Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch
Biography profiles Seattle archbishop; James Runcie dishes up more mysteries ‘in the English style’ in another ‘Grantchester’ volume

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the August 20, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Reviews

Any adult who has been active in a parish in the diocese going back 30 years, or has a connection to Western Montana or Carroll College in Helena, will find people they know in the new powerful biography of Seattle’s Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen. The biography is titled A Still and Quiet Conscience: The Archbishop Who Challenged a Pope, a President, and a Church. The author is John A. McCoy. He was a longtime reporter at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and at one time communication department head with the Seattle Archdiocese. It is published in softcover by Orbis Books of Maryknoll, N.Y., for a list price $26.

The book begins in 1982 when Archbishop Hunthausen speaks to a crowd protesting the basing of nuclear Trident submarines in the Hood Canal of Puget Sound. At one such rally Archbishop Hunthausen prayed for the sailors on the ships, and the crowd wasn’t ready for it. Later, the archbishop began withholding 50 percent of his taxes as a sign of his commitment to peace. All of this was controversial for some and incredible leadership for others.

The biography then follows “Dutch” Hunthausen back to his childhood and family in Anaconda, Mont. Through our former bishop, Bernard Topel, who was vocations director in the Diocese of Helen, Hunthausen begins his studies for the priesthood. Later in his priesthood he becomes the president of Carroll College. For many years he carried a full teaching load and coached several of the school’s teams.

He becomes Bishop of Helena and attends the Vatican II Council with our Bishop Topel, the bishops of Boise and Bismarck, and others. The stories told during that period have lots of humor. “Dutch” and the other bishops were deeply changed.

In May of 1975 Bishop Hunthausen becomes the archbishop of Seattle. Father Larry Reilly of the Yakima Diocese becomes an off-and-on again adviser. Sister Joyce Cox, originally from Montana, is a key person in the administrative team of the archdiocese. “Dutch” becomes known as a bishop strongly trying to make the teaching of Vatican II alive throughout the archdiocese.

In 1986 Pope St. John Paul II sends an auxiliary Bishop to Seattle. It is Donald Wuerl, who has strong Roman connections, and it becomes clear he is to be in charge of roughly five issues in the archdiocese. There is a strong reaction among most of the clergy and many of the parishioners of the archdiocese. Some parishioners are pleased with the intervention. At Bishop Topel’s funeral in Spokane there is a standing ovation in support for the archbishop that many will remember. Hunthausen said he wished it had been for his dear friend and spiritual director, Bishop Bernard J. Topel.

A later compromise arranged by several American archbishops brings Bishop Thomas J. Murphy, bishop of Great Falls-Billings in Montana, originally from Chicago. The archbishop receives full authority again and when he retires several years later Murphy becomes the new archbishop.

McCoy’s book reads like a novel and is mainly from the point of view of Archbishop Hunthausen. “Dutch” comes across as a man of deep faith following his conscience as best he could. If you have any interest in the recent history of the Church in the Northwest, A Still and Quiet Conscience is the book to read. It is a memorable account of events that took place in our part of the world.


The second volume of the “Grantchester Mysteries” is titled The Perils of the Night. It is written by James Runcie, whose father was an Archbishop of Canterbury. The publisher is Bloomsbury and the list price is $17 for the softcover edition.

James Runcie gives us six more mysteries in the English style that complement the original PBS television series. Some information in the book would give away too much for those planning to watch the second year of the TV series next January. So I won’t spill the beans.

The first mystery has the same name as the book. It involves the work of Sidney Chambers, a Church of England priest, at one of the colleges in nearby Cambridge. There is a possible murder of one of the professors of the University who has fallen off the top of one of the schools’ buildings. The story gets into the whole British spy system in the heat of the Cold War in the late 1950s. This interesting story connects with the sixth mystery, which is called “Appointment in Berlin.”

The story “The Perils in the Night” has Sidney state what it means to be British as he speaks to his friend Geordie of the Cambridge police. He says: “It is our face to the world. Many of us are civilised, charming and perfectly genuine people. Others have developed their reserve into a form of refined deceit. It’s why people find the British so intriguing. The line between the gentleman and the assassin can be so very thin.”

In the same story, Sidney passes on some spiritual wisdom when he refers to the author of The Cloud of Unknowing. He says in reference to God: “He is neither darkness nor light, neither error nor truth, nor, all told, can he be affirmed or denied ... his incomprehensible transcendence is incomprehensibly above all affirmation and denial.”

In “Unholy Week” there is a minor mistake when Sidney refers to the washing of Jesus’ feet by Martha instead of one of the Marys in Scripture.

“The Hat Trick” has a cricket game explained as it is going on. If you are not familiar with this famed game of the old British Empire you can skip through rapidly. I tried and I did not understand it at all. The story has poison on the ball and in tea, à la Agatha Christie.

I find the stories easy to follow and interesting. In this set of tales you will find out who Sidney marries.

Movie Reviews

It may be too soon after The Fault in Our Stars for another movie with a teen suffering from cancer, but Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is still a very good movie about teens.

The movie, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, is in the tradition of a John Hughes films back in ‘80s. Sure, we have seen some of this before, but Thomas Mann, playing the main character, Greg, does a terrific job.

Greg is the narrator of the film, which starts out with his mother, played by Connie Britton, asking him to spend some time with a classmate, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who has recently been diagnosed with leukemia. Rachel is slow to being open to friendship with Greg, who can say some awkward statements at times. But the film is the story of how that relationship grows into real a friendship in which each person truly helps the other.

Around the basic story is Greg’s friendship since they were children with Earl, an African-American who becomes Greg’s alter-ego in producing short films that mock famous films of the past. There is plenty of humor in the film that at first glance may seem very serious.

There is lots of discussion of the various groups that students belong to in high school today.

I particularly enjoyed the beautiful photography of the Pittsburgh area. The Chamber of Commerce should be ecstatic about this film.

The film was a winner in several areas at the Sundance Film Festival. At times it appears a rather light and enjoyable film. However, there is a layer of character development and depth of meaning that makes this film well worth seeing.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is rated PG-13 (some material may not be appropriate for children under 13) by the Motion Picture Association of America. Catholic News Service rates the film A-III – for adults.


Disney’s new Pixar film, Inside Out, is an incredibly creative film that from its crowds at the box office touches both adults and children. It is a bit like a medieval play about the seven deadly sins, except it is about the emotions and how they make a difference in our lives.

The basic story is of a 11-year-old girl named Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) who with her Mom and Dad moves to the city – San Francisco – from cold and humid Minnesota.

The change is so great for Riley that she is filled with emotions. She misses her friends, her school, and playing hockey.

In a control center we have five emotional characters: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear. Joy (Amy Poehler) is the main character, as you might expect in a Disney film. But the second most important character is Sadness (Phyllis Smith). There are lots of incredible adventures of these two emotions in particular. The world of the brain has never been presented so imaginatively before.

The emotion of the story develops most strongly as Riley looks at ways to run away by bus to Minnesota. The film in its subsidiary teaching mode shows that sadness sometimes is as helpful to our growth and new life as joy is. All in all we learn how important the emotional side of our life is. All this learning takes place in a fast-moving roller coaster ride of an entertaining film.

Catholic News Service rates the film A-II – for adults and teens. The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film PG (parental guidance suggested).

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)

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