Court battle brewing over church

June 17, 2009 4:43:49 PM PDT
Parishioners of a Catholic church damaged by Hurricane Ike are now headed to federal court to try to save it. They want to stop the diocese from tearing down Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church on Bolivar Peninsula.

"Because of the Eucharist, I will never leave my faith, but I am so disappointed in the diocese, and what they are doing to us it is ungodly," said parishioner Joyce Simpleton.

"Our faith has already been so shaken with everything that happened around here. With Hurricane Ike, we've already lost our homes, our businesses," said parishioner Senseney Hemmings. "Every other religion has been here to check on us and offer us things, except for our own religion, and now they want to come in and tear down our church. I feel like they've abandoned us."

These neighbors live on Bolivar and are used to harsh weather and harsh living conditions, But it's what they consider harsh treatment by the archdiocese that is unbearable.

The Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church was closed by the archdiocese after Ike. A lawsuit filed by parishioners has temporarily stopped demolition. That lawsuit has now moved to federal court.

The archdiocese asked the case be dismissed, saying, "Asserting that the first amendment prohibits its courts from taking sides in the internal church dispute, the archdiocese has accompanied its notice of removal with a motion to dismiss the lawsuit."

Judy Shaw is fighting back. She says the proof is in pictures she took inside the church after Ike. [SEE THE PHOTOS]

Shaw and the rest of the parishioners say their church can be repaired.

"I feel that they know that they have more money than us," she said. "We can't afford to go to federal court, don't have the money to go to federal court. They know that, but we're gonna try and do what we can do."

In the meantime, some are taking a more drastic approach by emailing the Pope.

"The archdiocese that is supposed to be representing us isn't helping us in any way, so were crying out to the Pope. We're gonna go to the top level, the highest we can go," said Hemming.

The archdiocese says putting a church on Crystal Beach would be best. In the meantime, they plan to have temporary accommodations at Crenshaw School, so people on Bolivar can attend Catholic mass.

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