Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Inquisition Comes Home?

Earlier this month, as Cardinal Edward Egan reached the retirement age of 75, it didn't take long for the buzzmill to hit a fever pitch with visions, rumblings, floaters and speculations of the succession to one of global Catholicism's most visible posts, the archbishopric of New York.

Tomorrow's start to Year Three of B16 has brought a fresh set of reports predicting "revolution" or "earthquake" in the Roman Curia. Of course, prior alarms of the same all failed to come to pass, but when even the papal intimates are talking openly of "surprises" -- and others of "big surprises" -- in the offing, you know something's afoot.

Among the various scenarios being presented in the Italian press, one of particular note is quickly gaining steam. The race for 452 Madison seems to have begun -- not in New York, however, but in Rome. And the prospect tipped to take it in recent days is a genuine bolt from the blue: Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

When observing the chessboard, it could usually be said that stranger things have been bandied about. But not this time.

Gerry O'Connell, the keen Vatican eye for the UK's Universe, broke the buzz into the Anglophone world earlier today, citing the existence (echoed elsewhere) of "tensions" within the CDF and reporting that "things are not working out so well" in the dicastery charged with ensuring the purity of church teaching. Others have raised the specter of Levada's dissatisfaction in the post, with some holding out the possibility of a clash between the cardinal-prefect and his congregation's former #2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Secretary of State.

With Benedict reportedly "aware" of (and displeased with) the difficulties in the office he led for 23 years, still said to be in the ascent is the CDF secretary Archbishop Angelo Amato, the ghost-author of Dominus Iesus -- Cardinal Ratzinger's famous 2000 decree on salvation and justification -- and, not coincidentally, a Salesian confere of Bertone's. According to O'Connell's sources, Amato could end up with a red hat as early as June.

While it still exists only in the hypothetical, a homecoming of the 70 year-old Californian whose job is descended from the "Grand Inquisitors" of old would shatter multiple conventions, not least of which the unprecedented placement of a lifelong West Coaster atop the legendary bulwark of East Coast Catholicism.

As archbishop of Portland in Oregon, and especially over his decade as archbishop of San Francisco, Levada won prelatial and political plaudits alike for his unique ability to find creative, consensus-winning solutions to thorny doctrinal and pastoral situations, which earned the church a place at the public policy table not on the basis of its numbers, but street smarts and savvy. Keeping that record in mind, to fill New York with the holder the Vatican's #3 post would also have the effect of restoring some of the traditional prestige which, Egan's critics say, has diminished over the course of the incumbent's seven year tenure.

Among other Romans rumored to be shuffling is Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the retired diplomat and currently archpriest of the Pontifical Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls. An Italian paper reported earlier this week that the post -- and its ex officio red hat -- could end up going to Archbishop Piero Marini, the longtime Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations.