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St. Louis Catholics are bracing for a slew of church closures in the archdiocese.
Parishioners believe St. Barnabas the Apostle church in O'Fallon, Missouri, has a target on its back.
The first sign of trouble was parish pastor Fr. Raymond Hager taking early retirement after Aux. Bp. Mark Rivituso claimed he "demonstrated a pattern of failing to comply with archdiocesan administrative policies."
Brody Hale, an attorney from Springfield, Massachusetts with global experience battling Rome over church closures, believes parishioners' fears are reasonable.
Hale: "That's the sort of parish — especially with regard to the non-assignment of a pastor and the elimination of many Masses — those are two pretty safe indicators that closure, in my opinion, is likely on the horizon."
Hale saw this scenario play out at Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church in Holyoke, Massachusetts, while Abp. Mitchell Rozanski was there before being elevated to the archdiocese of St. Louis less than a year ago.
Hale: "The bishop refused to entertain any alternatives even though the parishioners wanted them and were prepared to fund them to bring the church back online as a Catholic chapel or shrine and ended up overseeing its demolition a couple of weeks before Christmas in 2018."
Church Militant reached out to several archdiocesan officials for comment but as of air time, no one has responded.
St. Louis, known as the Rome of the West, is home to many noteworthy historic churches. Archbishop Rozanski's viability committee puts all of them at risk.