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Priest welcomed all to breakaway church

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The Rev. C. William Hausen, 74, of Sewickley, died on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.

An outspoken former Roman Catholic priest who left the Pittsburgh diocese to start a breakaway congregation has died.

The Rev. C. William Hausen founded Christ Hope Church in 2004 after serving 40 years as a priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He was 74.

“Bill loved the traditional Catholic Church and always said it made him who he was,” said his sister, Mary Carol Blewitt of Penn Hills, who discovered him in his Sewickley apartment on Sunday morning.

“The most important thing to him was love, which was the whole focus of Jesus' message,” Blewitt said. “Bill embraced and welcomed people of all faiths, all backgrounds and all sexual orientations. He attracted a lot of people who needed a church where they felt welcome.”

At the time the Rev. Hausen broke from the Catholic Church, he cited an “autocratic and despotic” hierarchy as his reasons.

He favored allowing priests to marry, the ordination of women and debate on the subject of birth control.

Hausen made headlines in 2002 when he delivered a controversial Easter homily during which he said parishioners should be “(ticked) off” over the state of the church and questioned mandatory celibacy for clergy and rules against the ordination of women.

The comments resulted in his transfer from St. James Catholic Church in Sewickley to Sacred Heart Parish in Shadyside.

His decision to start a breakaway congregation resulted in an automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church for “celebrating liturgical and sacramental rites at his newly formed ... (church), having refused all offers of reconciliation extended by the diocesan bishop,” according a public notice that remains on the diocese's website.

After starting New Hope, the Rev. Hausen conducted services for about 300 parishioners in a banquet hall in the Sewickley Country Inn.

The congregation moved to a vacant Episcopal church in Avalon and most recently held services in a church building on Davis Avenue in Brighton Heights.

The Rev. Jeremiah O'Shea, a retired Roman Catholic priest from the Greensburg area and a longtime friend of the Rev. Hausen, said they did not always see eye to eye on matters of faith.

“I didn't agree with what Bill did, but I respected his decisions, and he knew that,” O'Shea said. “He always felt that he was making the right decisions.”

A memorial service could be scheduled at a later date, his sister said.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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