Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, Inspiration for the School of Theology and Ministry Dies

Written by Mark S. Markuly, Ph.D.
July 31, 2018

The School of Theology and Ministry has lost one of its “spiritual and inspirational architects”: Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. He died at age 96, having lived an extraordinarily rich and impactful life as a Catholic priest, chemist, college president, bishop, and archbishop. He belonged to a generation that is so far removed from the lives of most students at the School of Theology and Ministry that few are probably aware of his legacy, which became big news in the 1980s throughout the United States and even across the globe. Seattle University will host a two-hour symposium on the life of the archbishop, followed by a memorial service, October 10, 2018. The remembrance gathering will occur on the eve of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on Oct 11, 1962.

Born in 1921, “Dutch,” as Archbishop Hunthausen’s friends called him, came into the world just two years after the conclusion of World War I. He lived through the Great Depression as a small boy and experienced World War II as a young man. He understood human suffering up close and personal, but he also knew the power of faith, love and hope to rise above it. He is believed to be the last bishop to have attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, a worldwide meeting in the early 1960s that set the Catholic Church on a trajectory of dramatic change. Hunthausen was known for many things but received worldwide attention for his strong stand against the expansion of nuclear weapons under the Reagan Administration (1981-1989). This included refusing to pay part of his federal income tax and ultimately contributed to him getting into trouble with his own church.

Among his many gifts, intellectual, spiritual and personal, Archbishop Hunthausen believed in the critical importance of a deep and sophisticated faith and character development for adults so that they had the inner resources necessary to work over a lifetime for the creation of a more just and humane world. This commitment led to Raymond Hunthausen’s partnership with Rev. William Sullivan, SJ, a former president of Seattle University (1976-1996). The two men operationalized the dream of building an educational partnership between Seattle University and the Archdiocese of Seattle through a new Institute for Theological Studies (ITS). ITS educated Catholic women and men to deepen their religious faith and to prepare them for positions as lay leaders in Catholic parishes, such as directors of religious education or liturgy, pastoral assistants, retreat directors, or chaplains in hospitals and prisons. This institutional structure for theological education played a key role throughout the region in the 1980s and 1990s preparing people for ministry in the Catholic tradition, but increasingly in the mainline Protestant traditions, including the Unitarian-Universalists, as well.

By the early 1990s, the university began dreaming about creating a school that incorporated another legacy of Raymond Hunthausen (and Bill Sullivan, for that matter), a school built on an “intentional” ecumenical foundation. Working collaboratively with a host of Protestant leaders in the Puget Sound region, faculty at Seattle University's ITS began imagining a different kind of curriculum and school ethos, one promoting a deep appropriation of one's historic faith tradition, along with an intentional commitment to learning and living a broader "ecumenism," a shared appreciation for the Christian and Unitarian heritages. This curriculum was founded on a deeply held belief that all Christians must move toward unity in theory and practice, even as they prepare for professional leadership in their own institutions. Among the 210+ Jesuit institutions of higher learning worldwide, the School of Theology and Ministry is unique in this overall curricular design. There is also no other institution of a similar nature in the United States or Canada. 


Building on the vision of Archbishop Hunthausen and Fr. Sullivan, the school developed expertise in recent years into many new areas, including interfaith encounter, dialogue and collaboration; the integration of interfaith concepts and spiritual practices into a licensed mental health degree; a degree in leadership that was developed specifically for the so-called “religious, but not spiritual” or “religious none;” and, the launching of a globally unique, Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs. (One of the archbishop’s more than 100 grand nieces and nephews, Hannah, works in the center, continuing the family tradition.) Although school mostly educated students from the Catholic and mainline Protestant traditions, it now has women and men studying in its degree programs from faith communities that span the religious landscape – evangelical and Pentecostal in the Christian tradition, Jewish, Muslim, many committed to a spiritual identity but uncertain how to define it, agnostics and even atheists. The students ground themselves in language, rituals, and traditions of their own unique heritage, but also gather as serious students trying together to understand the common ground of their shared humanity, the Mystery that resides within and beyond the senses and even human experience.

All of the school’s developments are built on the inspiration of Archbishop Hunthausen, his firm belief that people of faith and good will have far more in common than difference; his lifelong awareness that a person of faith need to commit to the importance of holistic living, developing mind, body, and spirit; and his abiding dedication throughout his life to the integration of the life of faith with action on behalf of social justice.

Hunthausen’s beloved Montana mourns his passing, along with people throughout the U.S. and the world. To get a sense of the man and the way his local community remembers him, you can view a local television news show’s obituary:

Community, family mourn passing of Hunthausen

or view a video produced by the university he once led, Carroll College, as part of a fund-raising effort to launch a student center carrying Raymond Hunthausen’s name. The video, entitled, Mind, Body, Spirit: The Enduring Legacy of Raymond Hunthausen, has some footage of the former archbishop.

There are many obituaries and tributes to Raymond Hunthausen appearing in the media, locally, nationally, and even internationally. Each provides a deeper glimpse into the mystery of this towering man of faith and spiritual commitment, who walked among us in simplicity and authenticity as just a common fellow wanting to love and serve others.

Here are just a few of those articles:

Pacific Northwest News Sources

Seattle Times: Seattle Archbishop Emeritus Raymond Hunthausen dies at 96

Seattle PI: Connelly: Beloved but controversial Archbishop Hunthausen dies at 96

Catholic News Sources

Northwest Catholic: Seattle Archbishop Emeritus Raymond G. Hunthausen Dies

America Magazine (national Jesuit publication): Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen, the epitome of the Vatican II bishop

Mainstream News Sources

New York Times: Raymond Hunthausen, Liberal Archbishop Rebuked by Rome, Dies at 96

Washington Post: Raymond Hunthausen, liberal Seattle archbishop censured by Vatican, dies at 96

Fox News: Former Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen dies at 96

Montana News Sources

Helena Independent Record: Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen, 96

Montana Standard: Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen, 96


The photographs are from the private collection of Archbishop Hunthausen’s grand-niece, Hannah, and her extended family. Thank you for sharing them with us.