Wanted, catholic orthodoxy caretaker
At the beginning of 2012, Benedict XVI will have to decide on a key-appointment for his pontificate: a Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the most delicate department head of the Roman Curia, a task Ratzinger held for 24 years before being elected Pope.
The choice of his successor to the former Holy Office was the first challenging appointment of the pontificate. Benedict XVI chose, 13 May 2005, the archbishop of San Francisco, William Joseph Levada, who had worked as a priest in the Congregation and that he had known just arriving in Rome.
Levada has turned 75 years, the canonical age for resignation, last June. As was the case for other department heads, an extension would have been natural, but the Cardinal would have made it known that he does not wish to continue remain in the position beyond the end of 2011, when on December 20th he will celebrate his 50 years of priesthood.
The selection of his successor is not easy. The Congregation for the doctrine is a crucial-one and we must not forget that in recent years it has become even more so, for management of cases of sexual abuse involving some clerics. Under the responsibility of the former Holy Office, as a result of the recent reform desired by Benedict XVI, also fall other hot topics: the relationship with the Society of Saint Pius X founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, as well as that of ordinary Anglicans who wish to back into communion with Rome.
Levada’s work in recent years has not always been easy. The congregation, after been managed for more than twenty years by Ratzinger, was used to working in a certain way and with certain rhythms, while respecting the competencies of each one and of the whole. It is no secret that in the first period of Levada’s term there has been some misunderstanding with the secretary of department at that time, the Salesian Archbishop Angelo Amato, afterwards promoted to leader of the Congregation of Saints. In fact, despite the commitments incumbent, because of the long-standing relationships with many of those who work in the former Holy Office, the Pope continued to have an eye of regard and attention to what once had been his department.
At Cardinal Levada, a native of Long Beach, when the resignation will be accepted, could be assigned the position held previously by another American cardinal, John Patrick Foley: that of Grand Master of the Equestrian Order to the Holy Sepulchre.
Who will be the new caretaker of Catholic orthodoxy?. It is still early to tell. A strong candidate would have been Cardinal Angelo Amato himself, who is very familiar with the congregation, having worked in it, and who very well knows Ratzinger, having been his number two. Amato, however, has already turned 73 years, and in case of an eventual appointment to the former Holy Office that would only be for a year and a half before reaching the canonical age of resignation. In addition, there is no doubt, in recent years, of an increase in the group of Italians who are the heads of curial departments: the Italians are: Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, the Prefect of the Saints Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the clergy Mauro Piacenza, the Prefect Propaganda Fide Fernando Filoni, the librarian Cardinal Raffaele Farina, the “minister of culture,” Gianfranco Ravasi, the major penitentiary Fortunato Baldelli, the president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs Velasio De Paolis, the president of Pontical council for the social communications, Claudio Maria Celli, Domenico Calcagno APSA President, the President of Pontifical Council for the new evangelization Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants Antonio Maria Vegliò, the president of the Vatican Governorate Giovanni Lajolo. In the list there are also: the president of Pontifical council for the family, Ennio Antonelli, the president of Pontifical council for the interpretation of legislative texts, Francesco Coccopalmerio
It is therefore difficult to assume that the important Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might be entrusted to an Italian. One mentioned candidate that enjoys the respect of Benedict XVI, is Gerhardt Ludwig Muller, 64 years old next December, since 2002 bishop of Regensburg, the diocese where the pope’s brother Georg Ratzinger lives. Another possible candidate, although not a front runner, is the French Roland Minnerath, Bishop of Dijon, a member of the International Theological Commission.
Far less chances for two other possible candidacies: the one of the actual secretary of the Department, the Spanish Jesuit Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer; and the one of secretary of the Congregation of Divine Worship, the Dominican American Joseph Augustine Di Noia.
Although in recent times the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – formerly known as The Supreme – was often the international limelight for the management of pedophilia-cases within the clergy, the Department has the task of protecting Catholic orthodoxy and to promote Faith: 2012 will be an important year, because then will be reminded the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.