Does the Bishop of Bling have an American Counterpart?

 

Johnmyers

Archbishop John J Myers, the New Jersey bishop who allowed a convicted child-molesting priest to return to ministry with children, is retiring.

According to NJ.com, Archbishop Myers is planning to retire to an $800,000 mansion, which he is refurbishing with diocesan dollars to the tune of another $500,000.

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Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the “Bishop of Bling.” 

That doesn’t compare with the 40-million euros the Bishop of Bling spent, but it’s far beyond what seems needed and necessary for the comfortable retirement of one elderly priest, even in New Jersey’s inflated real estate dollars.

He is adding a 3,000 square foot addition to the already large house. The addition will have an indoor exercise pool, three fireplaces and an elevator. To top it off, the half million to build this thing does not include fees for the architects, cost of furnishings (furnishing this much real estate won’t be cheap) or landscaping.

I think we should also add the inevitable cost of upkeep, cleaning, etc. I rather doubt that Arichbishop Myers plans to do his own vacuuming and dusting.

My own Archbishop lives in a modest ranch-style home. The retired Archbishop of Oklahoma City, who I think of as my spiritual father, also lives modestly.

It is possible that this building will not be used solely as a residence for Archbishop Myers. Maybe it will be a retirement home for a number of priests, and not just the Archbishop. Frankly, I’m having a hard time believing that he would do something this stupid and destructive in these times.

Nothing in the news story indicates that the residence is intended to be anything more than Archbishop Myers’ private home. But if it turns out that there is another side to this story, I will be happy to write about it here.

In these times of imploding culture, when the Church and the faithful are under attack from so many quarters, we are desperately in need of inspiration and leadership from behind the altar. What Archbishop Myers appears to be doing with his retirement home isn’t it.

Update: My friend and colleague Kathy Schiffer has a different take on this here.

From NJ.com:

The 4,500-square-foot home sits on 8.2 wooded acres in the hills of Hunterdon County. With five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a three-car garage and a big outdoor pool, it’s valued at nearly $800,000, records show.

But it’s not quite roomy enough for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers.

Myers, who has used the Franklin Township house as a weekend residence since the archdiocese purchased it in 2002, is building a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition in anticipation of his retirement in two years, The Star-Ledger found. He will then move in full-time, a spokesman for the archbishop said.

The new wing, now just a wood frame, will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator, among other amenities, according to blueprints and permits filed with the Franklin Township building department.

The price tag, the records show, will be a minimum of a half million dollars, a figure that does not include architectural costs, furnishings and landscaping.

Construction is progressing as Myers asks the 1.3 million Roman Catholics of the archdiocese to open their wallets for the “archbishop’s annual appeal,” a fundraising effort that supports an array of initiatives, including religious education, the training of future priests and feeding the poor.

Pope-Francis-1.JPGPope Francis, seen here in St. Peter’s Square on Valentine’s Day, has told bishops not to live “like princes.”

More significantly, it comes at a time when Pope Francis has made profligate church spending a target of his early tenure.

Francis, who eschewed the papal palace for a modest guest apartment and who gave up a Mercedes in favor of a Ford, has criticized bishops for living “like princes” and has called for a “poor church for the poor.”

In a move that signaled his impatience on the matter, the pope suspended the bishop of Limburg, Germany, in October for spending $42 million to renovate his residence and other church buildings. The German press dubbed the free-spending cleric the “Bishop of Bling.”

 

  • FW Ken

    Rebecca, we are fortunate to live in a part of the world where episcopal palaces are not part of our history. My bishops have lived in the cathedral rectory, or a modest brick ranch style house. I’m not sure where the new guy is staying.

    This expenditure is foolish, as far as we know. But given the animosity of that newspaper towards Abp. Myers, there really may be another side to the story.

    Just as there is another side to the German story. From what I read, the forty million euros was a fair price for restoring and renovating an historic building. Also, he got the first class upgrade to India free. So he’s bad at public relations – is that a crime?. The other side of that story is that he moved against an actively gay priest and generally ticked-off the “progressive” forces in his diocese. This is the sort of story that needs thorough investigation before drawing a conclusion.

    • AnneG

      I heard that, too, ken. I think there were several historic buildings renovated and there are very strict architectural committees that have to approve everything done to floor coverings and upholstery coverings for the episcopal chair. Bishop of Dallas. Ought a $5million house when that diocese was in trouble, though.

      • hamiltonr

        I stand corrected. Thank you Anne. :-)

        • hamiltonr

          I have no idea why this comment is here. I guess I did something weird. It is actually meant to answer something else in another post entirely. Ignore please.

      • FW Ken

        Anne, never heard that. The last I heard, the bishop of Dallas had an apartment in the chancery. But that was a long time ago and a Catholic should always remember that anything is possible.

      • Kathy English

        I heard something about a $20,000 bathtub. Even with historical renovations involved, it must have been out of control for the pope to have stepped in.

  • SisterCynthia

    I also hope this is to be a group home or something of the like. That would make the expense less ridiculous. Otherwise, no, it doesn’t look good. :-/

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    Especially since if I didn’t have a family, retiring to a small cell with a Bible, a crucifix, a rosary, Meal service and internet access would be heaven to me.

    And once I’m dead, you can cut out the meal service and internet access.

  • oregon nurse

    “Frankly, I’m having a hard time believing that he would do something this stupid and destructive in these times.”

    I actually don’t have a hard time believing it at all. It is precisely the kind of sociopathic arrogance we see in many rich and powerful people in all walks of life. It surrounds us in our economic and political elites. I’m sure this ‘paltry’ amount of money won’t get the pope’s attention but it has gotten mine, again. I resolved about 3 years ago that I was no longer going to make any contributions to my archdiocese. I know they get their skim from parish contributions but that can’t be helped, except that I have reduced those as well and I give more in time and talent and my treasure is more focused on things that stay in the parish.

    I was actually beginning to waver a bit as the Archbishop Appeal is hitting us again at Mass, then I saw this today and my resolve is now firmer than ever. Nothing has changed and bishops and their enablers in the chanceries are still mismanaging parishioner funds. Some archdiocese’s may be run well today but bishops come and go and it’s time to take the wealth away so it cannot be abused again to fund lavish lifestyles and lawyers to protect those who belong in prison and huge payouts to victims of crimes that parishioners had no part of.

    This does not impact my ability to be Catholic as I see it for what it is, human failings. The Church stands for so much more than the sins of it’s people. But I have the same duty to help bishops avoid their near occasion of sin as I do any other sinner in the Body of Christ and I mean to carry it out.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Yes, way too extravegant. The image of the Bishop in that fancy car is down right repulsive. The price of the so called “mansion” is actually not too outrageous if it is used for multiple people and functions. It’s not clear. I will say I have a retired priest in my family who modestly lives at a Catholic High School religious residence in a small one bedroom (but with access to communal space) and though he’s in his mid eighties they put him to work by helping out where he can. He’s still very active.

  • Almario Javier

    Thing is, many of us unforunately looked the other way at this because he was with us in supporting the cultural issues. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

  • lightatmidnite

    In these days when it is so easy to to rip larger and more cancerous holes into the Catholic Church, the word humility as Jesus taught should come to mind when the archbishop opens the purse of the diocese to build for his own benefit. In deference to the laity that supports and fiances the diocese of Newark, the archbishop should being using better judgement then to add a questionable addition to an already adequate abode. In fact when his spokesman, mentioned using the sale of other Newark Diocese properties to finance this, you have to realize he is talking about properties that the parishioners have supported and built over the years with their own sweat, fiances and contributions. Shame on you. You need to do some serious explaining your eminence. We are not all rubes ready to swallow any thing you say. Furthermore, this kind of reckless spending and attitude will pull the church down even more at a time when healing is needed most.

  • awotter

    Archbishop Myers needs to be retired to a monastery cell.

  • Sus_1

    When I heard about this I assumed it was paid for with his own money. Our parish has been having bake sales, craft fairs and car washes for a new furnace.

  • AnneG

    Our retired bishop lived in a very humble house near our cathedral and mowed his own lawn until he was no longer able. The new bishop also lives very modestly. I wonder, with 8 acres if there isn’t some other purpose intended, too. Hope so.

  • Robin Johnston

    Our retired bishop moved into a communal living facility with other elderly, rather like a stepped assisted living home, where he could minister to them on a daily basis.

    This is embarrassing for the Church. I hope the Pope steps in.

    • Gordis85

      The only way Papa Francis will/may step in? Only if enough faithful make a big deal about it at the local level. It does not look good that such fancy digs are to be used by this bishop for his retirement from what the reports claim. Hopefully, they are proved wrong and elderly, retired priests are moved in as well.

  • FW Ken

    You might enjoy this take on the situation. Diane is a good pious woman with a wicked dry wit.

  • PetrusRomanus1

    Myers did much the same for himself in his previous see of Peoria. His tastes were not at all on the cheap side, and included Waterford crystal and a double jacuzzi. Maybe that’s why we will always have the poor with us.

  • JohnWValentine1

    It’s time for the Pope to inform the Bishop that he has a new job for him in Rome. He can stay with the ex-pope as a his concierge. Of course Benedict XIII lives in a small, quiet residence. But the good Bishop would only be assigned as such, until Archbishop Myers’ private home, furnished by the Diocese is sold by the Diocese

  • Larry Moniz

    With this one action, the archbishop expresses his disdain for ethical
    behavior and the example of the New Pope, not to mention a disregard for
    those Catholics being hoodwinked by such behavior. His behavior is
    astonishing given that schools are being closed due to lack of funds,
    while he builds a half-million dollar addition to his parishoner-funded
    retirement home. Can’t decide if such behavior more closely resembles
    political corruption or that of medieval robber barons sitting in their
    lofty dwellings demanding tithes from the peasants.

  • SNAPJudy

    This is an insult to the children of God who suffer from having been sexually abused within this Archdiocese. Many struggle everyday just to hold down a job and make ends meet.

    And while many victims of clergy sex abuse work hard to protect kids by helping to expose the truth about the cover ups of sex crimes by church officials (only having the use of their kitchen tables as their offices) corrupt Archbishop Myers works hard to spend parishioners money to add onto his already huge mansion.

    There is something terribly wrong with this picture. Newark Catholic parishioners must be outraged by this news.

    It is very clear what Myers cares about most, and it sure is not about the victims of clergy sex abuse or the children under his care.

    How disgusting…?

    Judy Jones, SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

  • PetrusRomanus1

    Even a monastic cell in New Jersey wasn’t quite good enough for the infamous Archbishop Rembert Weakland after he was removed from Milwaukee. The worldwide benedictine community, which Weakland once ruled, withdrew the welcome mat. And it worked! With a little luck and a respectful outcry, Myers’ plans could change too. And please, no public ministry for him.


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