Former SF Archbishop Returns for Sex Abuse-Related Questioning

By Kim Curtis
Associated Press, carried in The Mercury News [San Jose CA]
January 8, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO - Former Archbishop William Levada was expected to answer questions from lawyers Monday about how the Portland diocese handled priest sex abuse cases during his tenure there.

Levada was served with a subpoena Aug. 10, right before he left for Rome to take over as prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the position formerly held by Pope Benedict XVI. It's the highest Vatican post ever held by an American.

Levada served as archbishop in Portland from 1986 to 1995 before transferring to San Francisco. In 2004, Portland became the first Catholic diocese in the United States to declare bankruptcy, citing sex abuse lawsuits seeking more than $155 million in damages.

About 150 of those suits are still pending, according to plaintiffs' lawyer Kelly Clark.

"The bankruptcy judge has to figure out the value of those claims," Clark said. "We are trying to prove that the archdiocese of Portland, over the last 40 years, had a policy and practice of responding to child abuse claims in a less-than appropriate manner."

In a Dec. 30 order, Judge Elizabeth Perris limited the scope of Levada's questioning to his knowledge of church policies and procedures in dealing with sex abuse claims, accusations against specific priests and policies regarding storage and disposition of records, among other things.

Lawyers are forbidden from questioning Levada about his current job in Rome or his past job at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He served as a staff member there from 1976 to 1982.

In his new position, Levada reviews abuse allegations against priests worldwide and either takes action against the accused clergy or refers the case back to local bishops.

Monday's deposition has been limited to seven hours and is expected to wrap up in a day. Lawyers haven't revealed where it will take place.


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