Thursday, December 25, 2008

Father Bill Hausen

Bill Hausen was a catholic Priest in Pittsburgh. During the 1990s he was a heavy drinker and the church disciplined him by forbidding him from driving. After he became sober he wanted the discipline lifted but the church wasn't concerned. This caused him a great deal of alienation. So when the 2002 Catholic priest sex abuse scandals broke Hausen delivered a sermon calling for wholesale revisions to the priesthood. In particular the ordination of married men and women. As a result of this sermon a transfer order was issued Hausen refused to obey the order, and founded his own church (Christ Hope). At that he point he was excommunicated. The church is now succesful and pitches itself to x-catholics.

This is a great case because it gives a good example of the kinds of problems with the "send them back" strategy for church discipline. This case is messy and complicated. While I assume most Catholics object to schism, can a priest make a call for a policy change? Did the church have an obligation if the objected to his sermon to try him for that and not utilize transfer for discipline purposes? And what about the driving issue, if he were reinstated with many years sober wouldn't it be reasonable to demand this discipline be lifted? Messy, messy...

But it gets worse. The new congregation has been around for 6 years? What should happen to the people attending an openly schismatic church? In theory they have excommunicated themselves, what degree of restoration should be required? What if they choose to go to another (from a catholic perspective) schismatic church that honors discipline, like say an IFBC church. Should they be allowed? This is just a wealth of topics. There is no disagreement on the facts, but how to handle the situation under almost any hypothetical is complex.

So jump in build a scenerio and a solution.

For more detail:
2008 article City Paper
2004 Religious news story
Godspy on the new church
Pittsburgh Tribune article on excommunication


Anonymous said...

Like it or not, there is truth, even dogmatic truth. How the truth is used can be just as abusive and unjust as many other sins, but eventually when one "runs" from the truth, he will find one way or another. Then what?

Hughuenot said...

Ones wonders if Brennan Manning will be their patron saint...

Hughuenot said...

Ones wonders if Brennan Manning will be their patron saint...

James in Perth said...

I realize that this entry is quite old but my thoughts and prayers are often directed towards Father Bill. I spent many a time at his place in the mountains and knew Bill quite well. I realize that this brief entry was in no way intended to address his personal and theological issues comprehensively. That said, Bill's issues were well beyond the ordinary.

I believe that the Pittsburgh Diocese acted with genuine and did its best to accommodate Bill's many problems. Could they have done more? Sure, but at some point it may become obvious that a priest is not fit for public ministry.

When Bill found out that he would not be allowed back in a parish, he decided for himself to leave the Catholic Church and found his own. The entry says that he was sober for many years but in fact that was not the case. He struggled with his alcoholism and other devils for many years. Ultimately, his church withered to only a few members and disbanded after his death.

I find it hard to say that his schism was a good thing. He held very strong opinions about liberal matters but was often out in left field -- or off the playing field altogether -- on moral matters.

I often remember Father Bill - the good and the bad. He was an interesting character. On All Soul's Day especially I remember all his good works (like working to protect women from prostitution and others) and pray for his purification and entry into the eternal kingdom of God.