San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn will resign his post next year, ending a tumultuous 18- year reign and stepping aside for a conservative Portland prelate to replace him.
Church officials in Rome and San Francisco plan to make separate announcements tomorrow that William Levada, the archbishop of Portland, will come to the Bay Area this fall as a ``coadjutor bishop'' working under Quinn.
Levada will eventually be installed as the seventh archbishop of San Francisco; Quinn is expected to step down early next year.
Priests close to the archbishop say tomorrow's announcements follow a series of complex negotiations that began when Quinn met privately in Rome in February with Pope John Paul II.
Under normal church procedures, Quinn, 66, would not retire until age 75.
But a series of scandals during the past two years involving child abuse and embezzlement by several San Francisco priests -- coupled with public uproar over Quinn's decision to close a dozen historic churches -- have rattled the archbishop, church sources say.
``He is tired of all the negativity and assaults on his character,'' said one priest who is close to Quinn. ``He feels that journalistic terrorism has been used to link him to things that are not of his doing.''
Other church insiders, however, say Quinn was already considering early retirement before the latest round of scandals hit.
Quinn -- whose problems with stress and depression caused him to seek psychiatric care during a 1987 leave of absence -- is highly regarded as a theologian and insider at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which he led as president from 1977-80.
Closer to home, however, the archbishop has always had difficulty administering a three-county archdiocese plagued with declining church attendance, soaring earthquake-repair costs and aging priests.
Quinn oversees an ethnically diverse membership that includes homosexual and feminist Catholics upset with church teachings on sex and gender, along with traditionalist Roman Catholics who think the church has become too liberal.
Quinn's latest woes began in November 1993, when he approved the first phase of a ``pastoral plan'' that included the closure and consolidation of some of the city's oldest churches.
Disgruntled parishioners, most notably those at St. Brigid's Church on Van Ness Avenue, refused to accept the plan. They filed appeals with the Vatican, spoke out in the media and called for Quinn's removal.
Five months later, in March 1994, the archdiocese was rocked by allegations of priestly pedophilia by one of Quinn's most trusted advisers, Monsignor Patrick O'Shea. That was followed by an embezzlement probe against the Rev. Martin Greenlaw, who, along with O'Shea, had led church fund- raising efforts at the chancery.
According to church sources, Quinn's road to early retirement began when the archbishop sought out the February 2 meeting with the pope.
By asking the pope to appoint a ``coadjutor bishop,'' Quinn was hoping to exert some influence over who would replace him.
Quinn later sent a list of 10 names to papal representatives in Washington and began quietly lobbying for one of two favorites.
In April, Quinn received a letter from Vatican officials informing him that a still-unknown successor would be named, and the archbishop called a secret meeting of about 15 leading priests to inform them of his decision.
``It was an emotional meeting. We were all surprised, very sad, and sworn to secrecy,'' said one priest who was there. ``Most of us really like him and thought he'd be around for years.''
Last Tuesday, another church source said, Quinn heard that the pope had selected Levada, a theological conservative who once worked for the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has led a worldwide theological crackdown under Pope John Paul.
Quinn is identified with the moderate wing of the bishops' conference, and national church observers doubt Levada was the successor he had hoped to get.
``I can't believe Quinn is happy with Levada,'' said the Rev. Tom Reese, a Jesuit journalist and authority on the bishops' conference. ``If he was on the list, he wouldn't have been high on the list.''
One local priest who saw Quinn's list said Levada was included as a ``stopgap name,'' someone who was included to stop the consideration of other candidates whom Quinn really opposed.
As for Quinn's failure to get one of his top choices, the priest said, ``We live in a time when Quinn's stock is not as high in Rome as it once was. They (the moderate-liberal camp in the bishops' conference) don't have the leverage they once did.''
Nevertheless, the priest said, Quinn and Levada have talked on the phone several times during the past week, and their conversations ``went well.''
According to several priests in the archdiocese, Quinn plans to write, teach and do theological research.
``John has spent 30 years as a bishop,'' one priest said. ``He feels he has put in his time.''