Wednesday, March 22, 2006

THE CONSISTORY: Angelenos in Rome

With all the hubbub about the Boston/Miami/DC delegation for Cardinal Sean, let's not forget that a son of the West Coast is getting a red hat for the first time since Roger Mahony got his in 1991 with the elevation of Bill Levada to the College of Cardinals.

To honor to the blessed event, a sizable Californian group -- Levada's friends, classmates, relatives, etc. -- has gone over to pay tribute.

The prefect's got a close-knit group of friends who absolutely love him, and an impressive loyalty and camaraderie which has stretched through across years and decades marks these friendships.

A flood of clergy and laity -- even some of his seminary students who decided that Camarillo wasn't for them, but stayed in close touch -- will be in attendance for the weekend. And, of course, the bishop-members of the group -- Tod Brown, Justin Rigali, George Niederauer (his successor in San Francisco), John Vlazny (his successor in Portland) and Roger our bishop, among others -- are all there as well.

Levada's hometown paper, the Long Beach Press-Telegram, covers the SoCal pilgrimage:
The power of the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] lies within its mission. The job of the nearly 500-year-old congregation, in part, is to promote doctrine and defend traditions viewed as being under attack by what the church calls "unacceptable doctrines." So powerful is the congregation that it is also known as La Suprema.

Given that status, could Levada become pope himself?

Like many prominent Catholic laymen, Murchison shuns such speculation. But others, including some making the pilgrimage to Rome, have considered the possibility.

Dan Slater, a civil engineer who lives in Naples, is taking his wife, Janet, and three of their five children to the consistory. "We're practicing Catholics," he says, "and I want my children to be able to say they saw the pope."

When the suggestion is made that they might be seeing two popes, he replies, "Yes, potentially. Wouldn't that be something!"....

For all this, Levada's elevation to the Vatican and to the office of cardinal weighs heavily on some church members.

"Regardless of how you feel about the Catholic Church, you have to admit this is an amazing position for a man from the United States," says Mike Murchison, George's son. "I think this is a great opportunity for Long Beach from that standpoint."

Murchison's son, Ryan, a student at St. Joseph Elementary School, will accompany his grandparents to Rome.

Although only 12, Ryan is no stranger to high-level church activities. He traveled with his family to San Francisco when Levada became bishop there. Says his father, "Bishop Levada started calling him Ryan, so Ryan started calling the bishop Bill."

Apparently, they got along famously.
So, along the lines of "Cardinal Sean," does that mean we can call Levada "Cardinal Bill"?