Former top Vatican official arrested for drunk driving in Hawaii

Cardinal William Levada pictured at a news conference at the Vatican in 2009.Reuters

A former head of the influential Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome has been arrested in Hawaii on suspicion of drink driving.

Cardinal William Levada, who as chief prosecutor and defender of the Church's doctrines was one of the most influential men in the Catholic Church, was released on $500 bail and will appear in court on 24 September.

Levada was stopped after a patrol officer saw him swerve while driving on Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, where he was Archbishop from 1995 to 2005 and where he now lives in St Patrick seminary, said the cardinal was in Hawaii on holiday with clergy friends.

Cardinal Levada was prefect of the CDF under Pope Benedict XVI from May 2005 until he resigned because of his age in June 2012. He was given his red hat in 2006.

He is among the Catholic church leaders who have faced criticism for how they dealt with priests who committed sex abuse offences. In 1985, he was given a report from a panel headed Father Tom Doyle about medical, legal, and moral issues posed by abusive clerics. Father Doyle hoped the report would be presented to US bishops at meeting in June that year. Days later, Cardinal Levada told Father Doyle the report would not go to the bishops after all, and soon after that Father Doyle, who worked at the Vatican embassy, was demoted.

Cardinal Levada also served as Archbishop of Portland, Oregon which became the first US Catholic diocese to declare itself bankrupt after settling millions of dollars to victims of clerical sex abuse. In one case, Levada removed an alleged abusive priest, authorised secret payments to the victims and then allowed the priest to return to clerical duties without telling parishioners or the police about the allegations.