Yet again, it is the end of an era in the Stateside Church: on Sunday afternoon, Raymond Gerhardt Hunthausen – the US' last living Father of Vatican II, whose controversial tenure as archbishop of Seattle prefigured the hope and the strains of Francis-era Catholicism – died surrounded by his large, tight-knit family in his native Helena, a month short of his 97th birthday.
Named bishop of the Montana church at 41 on the eve of the Council, by all accounts its four sessions saw Hunthausen undergo a "conversion experience." By the time he was sent to the Northwest's top post as Seattle began its own transformation into a cultural and tech hub, through the 1980s the Emerald City's second archbishop would come under the scrutiny of Rome and Washington alike, his respective advocacies for the church's marginalized and against the scourge of nuclear arms both running afoul of the prevailing winds of church and state.
Glimpse - Polarization - Catholic - Life - Decades
A first, searing glimpse of the polarization which would warp American Catholic life at large over the succeeding decades, what became known as the "Hunthausen Wars" – two high-level Vatican inquests into the archbishop's ministry, capped by St John Paul II's 1985 imposition of an auxiliary bishop with special powers, whose ferocious reception by the locals saw him re-assigned within a year – remain an instructive moment in many ways. Yet even as the clamor took decades to fully subside – going well beyond the archbishop's early retirement at 70 in 1991 – it's long been said that for all the heat the ill-fated, 45 year-old auxiliary took, the now-Cardinal Donald Wuerl left Seattle with Hunthausen as his one firm friend, a bond that continued into the present.
A full obituary posted within minutes by the National Catholic Reporter, the piece contains a surprise – word of the...
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