It’s probably the second-most powerful Vatican office—prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the head of the Vatican department historically known as the Office of the Holy Inquisition. It’s the job that Pope Benedict held as Cardinal Ratzinger directly answerable to John Paul ii during the latter’s papacy. Under his rule, the prefect became known as “the pope’s enforcer.” Now the current holder of that office, Cardinal Levada, who was certainly not cast in the mold of a true “enforcer,” is set to retire. The question is, who will replace him?
In all probability, Benedict appointed the American Levada very deliberately knowing that such an appointment was a gap filler, while he prepared to place a man after his own persuasion, a true doctrinaire “enforcer,” in that key role. After all, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is described by those in the know as “the most delicate department head of the Roman Curia, a task Ratzinger held for 24 years before being elected pope” (Vatican Insider, August 25).