Parishioners File Suit Against Diocese

After months of pleading and praying to keep St. Paul Catholic Church on the beach in Pass Christian, some of the church's parishioners have filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi.

The 150 plus parishioners say they will go to court to try to save their church. The lawsuit also raises a lot of questions about how the bishop and the priest are handling decisions and church money.

Parishioners say they've begged Bishop Thomas Rodi and Father Dennis Carver to reconsider the decision to close St. Paul. Now, they're hoping a judge will answer their prayers.

"Suing the bishop, suing the pastor is not anything that any of us enjoy doing," says Frank Schmidt, a member of St. Paul Catholic Church.

Schmidt says he never dreamed his faith would lead him here.

"I never thought I'd spend my old age in a fighting contest with a Bishop either. We were taught to respect them and respect the church. But I don't know what the outcome will be if someone doesn't step forward to do something. That's the crux of this lawsuit," says Schmidt.

The parishioners lawsuits questions the actions of their priest, the bishop and the diocese.     Parishioners say this land was donated n 1857 but only on the stipulation a church be built on the land. They say it's fiscally irresponsible, and harmful to the community to abandon St. Paul.

Attorney Eric Wooten says the promise to rebuild on the beach brought countless donations to St. Paul.

"It is a waste of the donations across the country and we object to their use of St. Paul's money for that purpose," says Wooten.

The diocese stated purpose is to combine St. Paul and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes and build one new church away from the beach.  Parishioner says they've been deceived and disappointed.

"We understand that we cannot force the Catholic Church to keep St. Paul's Church open. It's their decision on whether or not St. Paul's will be a church but what they do with the building itself that is St. Paul's, we believe that we have a voice and that is that we need to be a part of that decision because we have a legal right to be a part of that decision.  For them to unilaterally decide for it to be a community center, we're going to fight that with everything that we have," says Wooten.

Bishop Thomas Rodi has supported Father Carver's decision to combine St Paul and Our Lady of Lourdes and build a new church .

In a statement to WLOX News, a diocese spokesperson said,"Given recent local news, this may be an attempt to force Holy Family Parish to have more than one church building."