The 80th birthday of Cardinal William J. Levada, June 15, is a milestone for the Catholic Church in the United States. The retired prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the highest-ranking Vatican official ever from this country, serving from 2005-2012 in the influential post Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself occupied before being elected Pope Benedict XVI. He was the first man elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict.
Cardinal Levada’s reaching the age at which cardinals lose their vote in a papal election leaves the number of U.S. electors at seven — four who head stateside archdioceses (Boston, New York, Washington, Galveston-Houston) and three in Rome. This is a 30-year low. The number of U.S. electors was 11 in the 2013 conclave to elect Pope Francis, the second largest national voting bloc after Italy, despite countries like Brazil, the Philippines and Mexico having more Catholics.
While Pope Francis has named two groups of new cardinals since his election (in 2014 and 2015), he has yet to include an American in those ranks, even with traditional “cardinalatial sees” (dioceses that have historically had a cardinal) like Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia not currently led by one.
Rocco Palmo, author of the website Whispers in the Loggia, has chronicled the Catholic Church since 2004 from his native Philadelphia. Palmo spoke with Our Sunday Visitor about the impact of Cardinal Levada and influence of the United States, past and present, in the Catholic Church globally.
Listen to our podcast story here.