Catholics disappointed but not disloyal

Crisis over sex scandal like anguished argument among devoted relatives


Bob Dugan, Roman Catholic, says he is no fan of his local diocesan leadership or, for that matter, of Pope John Paul II.

He dreams of a Catholic Church in which priests can marry and have children, women can be ordained as priests, and homosexuals can feel welcome without question.

He is also beside himself with anger and sorrow over the recent revelations of sexual abuse that have so rocked the church he loves.

Dugan might be a dissident, but he loves his church, and would never dream of leaving his faith. Doing so, he says, would be like denying that he is of Irish-Slovakian heritage, or that he lives in Liverpool, N.Y., just outside Syracuse.

His faith, he said, is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and not what he calls the man-made rules of the church's political hierarchy.

He will continue to serve as a lector at St. Joseph the Worker parish, he said, while working for change through his involvement in Call to Action, a progressive Catholic organization.

"If a family can't get together and discuss its differences, then it's dysfunctional," said Dugan, 68, as he sat in the office of the downtown Syracuse brokerage firm of which he is an owner.

As Dugan suggests, the crisis within the American Catholic Church resembles an anguished argument among troubled relatives, none of whom is ready to disown the family.

This shared anger surfaced in discussions last week with people from across the country.

Many, in fact, see the chance for institutional changes, though there is fierce disagreement on what those changes should be.

"Because it's a family, Catholics around the country won't give up on it very easily," said R. Scott Appleby, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame.

Dr. Paul McHugh, the retired chairman of Johns Hopkins University's psychiatry department, dismissed as "ridiculous" any suggestion that the scandal might temper his faith.

"What did surprise me was the response of the world out there: that they somehow thought Catholics wouldn't be infuriated by this and do their best to stop it," McHugh said.

"I mean, I grew up in a little Catholic ghetto up in Massachusetts back in the '30s. If there'd been anything like that there, there would've been broken heads amongst the priests," McHugh added.

Of course, it did happen in Massachusetts.

A growing number of Catholics in that state are calling for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, after disclosures in The Boston Globe that the Archdiocese of Boston had moved a priest, accused of being a child molester, from parish to parish.

The Rev. Francis H. McGauley, an associate pastor at St. Ignatius Church in Baltimore, said that he found himself becoming topical during a recent church service while thinking about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem.

Given the news of the day, he said, he told his congregation that he felt like "weeping over Boston."

"I feel sad," said McGauley, 79, sitting in a small chapel on a rainy Sunday, after all the parishioners had left.

"I feel sad for the church," he said. "I feel sad for the people."

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