Raymond Hunthausen

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The Most Reverend
Raymond Gerhardt Hunthausen
Archbishop Emeritus of Seattle
See Seattle
Installed February 25, 1975
Term ended August 21, 1991
Predecessor Thomas Arthur Connolly
Successor Thomas Joseph Murphy
Other posts Bishop of Helena (1962–1975)
Ordination June 1, 1946
Consecration August 30, 1962
Personal details
Born (1921-08-21) August 21, 1921 (age 95)
Anaconda, Montana
Styles of
Raymond Hunthausen
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style His Excellency
Religious style Monsignor

Raymond Gerhardt Hunthausen (born August 21, 1921) is a retired American prelate of the Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Helena from 1962 to 1975 and as Archbishop of Seattle from 1975 to 1991. He is the last surviving American clergyman of the Second Vatican Council.

Early life and education[edit]

The oldest of seven children, Raymond Hunthausen was born in Anaconda, Montana, to Anthony Gerhardt and Edna Marie (née Tuchscherer) Hunthausen.[1] His parents owned and operated a local grocery store.[2] He received his early education from the Ursuline nuns at the parochial school of St. Paul Church, and excelled academically and athletically during high school.[2]

He attended Carroll College in Helena, majoring in chemistry and graduating cum laude in 1943.[1] He considered pursuing a career as a chemical engineer or as a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force.[3] However, he was persuaded by Father Bernard Topel, his spiritual director and mathematics professor at Carroll who later became Bishop of Spokane, to enter the priesthood.[2][3] He began his studies at St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Washington, in the fall of 1943.[4]


Hunthausen was ordained a priest by Bishop Joseph Gilmore on June 1, 1946.[5] He returned to Carroll College, where he served as a professor of chemistry (1946–57) and a football and basketball coach (1953–57).[1] In 1953, he earned a Master's degree in science from the University of Notre Dame.[2] He served as president of Carroll College from 1957 to 1962. He was named a domestic prelate in 1958.[1]

Episcopal career[edit]

On July 8, 1962, Hunthausen was appointed the sixth Bishop of Helena by Pope John XXIII.[5] He received his episcopal consecration on the following August 30 from Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, with Bishops Bernard Topel and William Condon serving as co-consecrators.[5] As bishop of Helena, he was a council father at all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council. He was the newest and youngest American bishop at the start of the Council.

His tenure as bishop of Helena was marked by increased lay involvement in church matters, the establishment of a mission in Guatemala, the closure of several Catholic elementary and high schools, and the strengthening of religious education programs which function in every diocesan parish.

He was appointed Archbishop of Seattle, Washington by Pope Paul VI and retired effective August 21, 1991 (his 70th birthday), after years of controversies that included an investigation coordinated by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI. Though the investigative commission found in favor of Archbishop Hunthausen, his early retirement allowed for his coadjutor to step in early and begin smoothing the waters of the beleaguered diocese.


Nuclear weapons[edit]

In 1982, Hunthausen withheld half of his income tax to protest the stockpiling of nuclear weapons and the Trident missile program which had a base nearby, in Puget Sound. In a speech, he said, “Trident is the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.”[6] This tax resistance prompted the Internal Revenue Service to garnish his wages.

Church investigation[edit]

As a result of the complaints surrounding the issues discussed above, in 1983 the Vatican authorized Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to launch an investigation. Archbishop (later Cardinal) James Hickey of Washington, DC was named apostolic visitor to the archdiocese of Seattle. Hickey's delegation met with Hunthausen and others to investigate his administrative and pastoral practices. The result of the visitation was a 1985 letter from Cardinal Ratzinger to Archbishop Hunthausen which summarized recommended changes to be made in the Seattle Archdiocese, but which first affirmed his ministry, his orthodoxy, and his loyalty to the Council and to the pope:

“...you have striven with heart and mind to be a good bishop of the Church, eager to implement the renewal called for in the decrees of the Vatican Council II. ...It is also true that you and those who assist you have suffered from exaggerated criticism and routine misunderstanding. Our observations are based neither on the complaints of your more strident critics, nor on publications that are obviously biased. Nor do we wish to encourage extremist groups who are wholly lacking in a spirit of cooperation and seek to destroy or suppress whatever is not to their liking.” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 30 September 1985)[7]

In January 1986, Pope John Paul II appointed Donald Wuerl as auxiliary bishop of Seattle. Bishop Wuerl was told he was being given faculties in five liturgical and administrative areas over and above Archbishop Hunthausen; the Archbishop was informed differently. In a later press statement, Archbishop Hunthausen acknowledged having received on July 1, 1986, written confirmation from the Holy See that Bishop Wuerl had indeed received what the Archbishop described as "complete and final" authority in certain areas.[8] By May 1987, however, the irregular situation had become untenable and Bishop Wuerl was removed from his position. Bishop Wuerl went on to be appointed Bishop of Pittsburgh and later to be made a Cardinal as Archbishop of Washington.

Shortly after, in a more traditional model, the Vatican appointed Bishop Thomas J. Murphy of Great Falls, Montana as coadjutor archbishop of Seattle. Upon Hunthausen's retirement four years later, Murphy succeeded him as archbishop.

According to Thomas Bokenkotter, "A resolution of the affair was finally announced by the Vatican in April 1989 after it accepted the report of a commission that recommended that Hunthausen’s authority be restored and a Coadjutor Archbishop be appointed. Hunthausen stoutly maintains that his archdiocese has remained fundamentally the same and was never in violation of Vatican doctrine; nor has he had to alter the general direction of his ministry or compromise his liberal beliefs."[9]

Despite the attention surrounding the visitation, Archbishop Hunthausen is remembered most for his support of the poor and disenfranchised. He was also a great advocate for the youth and encouraged better catechesis in Catholic parishes and Catholic parochial schools despite waning enrollment. In 1985, he helped establish the Institute for Theological Studies at Seattle University, which in 1996 evolved into the School of Theology and Ministry.

Archbishop Hunthausen retired in 1991 and currently resides near Helena, Montana, with his brother, Father Jack Hunthausen.[3] He still hears confessions once a week in East Helena. As of October 2011, Hunthausen is the last living American bishop to have attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council.


1982 Thomas Merton Award by the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice

1992 Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice - by the Paulist Center


You held the position of archbishop of the Seattle diocese for 16 years. In that time, you had a huge impact on area Catholics as well as on the church as a whole. What do you think is the greatest legacy of your tenure?
"You'd almost have to ask that question to somebody else. If I have to respond, I have to say that I brought to the church, as I understood it, what the Second Vatican Council was inviting us to become."[10]


  1. ^ a b c d Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig. 
  2. ^ a b c d Capace, Nancy (2000). Encyclopedia of Montana. Somerset Publishers, Inc. 
  3. ^ a b c "Ordination Milestones". The Montana Catholic. 2011-05-20. 
  4. ^ "Raymond Hunthausen". People. 1986-12-22. 
  5. ^ a b c "Archbishop Raymond Gerhardt Hunthausen". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. [self-published source]
  6. ^ Amundson, Mavis “Local professor notes Hunthausen’s influence” West Seattle Herald 11 January 1984
  7. ^ Seattle Catholic Journal: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's Report Issued on Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, September 30, 1985
  8. ^ http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/dissertations/2003-0206-111237/inhoud.htm Conflict in the Catholic Hierarchy: a study of coping strategies in the Hunthausen affair, with preferential attention to discursive strategies – Schilling, Timothy Peter – From 2003 – Retrieved on October 22, 2008
  9. ^ A Concise History of the Catholic Church, Rev. and exp. ed. New York: Doubleday, 2004. 447.
  10. ^ Hunthausen Hall Is Named For A Man Of Sound Character, Laura Slavik, June 14, 2004
Additional sources
  • John A. McCoy, A Still and Quiet Conscience: The Archbishop who Challenged a Pope, a President, and a Church, Orbis Books, 2015
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Joseph Michael Gilmore
Bishop of Helena
Succeeded by
Elden Francis Curtiss
Preceded by
Thomas Arthur Connolly
Archbishop of Seattle
Succeeded by
Thomas Joseph Murphy