A Cape Breton parishioner says his church is being closed because it is worth more money than nearby ones, not due to other factors.

Bill Higgins is a member of St. Barra's Catholic Church in Christmas Island. It is scheduled for closure in June. Two nearby, older churches will remain open.

St. Barra's is one of 16 Catholic churches in Cape Breton that will be sold. The Diocese of Antigonish says it can no longer maintain the infrastructure.

St. Barra's was built 38 years ago; the two other churches on Route 223 are more than 100 years old. Higgins said St. Barra's is easier to maintain and heat.

'Hidden agenda'

His 300-seat church drew the short straw because its beachfront land and buildings are worth more, he argued.

He's written a letter of complaint to Bishop Brian Dunn.

"I am really shocked and the bishop's answer to me is, he talks in spirituality, but nothing concrete," he said. "I strongly believe, and so do the parishioners here, that there's definitely a hidden agenda with the closure of the church and our parish."

Higgins said the land is worth $500,000 and it appeared to him to be an effort "to rebuild the bank account of the Diocese of Antigonish."

The diocese paid the victims of priest sex abuse $16 million in a compensation settlement in 2012.

Rev. Donald MacGillivray led the committee that recommended which churches to close. He said the value of the properties was not a consideration.

It came down to the best interests for the parish in the long-term, he said.

In 2012, MacGillivray noted that the diocese put about 150 properties up for sale and more than 100 parishes were drained of their savings to cover the sex-abuse settlement.

But on Thursday he said that was not a factor in selling St. Barra's.

"No, there is no truth to that," he said. "The committee set out very early in our discussions that this was not or could not be perceived as being linked in any way to the class action lawsuit and the value of properties."