Monday, August 08, 2005

One Prefect's Disgrace...

I love the smell of scandal in the afternoon.

Great respite, breathing easier, back to biz. It really was a crazy week -- another contribution to The Tablet, readership still going up, draining battles behind-the-scenes. Good thing I was able to sneak in a getaway.

Despite spending yesterday on the road, the news had a curious way of following me. I'd gotten about 18 calls about Levada being subpoenaed in the sacristy of San Fran Cathedral before his farewell liturgy. Whether this was breathless glee or actual reporting depended on the caller.

But here's a development which really rubs me batty:
Cookie Gambucci, whose brother is one of the plaintiffs in the Portland [sex-abuse] case, served the court papers on Levada. She told KCBS reporter Tim Ryan the archbishop called her "a disgrace to the Catholic church."
Are you kidding me? I think I need to vomit.

LATimes runs it a bit differently, but it's still nauseating:
When Levada balked at accepting the subpoena, Cookie Gambucci, who runs a court support services company in nearby Martinez, said she told him he could receive it then or that it would be served on him at the altar during the service.

She said Levada accepted the subpoena, but told her: "This is a disgrace to the church."

Portland attorney Erin Olson, who represents 15 of the Oregon plaintiffs, said Levada had been avoiding the subpoena since May.
Look, I defended Levada against all the screaming at his appointment and am on-record deeming his promotion a good thing for American Catholicism and the future of the CDF. Hell, I'll even give him the benefit of the doubt on the Uribe defense. But if this report is true, his comment is an enormous setback to any illusions of restored credibility or good faith on the part of the bishops, and now from Rome. Levada should absolutely be ashamed of himself and needs to apologize -- and not just because he got snitched out.

For all the out-of-proportion caricatures of Ratzi through his Prefect years, he never called anyone a "disgrace" to the church. And he sure as hell didn't do it to victims of abuse and their families -- after all, who pulled the Maciel and Burresi files out, over the preferences of JP and the Stateheads? And as Anne Burke said, the Panzer gave the Review Board way more respect than many American bishops.

But it's all thrown into question now if the Vatican's new point-man on the matter leaves for Rome seeing just restitution to victims as a "disgrace to the church."

John Wester has been named the new apostolic administrator in San Fran (at Levada's request, bypassing an election by the consultors), and with Levada heading over sometime this week, B16 really has to do damage-control on this one. He absolutely can't let it stand that his hand-picked successor called an abuse case a "disgrace to the church."

With JP in the last years, his health was a valid excuse -- the circle of handlers were frightened that seeing the files in-depth would kill him. But the one who did the "Friday penance" of that close reading for years really has to step up in his new robes and speak out, overruling the man who, this week, is formally taking his place at the desk.



Blogger thomas tucker said...

I don't agree with you on much, but I agree with you on that. IF it's true. Were there witnesses?

8/8/05 17:15  
Blogger Disgusted in DC said...

I certainly don't accept the Plaintiff's statement at face value. Some of these sex abuse plaintiffs and their families tend to hear things that weren't said, or misconstrue things that were said. I do think that Levada's statement to the process server rings true. I can't blame the process-server for doing what he did, but I can't fault Levada's reaction either. I certainly see no reason why he should apologize. All in all, it would be a funny story if the stakes weren't so high.

8/8/05 18:58  
Blogger Sam Martini said...

Yes - thats a big "if" as the placement of a tiny word or two there and the inflection can change the meaning and force of what he may or may not have said. And its not like the LA media are in any hurry to merely report what was actually said....Not to mention that Levada may have also been referring to the serving of the subpoena just before Mass as a disgrace. Isn't it a bit of hyperbole to suddenly ramp up to the pronouncement that Levada "sees just restitution to victims as a disgrace" or that he called the victims a disgrace and or the whole sexual abuse scandal a disgrace?
Did he say all this too? Inflating and generalizing his possible remarks follows the same path as the MSM usually does when it comes to matters of religion.
It is also possible he did utter this remark, for which I would hope he apologizes. The sexual abuse scandal was and is a matter of utmost seriousness.
But he has been appointed to the job, and does have some good qualities and - like every one else who is not perfect (ie all of us) deserves a chance to show what he can do. I hope this will not turn into a game of the press pouncing upon his every utterance as proof of his unsuitability - although that is most likely what will happen.

8/8/05 19:15  
Blogger Jeff said...

Yes, Sam Martini has put his finger on it. There's a world of difference between "You're a disgrace to the Church for serving me this subpoena" and "Oh, no, what a disgrace serving me this subpoena right as I'm getting ready to process in for Mass is for the Church."

In fact, they're almost opposites. The first is dreadful and requires an apology. The second seems almost an expression of shame and regret on the part of the Archbishop and is perfectly proper.

I have mixed feelings about Levada, but I think he's orthodox and if he's Ratzinger's man, I have every confidence in him. I rather think he'll be a fine Prefect.

8/8/05 19:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope he'll be a decent prefect. That's expecting a lot these days.

Probably they served the subpoena to him then because that's the only time they could find him where he couldn't ignore them or slam a door in their faces....

I don't find it disgraceful at all that they got him on the way to Mass. Rather, I think it's pretty bad when the cops have to subpoena priests and higher. That's gotten to be old hat.

8/8/05 19:58  
Blogger Bill R. said...

One of our lay ministers (who was a former member of St. Mary's (The Cathedral)) had been asked to assist in the sacristry and was there when the Archbishop was served. Levada was quoted correctly. He confirms that Levada did call the woman a disgrace to the Church. However, he did accept the supena. He had no choice, the process server caught him.

Both this lay minister and myself attended the going away ceremony in San Francisco. The Cathedral was packed.

Before the Mass Started I left the center isle and went out to join the "Silent Vigil". As a Catholic I has never been impressed with my Archbishop.

Yes. I thought that my place was with Catholics supporting the survivors and not with a staged event to say "goodbye" to a very mediocre Archbishop. Benedict XVI appointed a "Yes" man. Nothing more.

It is my opinion that most of what has been written in the Media in defense of Levada has been off the mark. Our new CDF Prefect is not a leader nor does he show initiative - And that is and will be his main weakness.

He did not go out of his way to assist survivors. He did have an apology ceremony and it was a disaster. Most of his priests did not attend and this was after the Archdiocese sent a letter to every priest in the diocese that their attendance was required.

The first priest who reported priest-abuse by his Pastor to the Chancery was disciplined by Archbishop Levada and basically told to keep quiet. When he threatened to go to the police and when he informed the Sisters running the school, Levada removed the priest (not the Pastor) from the parish.

The priest did go to the police and an investigation was started. The pastor confessed and Levada then removed him. Again, only because he was forced to because of public discloser.

I do not believe that Archbishop Levada is bad man. He just didn't have the leadership skills needed for San Francisco and I suspect that he does not have the leadership skills needed for the job as Prefect of such an important Congregation.

Never-the-less, there are a lot of us in the Archdiocese who will be glad to see him go.

8/8/05 20:23  
Blogger Peter Nixon said...

I have no comment on Abp. Levada's tenure in SF, but I have to say I'm inclined to forgive his flash of temper. The process server was grandstanding, which they tend to enjoy doing. I don't find it credible at all that she had no alternative to serving it before mass. They wanted to get a rise out of Levada and they got it. I completely agree that Levada should testify, but I have little time for the theatrics of the trial bar.

8/8/05 20:49  
Blogger Vonshui said...

Does it seem to anyone else that Benedict's administration is a little disorganized thus far? Examples: 1. The contradictions and mixed signals between Ratzinger and the vatican press office, ESPECIALLY over something as delicate as Israel, 2. some of the personalities in the curia have been acting as if they run the show (or are sure they will soon be canned), 3. what is considered an especially important document to Ratzinger (even when he was PCDF) -- on the "less than desireable" acceptence of homosexuals to the priesthood -- has all but put the american heirarchy on death watch... and the list goes on. I suppose its the bug of transition floating around the various administrations, though I still see a lack of necessary papal support all around. And more than usual scrutiny (as seen in the Levada piece) is in no short supply toward his appointments, potential and otherwise.

8/8/05 21:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have any problem believing that they had to serve the subpoena just before mass. Some priests and bishops are very difficult to contact, for one reason or another. Some of them never even return phone calls; some of them simply believe they are above it. Indeed, the extreme of such unresponsiveness one of the features of the scandal, if I'm not mistaken.

A "disgrace to the church," eh? At least she was doing her job.

8/8/05 21:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ste Chopin,

I had read a bit of Ratzinger before he became Benedict XVI, so I knew that he wouldn't come to us as popularly billed. He is a careful thinker, capable of the intricate and somewhat convoluted thought process. This is all displayed in his books, for those who read them.

Nevertheless, I am happy with him as Pope and feel safer (I guess you could call it that) than in a long time.

My only hesitancy, if you want to call it that, is that perhaps he will be too cerebral and miss the point of what needs to be done.

Nevertheless, I am sure that God will work through him and the Church will right herself, as she has always done.

We've had lots of talk; we need holiness. There is no other way through this.

8/8/05 21:25  
Blogger Jeff said...

I'm pleased to agree with Michigan Catholic. This is a wise and holy man, as was John Paul II. The rot was just too deep to be addressed with discipline as the main tool.

And JPII was right. Due to his preaching, example and inspiration, things ARE getting better. There is a recovery of the Faith underway and since most of the apostasy is just go-along-to-get-along stuff, it will sweep most people along with it, including a lot of the dead wood.

Most of the controversial players of the day are bit players and will pale into insignificance a hundred years from now. Not Benedict.

One day, the decades from Pius IX onward (until--when I wonder?) will be known as the Age of the Holy Popes. Almost every one of them since then has been a saint, and those who fall short, like Pius XI, have been good and courageous men. How different from past ages? Apart from the Church of the Martyrs, have we ever had such a long stretch of saints? I guess that means we need it.

Don't forget--PLEEEEASE--to pray for Benedict. Everyone talks as if he'll be around for years and years. He's not sick or particularly frail but he's a very old man and could go at any time. Where else but the Church would we think of a seventy-eight year old man as beginning an era?

I suspect--I fear--that he was prescient when he spoke of "this brief pontificate." I want him to take it easy and relax and play the piano and pet cats and be very happy. I want him around for a good while yet. I'm afraid his brother, whom he loves deeply, will die soon leaving him feeling utterly alone and incapacitated by grief and he will fall into a decline from which he will not emerge. God forfend!

Cheery, an't I?

8/8/05 22:23  
Blogger granny redhead said...

Oh stop.

You're so depressing.

9/8/05 05:50  
Blogger Sam Martini said...

With all due respect - and I am in no way belittling the pain caused by the scandals or situations which could have been handled better - the "report" above confirming what Levada "actually" said also gives me pause, just as the initial reports. (I work in a field involving public relations and recognize something in the air re' this report...) The reporter and source above do not seem to have much of a kind word for Levada in general, so I do not neccesarily believe in any of the "correct" reporting of the short phrase with myriad interpretations depending upon turn of words. Again - I do not know all the facts, but all the "piling on" to a fellow who is already up for scrutiny heading into a controversial job just makes me a bit suspicious - makes for good copy. And pronouncing him altogether medoiocre seems harsh as well.
It appears to me that many of the Vatican departments are doing a bit of "tesing" of B16 - I imagine that the fall will bring some tightening up. Remember, they trying to operate as they have for a number of years now - as their own little fiefdoms. I have a notion that B16 is only too familiar with the problems there, which cannot be corrected by a mere two month "housecleaning" - this will require some "intestinal fortitude" and long-term strategic thought - these folks are intrenched! I agree with the writer above - and hope B16 has some good time ahead of him to accomplish what God has in mind for him - a shorter than 27 years pontificate doesn't have to be uneventful or without major positive accomplishments.

9/8/05 07:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Probably correct, Sam. I remember when Pope Benedict first became pope he asked us to pray that "he wouldn't listen to the wolves." I thought this the kind of comment I would never have heard out of PJP2. He needs our prayers.....there are wolves--big ones, ravenous who want to use us.

9/8/05 09:55  
Blogger Papabile said...

I forget who wrote it, but someone called Levada a "Yes" man. Knowing the Prefect personally, I would call him an echo chamber.

Let's be honest here. Benedict is in the process of decapitating Stato, and the Holy Office will once again be Supremo. With that said, he picked a prefect who will perfectly echo what Benedict wants.

Levada is fundamentally weak. He will implement, with consistancy exectly what Benedict wants done.

Also, it will be sweet justice to see an American shoving unwanted medicine down his brother Bishops' throats. It will definitely be a new spin on collegiality.

9/8/05 10:19  
Blogger Jeff said...

I LOVE your last paragraph, Papabile. So sad that you stopped blogging; you are missed.

Your take on Levada is a sensible one and mostly on target. I wonder, though, if it's not fairer to say that Levada is not passionate about his own opinions (i.e, can actually serve another rather than push his own agenda) and doesn't have the originality of a Ratzinger. Few do, after all.

My sense is that Levada is quite intelligent and has the capacity to be an innovative leader. His solution to the San Francisco crisis over "partner benefits" was original and impressive.
Those who work closely with him seem to feel loyalty toward and admiration for him and defend him against charges of unorthodoxy. If Ratzinger picked him, despite the impression that he has sometimes given of being "soft" on important things, I must conclude that's because he knows him better than we do and trusts him, rather than because he's ignorant and has made a bad decision.

9/8/05 11:09  
Blogger Papabile said...


surprised anyone remembers that blog..... things change so quickly overnight.

Raztinger does know him better than most. However, I would say that Levade is "malleable".

9/8/05 11:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I certainly hope you're right, papabile.

9/8/05 13:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps he picked him because he knows that we, being so enamored of ourselves as Americans, might listen to no-one else. Americans, for the record, only matter because people copy us. Our translations are used as models by people who admire our "style," such as it is.

If this is Benedict XVI's motivation AND if he makes good on it, I will be very pleased and amused...and will be thanking God Almighty for a clever pope. =)

9/8/05 13:42  
Blogger Sam Martini said...

And I'm not sure its a bad thing for a Pope to want to have close control - intellectual and otherwise - over what goes on in the various departments - in particular CDF. As has been said, there are few if any within the Church who can match B16 for sheer intellectual power and long-term work and dedication. B16 should know best what does and does not need to happen there - a maverick or someone he does not trust to be a "team player" could really wreak havoc. (see State's recent efforts) This suggests to me that B16 does indeed have a travel plan in terms of where he wants his pontificate to go - and he appears to want to be holding the map, the wheel and the gear box as well as having his foot on the gas!

9/8/05 18:29  

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