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Atlanta bishop builds perfumed palace while Holy See removes high-living German prelate March 27, 2014

Posted by Tantumblogo in asshatery, Basics, disconcerting, episcopate, foolishness, General Catholic, manhood, Papa, scandals, secularism, self-serving, shocking, the return.

Scandal has apparently broken out in the Archdiocese of Atlanta over close to $5 million being spent on residences for the Archbishop, Wilton Gregory (former head of the USCCB) and a lavish home for the cathedral priests.  The bishop’s new home is 6000 sq ft and $2.2 million, ostensibly for a single man living alone:

The Cathedral of Christ the King in Buckhead hopes to begin renovations next month on a newly acquired rectory for its parish priests at a cost, including purchase of the property, of $2.2 million.

The residence once housed Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who heads the Archdiocese of Atlanta, but he recently moved into a new, 6,196-square-foot home on Habersham Road in Buckhead. The archdiocese built that home at an additional cost of $2.2 million.

The money for these expenditures came from a $15 million bequest from Joseph Mitchell, nephew “Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell. How that cash was used has touched off debate within the parish and archdiocese. [Was the money given specifically for that purpose?]

Some parishioners think Joseph Mitchell’s wealth should have been used for schools and the poor – that clergy leadership needed to follow the example of Pope Francis, who’s made international headlines with his admonitions to Catholics to live simpler, more frugal lives.

I would have no problem if $15 million were put into truly beautifying and restoring a wreckovated church, but spending 1/3 of that money on residences for a bishop and 3 priests is pretty ludicrous.  I note that the exposes on unfaithful same-sex attracted priests noted their propensity for high living.  There may be no connection here, but it bears mentioning.

How has Gregory justified this lavish expense for a bishop?  He claims, contrary to reason, that having these very high tone digs will allow him to “smell of the sheep” better by having more backyard bbqs and what not:

Gregory also said he thinks the new home would have the pope’s blessing.

“He wants his bishops to engage with his people,” said Gregory, who was installed as archbishop in Atlanta in 2005. His new home, he said, allows for larger groups to visit; the grounds also are good for cookouts and other outdoor activities. In this way, said Gregory, he can follow the pope’s admonition to “smell like the flock” — to be close to parishioners.

Oh please.  Oh please oh please oh please!  Good luck getting even 5 minutes with the bishop in his office, let alone his home, unless you are donating in the 6 figures or have some overwhelming evidence of a grave scandal and are threatening to go to the press.  Then you might get a few minutes in the office.  Invitations to the bishop’s residence are almost exclusively reserved to a couple official functions a year – if there are any at all (most have none) – or are limited to the highest of high rollers of money or power  who constitute perhaps the upper 0.01% of Catholics in a given diocese.   It is an utter crock to think Gregory is going to suddenly invite 500 families from the barrio to invade his lavish, perfect home with their low manners and squealing kids. Give. me. a. break.

At least, that’s how it plays here.  Our own bishop has a residence valued at $1.5 million or so in the ritziest part of town – I guess by comparison, he’s a model of episcopal restraint.

I think the whole “smell of the sheep” angle has been overplayed and overwrought, nevertheless, bishops who think the call to modest living doesn’t apply to them might want to check out what’s just happened in Germany, where Pope Francis cashiered another high-living prelate:

Pope Francis on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the bishop of Limburg, whose extravagant spending on renovations for his personal residence angered his congregation and ran afoul of the pontiff’s message of humility and modesty for the Roman Catholic Church.

The Holy See accepted the German bishop’s offer to resign, “given that it has come to a situation in the Limburg diocese that prevents Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from fruitfully carrying out his duties,” the Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday.

After mounting criticism over spiraling costs, the Limburg diocese confirmed in October that Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, 54, had poured at least 31 million euros, or about $43 million, into the renovation of his residence and church buildings. The costs had originally been estimated at €5.5 million.

I wonder what kind of renovations those churches received?  Traditional or wreckovations?  Well, it’s Germany, so……

It used to be, up until Vatican II, that bishops lived in their dioceses and rarely left.  But with the proliferation of bureaucracies that VII promoted, bishops now rarely spend even half their time physically present in their dioceses.  I know people who have worked at the chancery for years and saw Bishop Farrell, for instance, only a handful of times.

So why would a man who spends most of his time living in hotels need a mansion?  Why would a single man, called to be the highest example of virtue for his priests and the laity need such luxury?  It speaks to the profound disorder in the episcopate, where bishops seem to view themselves as CEOs of regional branches of McChurch, Incorporated, and not as shepherds of souls.  Most bishops behave far more as administrators and accountants, whose highest priority is to stay out of the news, rather than being – or at least appearing – deeply concerned over the state of souls.  Giving example of mortification for most bishops seems a sad joke.

It’s so much easier to play at politics, act the manager, and hope that universal salvation will do your job for you.

Again, I think the whole “smell of your sheep” angle is likely going to lead to a bunch of abuse in its own right – showy displays of concern that mean little, etc – but there is a profound derangement in episcopal life in the West, and maybe Pope Francis’ call to humility and simplicity will net some changed behaviors.


1. TG - March 27, 2014

“I note that the exposes on unfaithful same-sex attracted priests noted their propensity for high living. There may be no connection here, but it bears mentioning.” my thought when I saw the picture of the bishop. (if it’s the same one that stepped down.)

Nathan Barton - March 30, 2014

Check out this astoundingly fascinating, irrefutably factual, Catholic video called “Is the World about to end? The Apocalypse Explained?”. It will change your life. Here’s the link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=cn9t0m6eG4Q

2. TG - March 27, 2014

I see it is the same bishop I was thinking about.

3. Woody - March 27, 2014

There is a parish in Norcross, GA, Mary Our Queen, which is trying to raise money to have a beautiful old church in New York, scheduled to be torn down, taken apart and transferred to Norcross for their “new” church. There would be a good use of a few million dollars. And I’ll bet Archbishop Gregory is very well informed of this endeavor by the Father Dye and his flock.

4. M.P. - March 27, 2014

My archbishop is having a new residence built on seminary grounds. I have had 4 priests tell me they cannot get in to see him because he is gone quite a bit. He is not accessible. I did, after 3 cancellations, get an appointment last year for a certain apostolate. He does not smile. He is a big change from what we were used to. But at least outwardly, he is conservative. But he is certainly not among the sheep!

David - March 27, 2014

Ten years ago, I read a book about John Cardinal O’ Connor from the Archdiocese of New York. This book was written in the 1980’s by an outsider who took a non-partisan approach. The author mentioned that Cardinal O’Connor’s residence was a small rectory type apartment (two or three rooms) that was close to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

I recall Sean Cardinal O’Malley sold the Bishop’s mansion in Boston to pay some diocesan expenses, and I believe Archbishop Chaput recently sold the Bishop’s mansion in Philadelphia. I think Archbishop Chaput resides currently on the grounds of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

5. Anna - March 28, 2014

Our archbishop lives in a 5,000 sq ft house. There are pictures online, very posh. I remember when it was built that there was scuttlebutt about how opulent it was. This is the same archbishop that oversaw the destruction of multiple parochial schools a few years back, going on and on about the cost.Now that the archdiocesan program has imploded, too late for the schools that were forced to close, and more talk of money, money, money.

6. A follow-up on episcopal palaces | A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics - March 28, 2014

[…] I posted yesterday on the scandal of the cash-strapped Archdiocese of Atlanta spending nearly $5 million on residences for Archbishop Wilton Gregory and three cathedral priests.  My wife made a really good point last night that I thought worth sharing. […]

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