Embattled Wisconsin parish is a microcosm of Catholic Church at large.

Some area Catholics approved of the message brought by the new priests. Gregory Merrick, 62 years old, began driving the 20 miles to St. Mary’s when he heard the new priests were traditionalist. Catholicism “is first about the good news that we are saved, but that news is hooked irrevocably to the notion that we’re sinners,” he said. “Do we as Catholics want to conform to the church, or do we want the church to conform to us? I suggest the latter of those two possibilities is a disaster”.

Retired teacher Rosemary Anderson, a former St. Mary’s council member, left the church in February. She said the two priests, Father Ruiz and the Rev. John Del Priore, “are very conservative, very much their-way-or-the-highway,” and that she believed their sermons emphasize confession and sin while lacking discussion of charity and embracing others.

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