Raymond Hunthausen


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 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.

The oldest of seven children, Raymond Hunthausen was born in Anaconda, Montana, to Anthony Gerhardt and Edna Marie (née Tuchscherer) Hunthausen. He studied chemistry at Carroll College and graduated cum laude in 1943. He then entered the seminary and was ordained in 1946. He would later pursue a Master's degree at the University of Notre Dame.

From 1946 to 1957 Fr. Hunthausen was as an assistant professor of chemistry at Carroll College. He also served as football and basketball coach during the last four years of that period. In 1957 he was appointed the president of Carroll College. We was thirty-five years old: the youngest president in Carroll's history then and now.

In 1962 Saint John XXIII appointed him to succeed Bishop Joseph Gilmore as the sixth bishop of Helena. Within months of his ordination as bishop, he was summoned to Rome for the convening of the Second Vatican Council. He was a council father at all four sessions of the Council and remains the only living American bishop to have attended all four sessions. He was the newest and youngest American bishop at the start of the Council.

One area of controversy involved ministry to LGBT Catholics in the Seattle Archdiocese. Archbishop Hunthausen and many of the priests in the Seattle Archdiocese had long supported LGBT Catholics. The Archbishop openly supported civil rights for gays and lesbians in 1978 when there was an initiative in Seattle designed to take away those rights. In addition, many priests in the Archdiocese presided at a weekly Mass held by Dignity in various Catholic parishes...eventually landing in 1980 at St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill. Archbishop Hunthausen himself had presided at the Dignity Mass at St. Joseph's. This practice was not unique in Seattle as many Dignity chapters across the country held Masses in Catholic parishes in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Given this reality, when the Archdiocese of Seattle was asked to allow attendees at the 1983 biennial convention of Dignity/USA to use St. James Cathedral for a Mass during their convention, the Archbishop promptly and enthusiastically approved the request. While it is true that this could have been viewed as just another a Dignity Mass on Catholic Church property, two things set it apart. First, it was the only time Dignity/USA (the umbrella group for all Dignity chapters) had been officially invited to a Mass on Church property; and, second, the welcome extended by the Seattle Archdiocese was all encompassing. The Archbishop himself had originally planned to celebrate the Mass but was called to Rome and unable to do so. Instead, he sent a videotaped message of welcome to the convention attendees which was played at the convention's Opening Ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel. In addition, an official welcome from the Archdiocese appeared in both the printed convention brochure and booklet.

In the end, over 1000 people attended the Mass at St. James, and it was by far the highlight of the convention. It also, alas, turned out to be the pinnacle of acceptance of LGBT Catholics by the hierarchy of the Church. The Archbishop's courageous and loving act was later investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and, as a result, Dignity chapters across the country were either evicted from Church Property or had their ministry to LGBT Catholics co-opted and replaced by Archdiocesan sponsored LGBT ministries. The Archdiocesan ministry in Seattle lasted at St. Joseph's from 1988-2001 until Dignity/Seattle decided that actions taken by the new Archbishop (Brunette), such as opposition to gay civil rights legislation, were incompatible with Dignity's values. Dignity voted to relocate off Church property rather than continue to collaborate with an Archdiocese which had become increasingly unwelcoming to the LGBT Catholic community, their families and friends.

Archbishop Hunthausen was a champion and stalwart pastoral minister for the LGBT community, and suffered professionally and personally as a result. He did everything in his power, within the confines and restrictions of the intolerant Vatican policies, to care for his entire flock, consistent with his view of the gospel. Hunthausen is a humble man, as evidenced in this quote from the Wikipedia site, in a deferential response to a question characterizing him as extraordinary:

Q: 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?

A: "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."

(Hunthausen Hall Is Named For A Man Of Sound Character, Laura Slavik, June 14, 2004)

[The following additional biographical information taken from Wikipedia entry.]

Archbishop Hunthausen retired in 1991 and resided near Helena, Montana, with his brother, Father Jack Hunthausen. He continued to hear confessions once a week in East Helena. As of October 2011, Hunthausen was the last living American bishop to have attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council.

On July 22, 2018, he died in his home in Helena at the age of 96. He is the second archbishop interred in the crypt at St. James Cathedral.

(This biographical statement prepared by David Biviano.)

Biography Date: January, 2015; updated March 2019

Additional Resources

A Still and Quiet Conscience: The Archbishop Who Challenged a Pope, a President and a Church is a biography of Hunthausen written by by reporter and journalism professor John McCoy and published by Orbis Books in May 2015. 

A Disarming Spirit: The Life of Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen is a biography by Portland professor and Catholic justice activist Frank Fromherz that explores Hunthausen's legacy.  Published by Marymount Institute Press and TSEHAI Publishers & Distributors in January 2019.


Archival Collections:


Catholic (Roman) | Dignity | Ally | Clergy Activist | Seattle | Washington | Hunthausen, Raymond


“Raymond Hunthausen | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed June 17, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/raymond-hunthausen.


“I first met Archbishop Hunthausen at a statewide Religious Education Conference when I served as Youth Director in the Spokane Diocese. I was struck immediately by the humility of this “ordinary priest” (a bit of a play on words, as the bishop is referred to as the Ordinary of his diocese! :) He was dressed like any other priest and mingled among the attendees, almost unnoticeable. Yet, he was leading powerful anti-nuke and anti-war protests in the Archdiocese, taking progressive actions to support LGBT, divorced and re-married, youth and the poor that made him a saintly man in the eyes of most of the area’s Catholics, as well as nationwide. Of course, that meant he suffered, as hostile traditionalists attacked him, brought on investigations and humiliating restrictions. Yet, he persisted, in his humility and his witness.”
 – as remembered by David Biviano on October 23, 2018

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