outreach to Hispanic Catholics; and inaugurating a new program for priestly vocations. Levada also conducted a fund drive to provide adequate retirement benefits for clergy, including a new priests’ retirement residence. He oversaw the project for the restoration and renewal of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland, and began the planning for the 1996 sesquicentennial celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the archdiocese.

Archbishop Levada served as Metropolitan Archbishop for the five diocese of the Metropolitan Province of Portland in Oregon. During his nine years as Archbishop, he was principal consecrator of Most Reverend Tod Brown as Bishop of Boise, Idaho in 1989, and of Most Reverend Alexander Brunett as Bishop of Helena, Montana in 1994.

During his service in Portland, the Archbishop was appointed to the Editorial Committee of the Vatican Commission for a Catechism of the Catholic Church. This Editorial Committee of seven bishops from throughout the world had the task of preparing the drafts of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church for review and approval by the Catechism Commission, chaired by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church was promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1992.

Archbishop of San Francisco

On August 17, 1995, Archbishop Levada was appointed coadjutor Archbishop of San Francisco, and on December 27 of the same year, he succeeded Most Reverend John Quinn as seventh Archbishop. In San Francisco, Archbishop Levada implemented the recommendations of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan, developed during the administration of Archbishop Quinn, and approved by the two Archbishops when he was a coadjutor. He developed the program for coordinated training of lay ministers in catechesis, education and administration. He refounded the Catholic newspaper of the archdiocese, Catholic San Francisco, sent to every home. During his tenure the Archdiocesan offices moved to a new Chancery/Pastoral Center across the street from St. Mary’s Cathedral, and the empty cathedral convent was converted into an Archbishop’s Residence. Archbishop Levada also initiated a $30 million campaign for educational scholarships for children in low-income families to attend Catholic schools.

Archbishop Levada served as Chairman of the Board of the Archdiocesan St. Patrick’s Seminary and University; with the sale and development of adjacent land the seminary was able to double its endowment, renovate its 100-year old building, create a new library, and provide seminarian rooms with private bathrooms. Levada was also President of the Board of Catholic Charities/CYO. He served as Grand Prior of the Northwest Lieutenancy (USA) of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and was Conventual Chaplain for the Western Association (USA) of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta (aka Knight of Malta).

During his tenure in San Francisco, Archbishop Levada ordained two Auxiliary Bishops: Most Reverend John Wester on September 18, 1998 (now Archbishop of Santa Fe), and Most Reverend Ignatius Wang on January 30, 2003. Bishop Wang­−a native of Beijing, China, and the first Asian-American ordained bishop for an American diocese­−is now Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus. Levada also established the City’s oldest parish, St. Francis in North Beach (founded 1849), as the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the archdiocese and the City of San Francisco.

As a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops since 1983, Levada served on several Conference committees. In 2000, he became Co-Chair of the national Anglican Roman Catholic dialogue, and was named a Member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose prefect was then-Cardinal Ratzinger. In 2003, he was elected Chair of the Committee on Doctrine.

Prefecture as Cardinal Levada

On May 13, 2005, just weeks after the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Levada was named to take his place as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and elevated to Cardinal in 2006. Cardinal Levada also served as President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the International Theological Commission, and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. He received appointments to several Vatican congregations, pontifical councils and commissions, some of which he still serves after his retirement as Prefect on July 2, 2012. In March 2013, he participated in the Conclave at which Pope Francis was elected.

Cardinal Levada is now Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and an Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco. He resides at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, when not on business in Rome.

On February 2, 2016, Cardinal Levada delivered the homily at the ordination of the Most Reverend Steven J. Lopes as the first Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Texas. Cardinal Levada ordained Bishop Lopes as a priest in 2001 when he was Archbishop of San Francisco. ( Read the Homily )

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Chronology of Significant Events

Date of Birth:
June 15, 1936, Long Beach, California
Ordained a Priest: December 20, 1961 in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Titular Bishop of Capri: March 25, 1983
Ordained Bishop: May 12, 1983 by Cardinal Timothy Manning
Appointed Archbishop of Portland: July 1, 1986
Appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of San Francisco: August 17, 1995
Installed as Archbishop of San Francisco: December 27, 1995
Appointed Apostolic Administrator of Santa Rosa (in California): July 22, 1999
Appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: May 13, 2005
Appointed President of the International Theological Commission: May 13, 2005
Appointed President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission: May 13, 2005
Elevated to Cardinal: March 24, 2006
Appointed Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica: March 24, 2006
Installed Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica: March 26, 2006
ppointed President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”: July 8, 2009
Retired: July 2, 2012

Acknowledgement: Burns, Jeffrey. San Francisco: A History of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. 1945-2000 Vol. 3. San Francisco, California: Edition Du Signe.
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