Rescind the Appointment at Once
Thomas A. Droleskey
Many of us have expressed our reservations concerning the appointment of the former ordinary of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Most Reverend William Levada, to be Pope Benedict XVI's successor as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The resurfacing of a report from 1994 makes it imperative for Pope Benedict to rescind this appointment at once.
Apart from the ways in which Archbishop Levada protected priests who were inclined to the persistent commission of perverse sins against the Sixth and Ninth Commandment (see Generating Controversy and Negative Press on this website), His Excellency permitted court papers to be filed under his name when he was the Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, in 1994, that placed the blame on a woman who had been impregnated by an archdiocesan seminarian (and was seeking child support from the archdiocese) for not having "protected" herself from the consequences of her behavior with the seminarian (now a priest). Here is the report on the matter that appeared in the August 3, 2005, edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Faithful Furious Over Tactic
Catholics express shock over lawyer's arguments that a woman who sued Portland archdiocese for child support should have used birth control.
By William Lobdell, Times Staff Writer
In 1994, then-Archbishop of Portland William Levada offered a simple answer for why the archdiocese shouldn't have been ordered to pay the costs of raising a child fathered by a church worker at a Portland, Ore., parish.
In her relationship with Arturo Uribe, then a seminarian and now a Whittier priest, the child's mother had engaged "in unprotected intercourse … when [she] should have known that could result in pregnancy," the church maintained in its answer to the lawsuit.
The legal proceeding got little attention at the time. And the fact that the church — which considers birth control a sin — seemed to be arguing that the woman should have protected herself from pregnancy provoked no comment. Until last month.
That's when Stephanie Collopy went back into court asking for additional child support. A Times article reported the church's earlier response. Now liberal and conservative Catholics around the country are decrying the archdiocese's legal strategy, saying it was counter to church teaching.
"On the face of it, [the argument] is simply appalling," said Michael Novak, a conservative Catholic theologian and author based in Washington, D.C.
That the "unprotected intercourse" argument was offered in Levada's name made it especially shocking to some Catholics. The former archbishop is now chief guardian of Catholic doctrine worldwide. The archbishop's new post as prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was last held by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI.
William Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights based in New York, said the legal language was "simply code for, 'What's wrong with you, honey, aren't you smart enough to make sure condoms were used?' "
And that, he notes, is completely counter to the church's teachings, which hold that using contraceptives is "intrinsically evil."
Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, a group that supports abortion rights, said Levada's defense was an example of how, "if something will cost the bishops money, they will use any argument whatsoever — like any other corporate entity — that will get them off the hook. It's a disgrace."
Many Catholics in Southern California also said they were taken back when they heard Levada's argument.
"I thought, 'What kind of [nonsense] is that?' " said Mary Jane McGraw of Oak Park, who runs an affiliate of the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic lay group.
She said she was most offended that archbishop blamed the woman entirely for the pregnancy.
"Once again, they want to lay it off on Eve," she said. "Nothing's changed."
Levada was on vacation and unavailable to comment on the controversial legal stance, but the attorney who came up with it, Richard J. Kuhn, said he wrote Levada's answer to the complaint strictly from a "common sense" legal perspective, without regard to Catholic teachings.
However, Kuhn, an outside attorney who was hired by the archdiocese to handle the case, questions whether Levada ever saw the document. "I doubt that the archbishop would have gotten a copy of the pleading," he said.
He said his best recollection about the proceeding was that he worked exclusively with the risk management department for the Archdiocese of Portland.
Kuhn said the defense he raised was probably based on his suspicion that Collopy got pregnant to keep Uribe out of the priesthood. "The archbishop shouldn't be criticized for something I did that didn't have anything to do with Catholic doctrine," Kuhn said. "It would be a different story if we sat down together and said, 'Let's do this.' "
The Portland archdiocese also doubts that Levada was closely involved. "We understand that the attorney handling the case did not speak with Archbishop Levada on this issue, and that the archbishop had no input," said Bud Bunce, the archdiocese's director of communication. But the fact that Levada may not have approved a legal argument filed under his name troubled some.
"Whether a bishop likes it or not, he has ultimate responsibility for a legal argument made on his behalf or upon behalf of his diocese," said Father Richard McBrien, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame. "Archbishop Levada would have — or certainly should have — known what his lawyers were arguing on his behalf."
Donohue, of the Catholic League, added, "At the very least, [there was] a certain degree of carelessness on the part of the archdiocese" for allowing the argument to go forward.
J. Michael Henningan, an attorney who represents the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said he wasn't familiar with the Portland case. But "the positions the attorney takes become the positions of the clients," he said. "It is never OK for an attorney to take a position contrary to the beliefs and understanding of the client."
Kuhn agreed, but said he brought up the lack of birth control for an entirely different reason — to allege that Collopy was trying to trap Uribe into a long-term relationship.
Robert Royal, president of the Faith & Reason Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., said the argument could have been framed from a Catholic perspective without losing any legal punch or resorting to being part of society's "condom mania."
"Lawyers like these working for the church disgust me," Royal said. "It seems to me they could have achieved the same goal by saying that the woman in question was equally 'responsible' for having sex when she knew it could result in pregnancy."
Among the archbishop's defenders is William M. Shea, director for the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross. He said it would be impossible for Levada to review each legal document and if defense motion wasn't approved by him, the mistake was not "earthshaking."
"This is not a big deal," Shea said. "It's a slip. It shouldn't have happened and once it is called to their attention it won't again."
But others saw a parallel between Levada's motion and bare-knuckled legal arguments that have come to light during the church's sex abuse scandal.
"This is another example of how bishops, by attempting to act legally before acting pastorally, twist the church teachings into a configuration that people don't recognize," said Tom Roberts, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, a liberal weekly newspaper. "These are the kind of contortions you get yourself into."
Collopy's suit against the Archdiocese of Portland was dropped in 1994 when the Denver Province of the Redemptorists, a religious order that ordained Uribe that same year, agreed to pay $215 a month in child support if Collopy stopped the legal action and signed a confidentiality agreement.
Last week, after having earlier battled Collopy in court when she asked for additional child support, the Redemptorists announced that they would provide more support to her son.
It is not often that Dr. William Donohue and Francis Kissling, who heads an "organization" funded by anti-Catholic groups, agree on anything. Once again, however, the lack of the sensus Catholicus on the part of the American hierarchy has produced the strangest of alliances as the faithful are bewildered and scandalized by an archdiocesan ordinary's embrace of a relativist, positivist and utilitarian legal tactic designed to do one thing: avoid responsibility for the actions of a subordinate by blaming a plaintiff for not taking action in direct violation of the binding precepts of the Divine positive law and the natural law. It is absolutely no excuse that Archbishop Levada may never have actually seen the legal documents bearing his name; he is still responsible for the pleadings made under his name. It is not for nothing that former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, who resigned from the panel that had been created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to monitor implementation of its 2002 Dallas "zero tolerance" program, said that he felt as though his experience with the American bishops was like dealing with the Mafia.
Sad to point out, however, the man who is responsible for the atrocious appointment of men like Archbishop William Levada to be metropolitan provincials is none other than the late Pope John Paul II. He appointed these men. He promoted men. He refused to remove them even after their nefarious deeds had been documented to him. He even went so far as to reward one of the chief protectors of perverted priests, Bernard Cardinal Law, by naming him to the position he currently holds, Archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The entire sordid mess that has come to light in the secular media in the past few years after nearly a decade of reportage in The Wanderer could have been prevented if Pope John Paul II had not been the prisoner of the Vatican II novelty of episcopal collegiality.
This situation, humanly speaking, is going to continue to spiral downward unless Pope Benedict XVI is willing to take an action that Pope John Paul II never took in his twenty-six years, five months, fourteen days as the Vicar of Christ: publicly remove a curial appointee for actions taken prior to his appointment as the prefect of a dicastery. A clear signal must be sent that our current Holy Father will not tolerate prevarication and dissembling, worse yet to give the appearance that bishops have the "right" to exculpate themselves from difficult legal predicaments. The Successors of the Apostles must be concerned first and foremost with the sanctification and salvation of human souls. Anything that even closely resembles an endorsement of sinful choices must be repudiated as unworthy of a member of the Catholic hierarchy.
Your Holiness, please rescind the appointment of Archbishop William Levada as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Nothing other than the good of souls demands the rescinding of this appointment. Obviously, Holy Mother Church is not a democracy. That having been noted, though, we, the sheep of the true Sheepfold, do have the right to integrity from our shepherds. Lacking that integrity of Faith in all of their words and actions, Your Holiness, the men who wear mitres and carry staffs are nothing other than wolves in shepherds' clothing, as Saint Paul himself warned in the Acts of the Apostles:
Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
I know that, after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And of your own selves shall arise many speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.(Acts 20:28-30)
Your Holiness, these words apply to Archbishop William Levada. They apply to the lion's share of the world's bishops. Please take immediate action to rid the hierarchy of the true Church of these wolves in shepherds' clothing. And once again, Your Holiness, we plead with you to consecrate Russia to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart to fulfill faithfully Our Lady's Fatima Message that you ignored when announcing the appointment of Archbishop Levada as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on May 13, 2005. Nothing other than the state of the Church and hence the world depends upon your doing so.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint Dominic, pray for us.