Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle

Coordinates: 47°36′23″N 122°19′32″W / 47.60639°N 122.32556°W / 47.60639; -122.32556
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Archdiocese of Seattle

Archidiœcesis Seattlensis
Seattle - Saint James Cathedral pano 01.jpg
St. James Cathedral
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle.svg
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryWestern Washington
Ecclesiastical provinceSeattle
Area64,269 km2 (24,814 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2016)
863,000 (15.7%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedMay 31, 1850; 173 years ago (1850-05-31) (as Diocese of Nesqually)
September 11, 1907; 115 years ago (1907-09-11) (became Diocese of Seattle)
June 23, 1951; 71 years ago (1951-06-23) (elevated to Archdiocese)
CathedralSt. James Cathedral
Patron saintJames the Greater[1]
Secular priests115
Current leadership
ArchbishopPaul D. Etienne
Auxiliary BishopsEusebio L. Elizondo Almaguer
Frank R. Schuster
Bishops emeritusJ. Peter Sartain
Archdiocese of Seattle.jpg

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, known as the Diocese of Nesqually from 1850 to 1907, is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory, or archdiocese, of the Catholic Church in western Washington State in the United States.

The mother church of the archdiocese is St. James Cathedral in Seattle. The former cathedral is the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater in Vancouver. The archdiocese encompasses 144 parishes west of the Cascade Range. Its archbishop since 2019 is Paul D. Etienne.

The archdiocese succeeded to the Diocese of Nesqually headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, established in 1850 as a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Oregon City. In 1903, the episcopal see was moved to Seattle, and the diocese's name was changed to Diocese of Seattle in 1907. The diocese was elevated to metropolitan archdiocesan status in 1951.

Ecclesiastical province[edit]

The Archbishop of Seattle is the metropolitan archdiocese of two suffragan dioceses:


As of 2014, the archdiocese served 997,000 Catholics (18.6% of 5,350,045 total) in 147 parishes with 298 priests (204 diocesan, 94 religious), 116 deacons, 476 lay religious (109 brothers, 367 sisters) and 800 lay ecclesial ministers.

There are 144 parishes, and an additional 37 missions, stations, and pastoral centers. Only 106 of these have resident priest-pastors. These parishes and other centers are served by 115 active diocesan priests, 118 diocesan deacons, approximately 800 diocesan lay ecclesial ministers, and 530 religious women and men (including priests). The archbishop is assisted by two auxiliary bishops and two emeritus archbishops.

The archdiocese has eleven hospitals, two health care centers, nineteen homes for the elderly, three day care centers, ten specialized homes, and 111 centers for social services.


1830 to 1850[edit]

The Catholic presence in what was then Oregon Country dates to the arrival in the 1830s of missionary priests François Blanchet and Modeste Demers traveled from the British colony of Lower Canada.

In 1843, the Vatican established the Vicariate Apostolic of the Oregon Territory and named François Blanchet as its vicar apostolic.[2] In 1846, Pope Gregory XVI divided the vicariate into three dioceses:

That same year, Gregory XVI named Augustin-Magloire Blanchet, the brother of François Blanchet, as the bishop of Walla Walla. According to contemporary accounts, Augustin-Magloire Blanchet was unhappy to discover that Walla Walla was no more than a trading post. He immediately ran into conflict with the Oblate order priests in the diocese who were performing missionary work. They refused Blanchet's efforts to assign them to parishes. Blanchet also tried to claim an Oblate mission property for the diocese that the Oblates had received from a Native American tribe.[3]

Described as an inflexible and arrogant leader, Blanchet quickly alienated most of the secular priests in his diocese. Many of these priests attempted to join the Jesuit and Oblate orders to escape his control. In response, Blanchet introduced rules to make these priest transfers more difficult and to steer seminarians away from the orders.[3]

In November 1847, two Protestant missionaries and eight other Americans were murdered by some members of the Cayuse tribe near Walla Walla in what was termed the Whitman massacre. The killers mistakenly believed that the missionaries had deliberately poisoned 200 tribal members while trying to treat them for measles.

Despite attempts by the Cayuse tribe to defuse the conflict, American settlers raised militias to punish them for the killings. Local Protestants accused the Catholic clergy of being in league with the Cayuse. This animosity, the warfare between the US Army and the Cayuse and the failure of the diocese to grow prompted the Vatican to move Blanchet to safety in St. Paul in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.[4][3]

1850 to 1903[edit]

On May 31, 1850, Pope Pius IX officially suppressed the defunct Diocese of Walla Walla and erected the Diocese of Nesqually in its place. The pope appointed Augustin Blanchet as bishop of the new diocese. In January 1851, Blanchet dedicated St. James Church near Fort Vancouver as the cathedral for the diocese.

In 1868, Francis X. Prefontaine requested Blanchet's permission to build a church near Pioneer Square in Seattle to support the city's first Catholic parish, Our Lady of Good Help.[5] Blanchet believed that Seattle was not worth the effort. However, he gave Prefontaine permission to build a church there, on the condition that Prefontaine raise all the money for it. Prefontaine in 1869 opened Seattle's first Catholic church.[6][7]

After Blanchet retired in 1879, Pope Leo XIII named Egidius Junger as the second bishop of Nesqually.[8] The diocese experienced considerable growth under Junger's administration, including an increase in the number of priests and parishes and an increase in the number of nuns from 60 to 286. St Leo the Great, established in 1879, was the first Catholic Church in Tacoma.[9] Junger built a large cathedral in Vancouver in 1888 to replace the wooden church from years earlier. However, the $50,000 debt incurred by the project became a burden for the diocese.[10] Our Lady of Hope, the first Catholic church in Everett, was dedicated in 1892.[11] Junger died in 1895.

To replace Junger, Leo XIII appointed Edward O'Dea as the next bishop of Nesqually in 1896. When he took office, O'Dea was confronted with financial difficulties, including a $25,000 debt for the construction of the cathedral.[12]

1903 to 1951[edit]

In 1903, O'Dea petitioned the Vatican to move the episcopal see from Vancouver to Seattle due to the increased population and economy of that city. He began construction on a new cathedral in Seattle in 1905. In 1907, the Vatican suppressed the Diocese of Nesqually and erected the Diocese of Seattle, with O'Dea as its first archbishop. He dedicated St. James Cathedral in Seattle that same year. O'Dea guided the diocese through World War I and the anti-Catholic sentiment engendered by Initiative 49, a Ku Klux Klan-sponsored effort in Washington State to outlaw parochial schools.[13] His final accomplishment was the establishment of St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Washington, in 1930.[13] In 1931, the Vatican erected the Diocese of Spokane, taking its territory from the Diocese of Seattle. O'Dea died in 1932.

The second bishop of Seattle was Gerald Shaughnessy, appointed by Pope Pius XI in 1933.[14] Shaughnessy kept the diocese financially stable during the Great Depression. He encouraged the formation of Serra International and served as its first chaplain.[15] He also supported the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Catholic Charities. chapters in the diocese.[16] In 1948, Pope Pius XII appointed Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Connolly from the Archdiocese of San Francisco as coadjutor bishop to assist Shaughnessy, who had not fully recovered from a stroke three years earlier.[17] When Shaughnessy died in 1950, Connolly automatically succeeded him as bishop of Seattle.

1951 to 1991[edit]

Pius XII elevated the Diocese of Seattle to the Archdiocese of Seattle on June 23, 1951, while taking some of its territory to erect the Diocese of Yakima. The pope named Connolly as the first archbishop of Seattle.[18] During his tenure, Connolly became known as a "brick and mortar bishop" for his construction of hundreds of Catholic facilities to accommodate the post-World War II population growth in the archdiocese.[19] He renovated St. James Cathedral; established 43 new parishes; and built over 350 churches, schools, rectories, convents, parish halls and religious education centers.[20][19] He was an outspoken supporter of the civil rights movement, ecumenism and abortion rights for women.[19] When Connolly retired in 1975, Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Raymond Hunthausen from the Diocese of Helena as his successor in Seattle.

By 1983, the Vatican was allegedly receiving complaints that Hunthausen was deviating from Catholic doctrine on matters such as the providing of contraception in Catholic hospitals and the church's policies on gay and divorced Catholics. That same year, Pope John Paul II authorized Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to investigate Hunthausen. Ratzinger appointed Archbishop James Hickey of the Diocese of Washington as apostolic visitor to go to Seattle and conduct the investigation. After meeting with Hunthausen and examining archdiocesan policies, Hickey concluded that Hunthausen had exercised "weak doctrinal leadership" in a number of areas. These included allowing children to receive the sacrament of communion without first having received the sacrament of penance.[21]

In response to Hickey's investigation, John Paul II named Donald Wuerl in January 1986 as an auxiliary bishop in Seattle. Unknown to Hunthausen, the pope had give Wuerl with special powers to override Hunthausen in the following areas:[22]

In May 1986, Hunthausen and Wuerl found themselves in opposition on proposed state legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment.[24] At that point, Hunthausen learned for the first time that Wuerl had been given authority over many issues.[23] Hunthausen revealed the Vatican's actions in September 1986, calling the arrangement unworkable.[25] While some chancery officials expressed support for Wuerl, some questioned his role and saw little impact on the archdiocese a year after his appointment.[24] In November 1986, Hunthausen took his grievances to the meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which sided in his favor.[26]

In February 1987, after appointing a commission to study the controversy in Seattle, John Paul II met with Hunthausen in Rome.[26] According to Thomas Bokenkotter,

"A resolution of the affair was finally announced by the Vatican in April after it accepted the report of a commission that recommended that Hunthausen's authority be restored and a coadjutor bishop be appointed.[27] 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."[28]

John Paul II named Bishop Thomas Murphy of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings as coadjutor archbishop in Seattle to assist Hunthausen. In March 1988, John Paul II named Wuerl as bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.[22] When Hunthausen retired in 1991, Murphy automatically replaced him as archbishop of Seattle [29]

1991 to 2010[edit]

Murphy traveled extensively to parishes around the archdiocese and was an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. He oversaw an extensive renovation of St. James Cathedral, which was completed in 1994. Under Murphy's administration the archdiocese saw an increase in registered Catholics, and an increase in outreach and ministries for women, various ethnic groups, and LGBT individuals.[30]

In 1992, Murphy opened Elizabeth House in Seattle, which provided medical care and job training for pregnant teens.[31] For small Washington towns that were suffering from cutbacks in the timber industry, Murphy provided $500,000 to assist in starting small businesses. To help offset the declining numbers of priests, he provided financial support to a Seattle University program to train lay people in assist in some parish duties. Murphy died in 1997.

To replace Murphy, John Paul II named Bishop Alexander Brunett of Helena as archbishop of Seattle in 1997. Despite the economic recession, annual contributions from Catholics in Western Washington doubled during Brunett's tenure as archbishop, providing funding for the construction of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic High School, which opened in 2009 in Vancouver and Pope John Paul II High School, which opened in 2010 in Lacey.[32] Brunett also helped launch the Fulcrum Foundation, which provides scholarships to poor families to send their children to Catholic schools and oversaw the $7 million purchase, renovation and expansion of the Palisades Retreat Center in Federal Way.[32] Brunett retired in 2009.

2010 to present[edit]

The next archbishop of Seattle was Bishop J. Peter Sartain from the Diocese of Joliet, named by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. In June 2019, Sartain installed Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of the Archdiocese of Anchorage as coadjutor archbishop to assist him. In August 2019, Sartain ordered the demolition of Holy Rosary Church in Tacoma,[33][34][35] a building that has been on the City of Tacoma's Register of Tacoma Places since 1975.[36] The church had become structurally unsound, and estimates for its repair were at $18 million. Sartain retired in September 2019.

When Sartain retired, Etienne automatically became archbishop of Seattle.[37][38][39] On taking office, Etienne announced that he would not reside in Connolly House, the mansion for the archbishop of Seattle, suggesting it be sold to provide money to help the poor.[40] As of 2023, Etienne is the archbishop of Seattle.


Bishops of Nesqually[edit]

  1. Augustin-Magloire Blanchet (1850–1879)
  2. Egidius Junger (1879–1895)
  3. Edward John O'Dea (1896–1907), title changed to Bishop of Seattle

Bishops of Seattle[edit]

  1. Edward John O'Dea (1907–1932)
  2. Gerald Shaughnessy (1933–1950)
  3. Thomas Arthur Connolly (1950–1951), elevated to archbishop

Archbishops of Seattle[edit]

  1. Thomas Arthur Connolly (1951–1975)
  2. Raymond Hunthausen (1975–1991)
  3. Thomas Joseph Murphy (1991–1997; coadjutor 1987–1991)
  4. Alexander Joseph Brunett (1997–2010)
  5. J. Peter Sartain (2010–2019)
  6. Paul D. Etienne (2019–present; coadjutor 2019)

Current auxiliary bishops[edit]

Former auxiliary bishops[edit]

Other diocesan priests who became bishops[edit]



The Archdiocese of Seattle has two universities, 11 high schools and 62 elementary schools.

  • 16,831 elementary students attended parochial and private schools;
  • 29,850 elementary students attended parochial religious education programs.
  • 2420 high school students attended diocesan and private schools;
  • 6580 high school students attended parochial religious education and youth ministry programs.[41]

High schools[edit]

* Operationally independent of archdiocese

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paulist Press Ordo 2010
  2. ^ "François Norbert Blanchet". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
  3. ^ a b c McNally, Vincent J. (August 2000). The Lord's Distant Vineyard: A History of the Oblates and the Catholic Community in British Columbia. University of Alberta. ISBN 978-0-88864-346-9.
  4. ^ Voisine, Nive. "Augustin-Magloire Blanchet". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Prefontaine, Father Francis Xavier (1838-1909)". The Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. HistoryLink. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
  6. ^ "Father Francis X. Prefontaine". St. James Cathedral, Seattle. Archived from the original on 2010-08-29. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
  7. ^ William Farrand Prosser (1903). A History of the Puget Sound Country. Lewis Publishing Company. p. 475. Retrieved 2010-02-15 – via Internet Archive.
  8. ^ "Bishop Egidius Junger".
  9. ^ "Saint Leo the Great". Catholic Tacoma. 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2023-06-06.
  10. ^ O'Connel Killen, Patricia. Abundance of Grace: The History of the Archdiocese of Seattle, 1850 to 2000 (1st ed.). Strasbourg, France: Éditions du Signe. pp. 30–34.
  11. ^ Muhlstein, Julie (2017-10-04). "These Everett churches were born in a time of lawlessness". Retrieved 2023-06-06.
  12. ^ "Seattle". Catholic Encyclopedia.
  13. ^ a b "Bishop Edward John O'Dea". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle. Archived from the original on 2009-12-08. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
  14. ^ "Bishop Gerald Shaughnessy, S.M."
  15. ^ "The History of Serra". Serra Clubs of Orange County California. Archived from the original on May 30, 2008.
  16. ^ "Bishop Gerald Shaughnessy". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle. Archived from the original on September 21, 2009.
  17. ^ "BISHOP G. SHAUGHNESSY". The New York Times. 1950-05-19. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-09-02.
  18. ^ "Local Catholic History". Archives and Records, Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  19. ^ a b c "Archbishop Thomas A. Connolly". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle. Archived from the original on 2006-12-29.
  20. ^ "Thomas Connolly, 91, Archbishop in Seattle". The New York Times. 1991-04-20.
  21. ^ Fromherz, Frank. "Raymond Hunthausen, retired archbishop of Seattle, dies at age 96", National Catholic Reporter, July 22, 2018
  22. ^ a b Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh – History of Bishops Webpage – Retrieved on October 18, 2008 Archived December 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ a b Schilling, Timothy Peter (2003). Conflict in the Catholic Hierarchy: A Study of Coping Strategies in the Hunthausen Affair, with Preferential Attention to Discursive Strategies (doctoral dissertation). Utrecht, Netherlands: Utrecht University. hdl:1874/601.
  24. ^ a b Turner, Wallace (December 9, 1986). "2 Bishops of Seattle Striving to Work with Split Powers". The New York Times. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  25. ^ "Vatican Moves to Curtail Power of a Liberal Prelate in Seattle". The New York Times. Associated Press. September 5, 1986. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  26. ^ a b "Pope meets with Wuerl in Hunthausen controversy - UPI Archives". UPI. Retrieved 2023-06-06.
  27. ^ Chandler, Russell. "Pope Restores Full Powers to Hunthausen", The Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1987
  28. ^ A Concise History of the Catholic Church, Rev. and exp. ed. New York: Doubleday, 2004. 447.
  29. ^ Canon 403, Section 3, and Canon 405, Section 2, Codex Juris Canonici, 1984.
  30. ^ Macdonald, Sally; Bartley, Nancy (June 27, 1997). "Murphy: Passed Along His Faith And Gave Tirelessly Of Himself -- Archbishop Gave His Attention To Priests, The Poor, Teens". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  31. ^ "Archbishop Thomas Murphy 1932-1997 -- Murphy: Passed Along His Faith And Gave Tirelessly Of Himself -- Archbishop Gave His Attention To Priests, The Poor, Teens | The Seattle Times". Retrieved 2022-04-13.
  32. ^ a b Kamb, Lewis (31 January 2020). "Alexander Brunett, Seattle archbishop who oversaw expansions amid burgeoning sex-abuse scandal, dies at 86". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  33. ^ "Holy Rosary Catholic Church, a Tacoma landmark, to be demolished". August 25, 2019.
  34. ^[bare URL]
  35. ^ "Archdiocese orders Pierce County church be razed". Kiro 7 News Seattle.
  36. ^[bare URL PDF]
  37. ^ "Pope names Archbishop Etienne coadjutor archbishop of Seattle". Catholic News Service. April 29, 2019. Retrieved April 29, 2019.[dead link]
  38. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 29.04.2019" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. April 29, 2019. Retrieved April 29, 2019.
  39. ^ "Archbishop Etienne succeeds Archbishop Sartain as archbishop of Seattle". Northwest Catholic.
  40. ^ "'I am a pastor, not a prince.' New Seattle archbishop will not live in mansion". America Magazine. 2019-09-09. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  41. ^ "Table of Statistics" (PDF). Archdiocese of Seattle.

Sources and external links[edit]

47°36′23″N 122°19′32″W / 47.60639°N 122.32556°W / 47.60639; -122.32556