St. Benedict Church conducts final mass as Southwest Baltimore church closes its doors

BALTIMORE -- The final mass for Saint Benedict Catholic Church will be on Tuesday evening as the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced this month the Southwest Baltimore church is ending its worship services.

The Archdiocese cited "the limited number of clergy available for this ministry" in announcing the end of worship services.

"They have good hearts there—and they're good people. So, nine times out of 10, somebody will step in," Thomas Lawson, whose brother lives nearby, said. "It'll be pretty sad for that to go away."

The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced the closure on Nov. 4, the same day it announced an investigation into former pastor Father Paschal Morlino.

Saint Vincent Archabbey, which owns and operates St. Benedict, confirmed Morlino signed a non-disclosure agreement with a man who alleged the pastor "engaged in improper employment practices with him and alleged an act of sexual assault."

Parishioners did not want to speak with WJZ on camera. Many expressed skepticism against the allegations from the accuser who is now deceased.

The Archdiocese said Father Morlino was removed as pastor at St. Benedict in October "unrelated to any allegation of child sexual abuse."

"I feel like if they were to have allegations, they should have more solid proof," neighbor Bernadette Robinson said. "I'm really sad about it because there's a lot of people who depended on this church for community resources and there's a lot of children who come here."

The Benedictines of Saint Vincent Archabbey, a community of monks out of Latrobe, Pa., runs outreach programs at the church like a food pantry and child care program. A spokesperson referred WJZ to a statement that it "hopes" to continue the outreach programs.

"It is an impact, especially if they close them down. Because a lot of people are going to be starving," neighbor Jamie Mitchell said. "OK, close the church down if you have to, but don't close what people have to survive on."

The second collection at Tuesday's final mass benefits the food pantry, according to the parish's Facebook page.

In the church's final bulletin this weekend, Father Morlino wrote to parishioners, in part, "When I first came to Saint Benedict in 1984, I stated my only goal was to bring folks to Christ."

He continued, "I have no regrets except I will certainly miss each and every one of you and continue to pray for you. I only ask for your prayers in return for me."

The Archdiocese says it sent an outreach team to assist parishioners.

The concern now for many is securing the building itself after worship services officially end.

The Archdiocese filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September ahead of a new law that went into effect in October. The Child Victims Act eliminated the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse claims.

An injunction remains in place for lawsuits against the church to give time for attorneys to sort out details in the bankruptcy proceedings.

An Attorney General report this year identified more than 160 clergy and other church staff accused of abusing more than 600 victims.

8 Las Vegas teens face murder charges after student's deadly beating

Israeli troops raided Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital. Here is what they were looking for.

Fentanyl, military top of mind ahead of Biden-Xi meeting