Over the five years he's been here, parishioners have noticed the difference. "One of the good things Mike is doing is inviting people into other aspects of his life having supper, working in the garden and not just at the services or through the confessional screen," says Denise Gosar, an artist and parishioner at the church. "He's learning to delegate and to let go."
It now seems obvious that this democratization of priest and parish (especially obvious in the United States, a country founded on political democracy as well as the separation of church and state) also has opened the church leadership to more questioning and criticism including how it handled the revelations of sexual abuse.
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On a cool, overcast Sunday following mass at the St. Thomas More University Parish, anger flashes now and then among many of the parishioners gathered outside. But the general atti-tude regarding the ongoing scandal involving priests elsewhere around the country is more muted.
"It's very disappointing and sad," says Larry Wibbenmeyer, a parole and probation officer.
"If there's anything that would make me angry, it would be knowing that the church had knowledge of this and let it continue," says Mr. Wibbenmeyer, who's had considerable experience with sex offenders and whose wife, Dorothy, is a counselor who has worked with their victims. "It's really distressing that these representatives of the church have done something so horrific."
Others note that sexual abuse of minors is more likely to involve adults who are not priests. "It isn't a Catholic thing," says Dave Tobin, a retired postal worker. "But if it isn't addressed, it will be a Catholic thing. The fault was the church was about 10 years behind the professionals [in psychology and law enforcement] in how to deal with it. It's very sad."