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  Ousted Pastor Helped at St. Roch Services
Archbishop Will Reiterate That Campbell Is Barred from Celebrating Mass

By Patricia Rice
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
April 3, 2002

One of three St. Louis area priests removed from his church last month over allegations of sexual abuse of a minor was on the altar assisting in Holy Week services last Thursday, Friday and Saturday at St. Roch Catholic Church in St. Louis' West End.

The Rev. Michael A. Campbell, who was removed March 2 as pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, is not permitted to participate under the Archdiocese of St. Louis' tightened sexual abuse standards because of a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse 13 years ago.

In an interview last week, Archbishop Justin Rigali explained that the priests removed for substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor could not have a "public ministry."

The archdiocese released a statement regarding Campbell's participation.

"In accord with the archdiocesan policy, Father Michael Campbell has been excluded from a parish assignment or any other ministry with children," the statement said. "It was furthermore understood that he would not celebrate Mass publicly in any parish. The Archbishop will reiterate his previous instruction to Father Campbell."

St. Roch's pastor, Monsignor Salvatore E. Polizzi, did not return phone calls. Campbell could not be reached.

At three Holy Week services at St. Roch, Campbell, 48, led prayers from the altar, parishioners said. At least two of the three parish priests - Polizzi, an associate pastor and a senior priest in residence at St. Roch - also led the prayers with Campbell at the three services, they said. Campbell's mother and another relative attended the Thursday Mass.

Some parishioners said they were upset with Campbell's participation.

"I was outraged," said Michelle Schiller-Baker, who deals with abused children weekly as executive director of St. Martha's Shelter. "My first thought was, what is (Campbell) doing here. I thought he was not supposed to be assigned to any work with children."

Schiller-Baker is a lifetime member of St. Roch's parish, a graduate of its grade school and mother of a graduate and a second child now in the school.

"He should not be in our parish, any parish, near children," she said.

Polizzi has spoken of his opposition to Campbell's removal several times from the pulpit and in a meeting with other priests. Campbell served with Polizzi at St. Roch in the 1980s.

John Cross, a St. Louis University psychology professor and a St. Roch parishioner for 40 years, said he was puzzled by Campbell's presence.

"Our family was bewildered, not understanding what was behind (Campbell's participation)," said Cross, father of five graduates of the parish school and grandfather of two children in the school.

Mary Fleener, a former St. Roch school board president and parishioner for the past 31 years, said seeing Campbell on the altar on Holy Thursday made her "very uncomfortable."

"Holy Thursday is a wonderful holy day, a beautiful celebration I look forward to, and there in my church on my altar is Father Campbell," she said. "It was very conflicting. Father Polizzi wanted to show his support for Father Campbell, but I think you have to think of the parish family first."

Fleener said she skipped the Holy Saturday vigil service because she worried Campbell might be there again. Fleener said she was relieved that Campbell was not on the altar at St. Roch on Sunday morning.

"When Father Campbell was at St. Roch's, he was a wonderful priest, who did a lot of good," she said. "But what he did was wrong and he needs to suffer the consequences. We have to think about the victims. I would not trust him around my grandson."

 
 

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