Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen
Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen

Known as “Dutch” by his siblings and nieces and nephews, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen was a quintessential Northwest down-to-earth and soft-spoken lover of the great outdoors, a fine athlete, an inspiring coach, a gentle and kind character, and a person of prayer with a listening attitude and an empowering spirit in how he related to people.  He was grounded — in every sense of the word.

His nephew Dick Walsh described his uncle’s love of the outdoors in western Montana and across the Great Pacific Northwest: “We have so many experiences of Dutch on the ski hill, on the golf course and leading us on hikes when we were younger. I would say he loved nature and the beauty of the world we live in.” 

He became a bishop in his native state of Montana in 1962, though he never sought out high church office. He soon found himself, shaped by the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, smack in the middle of major issues of justice and peace in his region, the nation and the Catholic Church — and this was especially after he was appointed to head the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1975. 

It was in the early 1980s that Archbishop Hunthausen denounced the Trident nuclear submarine fleet harbored in his archdiocese, famously calling it “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.” His opposition inspired Catholics worldwide, but gained him powerful opponents in the U.S. government during the era of President Reagan’s military buildup.  Catholic peace activist Jim Douglass, a native of British Columbia, introduced Archbishop Hunthausen to the practice of contemplative nonviolent direct action. 

Douglass once described his longtime friend as “a holy prophet of nonviolence in the nuclear age.” Douglass, and many other people, have seen Archbishop Hunthausen as a forerunner of Pope Francis, “a model of how a church leader can love, challenge and serve everyone on this earth through the mercy and compassion of Jesus.”

I had the privilege of getting to know Archbishop Hunthausen over the course of many years.  We first met when he came to Mount Angel Abbey in the very early 1980s. He shared with us his decision to do conscientious war tax resistance, but more importantly, I believe, he made very clear — not just with words but with the holy unpretentiousness he effortlessly exuded — that his call for peace and justice was grounded in a deep practice of spirituality. 

In what would become a truly historic address, on June 12, 1981, just a few short months before he came to Oregon’s Benedictine abbey, he was at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, where he spoke these prophetic words: “Our security as people of faith lies not in demonic weapons, which threaten all life on earth. Our security is in a loving, caring God. We must dismantle our weapons of terror and place our reliance on God.” 

Fromherz, former justice and peace director for the Archdiocese of Portland, recently retired from his teaching duties at Portland State University where he taught sociology.