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Defiant priest excommunicated

| Friday, May 7, 2004

The Rev. William Hausen knows just what he'll do when he gets the letter notifying him of his formal excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church: Frame it.

The Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese announced Thursday that Hausen "has incurred automatic excommunication" by starting a splinter church. The diocese sent Hausen notification of the pronouncement via certified letter, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, diocesan spokesman.

Hausen, 66, of Sewickley, said he received notice of a certified letter but didn't have time to pick it up from the post office; he was going to the Andre Rieu concert last night at Mellon Arena.

Hausen on Sunday led the first service of Christ Hope Ecumenical Catholic Church in a rented ballroom at the Sewickley Country Inn. Excommunication was a self-imposed consequence of that act, Lengwin said.

Diocesan officials still hold out hope for reconciliation, should Hausen abandon Christ Hope and return to the Catholic faith.

"I don't see any reconciliation in the future," Hausen said. "If (Christ Hope) is not somewhat successful, I'll be flipping hamburgers at Seven Springs."

Hausen, who owns a small farm in Seven Springs, labeled the excommunication notice an attempt by the church to control him and his followers by means of "fear and guilt."

Those who join Hausen's church -- like him -- will excommunicate themselves from the church, Lengwin said.

"We are not looking to punish anyone," Lengwin said. "At the same time, your actions do have consequences when you freely and willingly leave the church."

The formal notification of Hausen's excommunication calls Christ Hope a "schismatic church."

"The Christian Faithful need to know that free and willful participation in this church implies separation from the Catholic Church. This a serious matter that no one should take upon himself or herself lightly," says the notice, which will appear in today's Pittsburgh Catholic.

Hausen threatened in 2002 to leave the church, which led to his transfer from St. James Catholic Church in Sewickley to the Sacred Heart Parish in Shadyside, Lengwin said.

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