VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI is sounding out top Vatican cardinals on filling his old job as the chief guardian of the Vatican's conservative doctrine, and one of the candidates is San Francisco's archbishop, but no decision has been made, a Vatican official said yesterday.
Time magazine reported Tuesday that Benedict already had asked Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco, a doctrinal specialist, if he was interested in leading the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and that Levada had accepted.
But the weekly couched its report by quoting an unidentified senior Vatican official as saying that if Levada isn't appointed, ''it means somebody got to [the pope] and convinced him to change his mind."
The pope caught the media's attention when he met privately with Levada on May 3, and the archbishop's strong credentials for the post fueled speculation that he was a leading candidate.
Benedict and Levada are old friends, and Levada is one of five bishops serving on the congregation, one of the most powerful Vatican offices, with its task of ensuring the church's teachings are followed.
Benedict, also a theologian, led the congregation from 1981 until his election as pontiff last month.
Benedict has been meeting almost daily with his number two person at the congregation, Monsignor Angelo Amato, and in recent days has met with nearly all the major heads of top Vatican offices to sound them out on potential candidates, the Vatican official said.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he didn't believe the pope had yet reached a decision.
Levada, 68 and a conservative, has been archbishop of San Francisco since 1995; before that he was archbishop of another largely liberal city, Portland, Ore.
He has spoken out on some pressing doctrinal concerns, voicing opposition to same-sex marriages and saying priests should ask bishops for guidance on whether to refuse a Catholic politician Communion if the politician supports abortion rights.