A paper in South Jersey, the Courier-Post, looks at the controversy over where bishops live, including some bishops in New Jersey. The reporter, obviously acting out of desperation, spoke to a couple (cough) Catholic bloggers (cough).
Controversies have flared recently over church leaders’ pricey homes in the Atlanta and Newark dioceses. And Pope Francis removed a German bishop from his post last month after the cleric spent the equivalent of $43 million for a new residence and related improvements.
Indeed, Francis may have ignited the debate over residences for high-ranking clergymen when he became pope in March 2013 and declined to occupy the papal apartments in a Vatican palace. He lives instead in a guest house.
“I think Pope Francis has challenged us all to look more closely at the way we are as a church — our priorities, our sensibilities, the choices we make,” noted Greg Kandra, a former TV journalist who now blogs about church activities as a deacon with the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“The controversies about where bishops live and how they live are part of that.”
…The disputes show the need for modern bishops to have strong skills as communicators, according to Rocco Palmo, a Philadelphia-based blogger who writes on the Catholic Church.“If you don’t communicate well, you’re setting yourself up for people being furious.”
…The debate over the bishops’ homes also reflects a cultural change within the Catholic Church, Palmo said.
“One hundred years ago, these houses were meant to say, ‘The Catholics have arrived,’ ” Palmo explained.
“The bishop and the archbishop, as leaders of the Catholic community, were on a par with the governor and the mayor.”
But since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, a bishop has been increasingly seen as “a pastor, teacher and servant of the people.
“That requires a very different model of how you conduct yourself in office,” Palmo added.
…In his recent Lenten message, Pope Francis suggested a lavish lifestyle was not compatible with a spiritual life.
“When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.”
“He’s making us look more deeply at how we live as Christians and how we conduct ourselves as clergy,” said Kandra, also multimedia editor of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
“I think that’s healthy — and I think the result will only make us better Christians and better servant leaders.”