SEATTLE -- Ever since the Vatican crackdown on Seattle Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen last summer, Patrick Jankanish has been coming alone to Sunday mass at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church.

"My wife was a convert {to Catholicism} before we were married nine years ago," Jankanish told a visitor, adding that the couple has been deeply involved in the vigorous social justice program of the Jesuit parish on fashionable Capital Hill.

To the Jankanishes, Hunthausen is "very important in the justice community," encouraging Christians to apply their faith to problems ranging from battered wives to nuclear warfare.

So when Rome charged that Hunthausen was lax in enforcing church doctrine and stripped him of significant powers last year, Jankanish's wife Lisa "left the church," he said.

"There were other factors, of course, but this was just the last straw. She decided she can minister more effectively in other churches . . . . It's been very painful for both of us," he said, adding, "This is the kind of thing that drives people away."

In disciplining Hunthausen, Pope John Paul II has made clear the depth of his determination to enforce strict doctrinal orthodoxy on the church in this country. The church in the United States has long been viewed by many at the Vatican, and by some home-grown critics as well, as too lax on moral questions, too accommodating to the permissive culture that surrounds it.

The Jankanish family has reacted more dramatically than most here to the widely publicized controversy over Hunthausen, but five months after it erupted, it still hangs like a threatening cloud over the church.

Until last summer, Hunthausen, 65, was best known for his social activism and his aggressive antiwar stance. An implacable foe of nuclear arms -- he once called the Trident nuclear submarine base here "the Auschwitz of Puget Sound" -- he has led several antinuclear demonstrations and for the last few years he has engaged in a legal minuet with the Internal Revenue Service in which the government garnishees from the archdiocese the portion of his income tax he withholds in protest against nuclear weapons.

The Vatican says its action against Hunthausen was prompted not by his pacifist views but by his failure to enforce church doctrine forcefully.

He was lax, Rome said, pointing to such things as his failure to ensure that 6- and 7-year-olds made their first confession before first communion; his allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments; his not cracking down on Catholic hospitals that performed contraceptive sterilizations, and his permitting an organization of homosexual Catholics to celebrate mass in St. James Cathedral.

So last year Rome installed a hand-picked auxiliary, Bishop Donald W. Wuerl, 46, and ordered Hunthausen to relinquish authority to him in five key areas, including education of priests, the liturgy and church relations with health care institutions. Church historians said such tactics had never been used before except in cases of senility or financial irregularities. This division of authority has left Hunthausen in an ambiguous situation that appears to frustrate both his supporters and his critics.

Both Wuerl and Hunthausen declined requests for interviews. Hunthausen recently returned to work part time after a six-week recuperation from surgery for prostate cancer.

By many standards, Hunthausen's 12-year leadership of the archdiocese appears successful:Church studies show that two-thirds of western Washington state Catholics attend mass fairly regularly, compared with a national average of 40 percent. From 1977 to 1985, infant baptisms in Seattle increased twice as fast as in the church nationwide.

Adult converts have joined Seattle parishes at three times the national rate. In the eight-year period, Seattle broke even on the number of men entering and leaving the priesthood; the numbers of priests in the nation declined by 2.8 percent during that period. And despite Hunthausen's controversial views on war, understandably unpopular in the defense-industry-rich Puget Sound area, contributions and contributors to the annual Catholic appeal have grown steadily.

This record seems the more impressive in light of the fact that for all denominations combined, the Pacific Northwest has the lowest church membership and attendance rates in the country.

Hunthausen's leadership style and agenda have rankled orthodox, conservative Catholics, who have flooded Rome with complaints. In the Catholic Church these days, a barrage of complaints can be very effective.

The Rev. Michael G. Ryan, who as chancellor of the archdiocese ranks just behind Hunthausen and Wuerl, said there are "at the most" 100 hard-core orthodox critics in the archdiocese.

But one of them, Erven Park of Kelso, said he has "1,600 names in the card file" of his publication, Catholic Truth, which he sends to several Vatican offices and to the more than 300 U.S. bishops. "But numbers have nothing to do with the issue," Park said. "If 99 percent back the archbishop, then 99 percent would be wrong."

Park, who said he has never met or talked with Hunthausen, accuses the prelate in a current issue of his journal of "mendacity and betrayal" and of advocating "the condemned heresy of 'Modernism.' "

Park denies that Vatican II made sweeping changes in the Catholic Church. "There is one church before Vatican II, and there is one church now."

Another Hunthausen critic, William Gaffney, said, "I believe with a passion that he has not been fully faithful to the Catholic faith."

Gaffney, a retired lawyer who says he has written the pope often about what he views as lapses in Seattle, said Hunthausen is "a very benevolent man" but has "listened to the wrong people" and "does not accept the moral absolutes the church teaches on birth control, sodomy and fornication."

He charges that Hunthausen "takes the position that if a Catholic thinks birth control is okay for him, then he can go ahead and do it. And that's wrong, wrong, wrong."

Gaffney is particularly upset by the weekly mass in Seattle attended largely by gay men and lesbians. "They have no right to be there. And I hope they get kicked the hell out of there."

Apologizing for his language, Gaffney added, "I'm pretty hot about this. Some people are going to hell about these teachings."

Hunthausen's decision not to prohibit altar girls also disturbs Gaffney. Church law prohibits girls from filling this role. But U.S. bishops are awaiting an answer to their petition to relax the rule. "If he's going to encourage girls serving mass, that fosters the kind of rebellion that leads to women demanding ordination," Gaffney said, adding that the pope "believes it is the will of Christ that women not be ordained priests."

Even though Hunthausen has been largely out of the picture for the past six weeks after his prostate surgery, church leaders here said right-wing criticism has escalated since his censure. "It's played into that mentality {of the orthodox critics} that 'we've won,' " Chancellor Ryan said.

Hunthausen holds a graduate degree from Notre Dame in chemistry, which he taught at a small Catholic college in Montana before he was made bishop of Helena in 1962. He lives in two rooms of the yellow brick rectory of the cathedral. He shares the modest three-story house with the cathedral priests. Its basement is a soup kitchen.

His life style is more modest than the regal life style traditionally associated with archbishops. His salary is $850 a month, the same as any priest of the diocese with his years of service. He drives himself around the area in a 1985 Chevrolet owned by the archdiocese. He shares a secretary with Ryan.

One of the Vatican's criticisms of Hunthausen is that he is "lacking the firmness necessary to govern the archdiocese." This charge particularly nettles Ryan, Hunthausen's chancellor for 10 years. He maintains the archbishop is "a good administrator." The criticism, he said, "maybe comes from old expectations of how a bishop administers, in a take-charge style."

The archbishop, Ryan continued, "is certainly not one to play church politics" -- a trait some say may have contributed to his plight.

"The strongest theme of this man's life is his immense reverence for human persons. He wants to know, to listen to them. And he tends always to think the best of them," Ryan said.

Most of the more than 350 priests in the archdiocese appear to support Hunthausen. "We feel like we are being bludgeoned and beaten and battered by Rome, with him," said the Rev. Ibar Lynch of St. Thomas Church in south Seattle.

Last November, Hunthausen's fellow U.S. bishops turned down his request to intervene formally on his behalf but said they would do what they could. There are vague reports of behind-the-scenes discussions by high church officials.

"It's as frustrating as trying to figure out who ran Irangate," said Sister Kathleen Pruitt, one of about 30 members of Concerned Catholics, a group formed to rebut criticism of Hunthausen.

Earlier this month the group planned a 72-hour fast and vigil at the cathedral. But Hunthausen, convalescing from surgery, asked them not to. "He was concerned that it might be counterproductive," Pruitt said.

Things are quiet now, but it is "the sense of quiet before the eye of the storm," said the Rev. Joseph Kramis of St. Theresa's Church in Federal Way. "There's always the sense, 'Is there going to be a crackdown; is there going to be something happening?' "

The censure of Hunthausen has had a chilling effect on priests in the archdiocese, Kramis said. "The sense of openness that we're accustomed to" has been replaced by "a sense of guardedness. We don't want to do anything to upset the apple cart . . . . There's a sense that the ax might fall."