Atlanta’s “Archbishop Bling”? The mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press have been silent…

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When it comes to clerical “careerism,” ostentatious “princely” lifestyles, or even the mode of transportation, Pope Francis has sent a new standard—one of humility and poverty—for clerics. It’s been called the “l’effet Francois” (“the Francis effect”).

Members of the mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press love it and have been quick to jump on the bandwagon to criticize clerics who have crossed the line that Pope Francis has drawn in the sand. Arguably, the most roundly criticized cleric to have crossed that line is “Bishop Bling,” the Most Reverend Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, Germany. He constructed a new residence and office complex costing nearly $43M.

According to the National Catholic Reporter:

Not only did Tebartz-van Elst spend a ton of money on all the wrong things, but he did so just after the cardinals elected a pope who is making austerity and humility the hallmarks of a bishop in today’s church. Francis wants prelates to “smell like the sheep,” not pricey cologne, and he doesn’t want them to act with the sort of authoritarian and dismissive manner that Tebartz-van Elst displayed.

In fact, as the resignation of Tebartz-van Elst was being announced Wednesday, Francis was telling thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square that “a bishop who is not in the service of the community does no good.”

In addition, Tebartz-van Elst in November paid a court-ordered fine of nearly $30,000 to avoid a perjury charge over his false claims that he did not fly first class to India on a charity trip. That’s three strikes.

Okay, Bishop Bling deserved to be “fired,” although technically that’s impossible. Removed, yes. Fired, no. His conduct was egregious, although similar conduct certainly was not in the early- to mid- 20th century.

But, will those media outlets and liberals in the Catholic press be as vociferous when it comes to the Archbishop of Atlanta, the Most Reverend Wilton Gregory?

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Archbishop Gregory recently moved into a new, 6,196-square-foot home built at the cost of $2.2M. His previous residence—adjacent to the Cathedral of Christ the King—is also slated to be renovated as a rectory for the priests assigned to the Cathedral residence. The price tag for those renovations, which includes the purchase of additional property, is another $2.2M.

That’s a total of $4.4M for two residences.  That’s not quite $43M. Plus the money comes from a $15M bequest. So, technically, all of this housing is “free.”

But, is it consistent with the “l’effet Francois” that the mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press on this side of the pond have been propounding as the standard for criticizing clerics?

Some believe Archbishop Gregory should have used the money for schools and the poor. “This is an excessive lifestyle,” said one parishioner of Christ the King, Beth Maguire.

Both Archbishop Gregory and the Cathedral’s Rector, the Reverend Monsignor Frank McNamee, call the expenditures “necessary.” Gregory said the new residence will allow him to “smell like the flock,” providing him a residence where he can more easily mingle with his sheep.

Isn’t that what Pope Francis said bishops should do?

Once again, will the mainstream media as well as liberals in the Catholic press who have been so quick to denounce Bishop Bling be as quick in denouncing Archbishop Gregory?

Time will tell. So far, they’ve been silent.


The answer is unknown. But, there are at least three possible answers:

  1. The magnitude of his expenditures for suitable housing is only a little more than 10% that of Bishop Bling. If so, is this a new standard for judging the nation’s bishops and cathedral rectors that the mainstream media as well as liberals in the Catholic press have deemed acceptable?
  2. The mainstream media as well as liberals in the Catholic press perceive Archbishop Gregory to be a theological liberal and kindred spirit. It would be indecorous to take one of their own to task, would it not? But, if a conservative bishop were to do the same, then watch how quickly he will be denounced.
  3. They don’t want to attack one of the nation’s most respected Black Catholic leaders. But wouldn’t that be using a double standard?

Atlanta’s “Archbishop Bling”?

Pope Francis may not be as silent. He may speak by denying Archbishop Gregory a red hat because of that new residence.

But, all of that doesn’t really matter. What matters is the perception of duplicity on the part of the mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press.



To read the National Catholic Reporter article, click on the following link:

To read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, click on the following link:

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:


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  1. Some local color: the Buckhead area of Atlanta is frightfully expensive, with small condos easily reaching into the $2mill plus range. Christ the King spending 2mill to renovate a full building in that area, which houses 10 priests I believe (certainly more than the number of priests simply assigned to the Parish) is well within reasonable bounds for the area.

    I can not speculate as to the archbishop’s new residence. I have no information about it. However, so long as His Emmenence is not intending to live there alone (ie house other priests there as well) then I have little to critique him on.

  2. Archbishop Aguila in Denver is doing the same thing. Our Catholic Conference was canceled for lack of money, but he’s building a residence as a resource to entertain and raise more money. No one cares what Liberals do against the people because their words tickle the ears.

  3. Wealth has more than once been the undoing of the institutional Church. During the Reformation, many rulers saw religious orders, decayed in zeal and numbers, but with great endowments, as a popular target for confiscation.
    Similarly, before the Revolution, the French bishops were unpopular, numerous and enormously rich. The States-General had been called to deal with the budget deficit – the government was bankrupt – and Jean de Dieu-Raymond de Cucé de Boisgelin (splendid name), Archbishop of Aix proposed to the Finance Minister and former banker, Jacques Necker that the bishops should buy up the deficit, to the tune of £16m (at least £4.8 bn in modern terms), for ready cash, so that they would become the government’s only creditor (at 4%).
    Originally, Necker was for accepting, but the Neckers were Swiss Protestants and his wife Suzanne, the daughter of the village pastor of Crassier in Vaud, told him that this compact would establish Catholicism for ever as the State Church in France, so Necker broke off negotiations.
    Boisgelin’s offer may well have suggested to the Assembly where ready funds were to be had. In the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, they confiscated the church lands and put the clergy on a salary, a system that continued until 1905 (and still does in Alsace-Moselle) Even then, the ecclesiastical budget amounted to to 42,324,933 francs or $8,464,986; current real value about $470,653,221 – still less than a twentieth of the rental value of the old church lands. The state also maintained the church buildings, bishop’s palaces, rectories &c and still does, for those built pre-1904.

  4. Here is Vatican II on Bishop’s homes as needing to be approachable by the poor:

    ON DECEMBER 7, 1965
    ” Led by the Spirit of the Lord, who anointed the Savior and sent him to evangelize the poor,(53) priests, therefore, and also bishops, should avoid everything which in any way could turn the poor away. Before the other followers of Christ, let priests set aside every appearance of vanity in their possessions. Let them arrange their homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone, lest anyone, even the most humble, fear to visit them.”

    This is not being observed in Newark where the Archbishop’s “working” retirement home is halfway across the state and has 8 rural acres where he could have actual sheep and smell them if he so desired…along with an outdoor pool and the addition costing $500K which will have an indoor endless pool and whirlpool bath and three fireplaces for a post 72 year old man which means he’ll need a handyman on salary to cut that wood. Nothing preaches contraception inadvertently, more than a double mansion/ waterpark for one person because it says….we all need lots of space. So whether the Archbishop is on paper conservative or liberal, mansion space for one person sends a message to laity that we all need mucho space. In this area, Pope Francis is really preaching the opposite of the mansion inclined hierarchy.

  5. I cannot believe the blindness of the bishop in Germany, or these two Archbishops in America. A bishop does not need a palace, His Master did not even have a roof over His Head. A bishop needs two rooms, a bedroom,and a study just like their priests have. He can have an office etc in some other location. As for rooms large enough for entertaining 300 [a statement of Archbishop Gregory] How often does that happen? Are the poor and homeless included in those 300? Or perhaps he is having the 300 Spartans over for a ‘last meal’ lol

  6. You state: “Pope Francis may not be as silent. He may speak by denying Archbishop Gregory a red hat because of that new residence.” There is absolutely no reason to believe that Pope Francis could even be contemplating creating Archbishop Gregory a cardinal. So there is even less than absolutely no reason to believe that he may “speak by denying” him a red hat. I know that in Wikipedia it is written: “Before deciding to elevate Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of Houston to the Sacred College of Cardinals in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI had reportedly considered Archbishop Gregory for that honor.” But reported by whom? Certainly not by anyone with any knowledge of what was actually going on in the apostolic palace. And by the by, I attended the consistory in 2007 and,as a Scotsman, was greatly impressed by the pilgrims accompanying Cardinal diNardo. They contributed mightily to a wonderful atmosphere..

  7. Bill Bannon wrote, “the Archbishop’s “working” retirement home is halfway across the state and has 8 rural acres where he could have actual sheep and smell them if he so desired…”
    A Scottish Provincial Council, held at Perth 1249-1250 decreed that every parish priest should have assigned to him glebe land of four acres of arable land or sixteen acres of pasture for his support, so eight acres seems quite modest for an archbishop. As for the sheep, in my part of the country, we reckon five to the acre.
    A bishop’s residence, however humble, is a “palace.” The original “palace” was the hut of Romulus on the Palatine, which is why, in Europe, the local magistrates’ court is the “palace of justice.”

  8. Apparently Archbishop Gregory has apologized for building a $2.2 million mansion to use as his home, a move that made him the object of derision and complaint, and said he may sell it. The archdiocese would begin the process of selling the mansion “if it is the will” of Church and other advisers. See report here -

  9. Michael PS,
    The 8 acres are producing nothing in this case excepting an inflated ego but may well and should make New Jersey taxpayers take another look at what kinds of Church related lands are tax free.

  10. Boltoph,
    I have attended functions at Archbishop’s Residence many many times. He hosts functions for all manner of Catholic organizations, such as the Serrans, the St. Thomas More Society, major parish or archdiocesan donors, Catholic Charities, etc.; and these functions can be quite large. Whether that renders the recent decisions optimal either in substance or optics are different questions, but yes indeed the Archbishop hosts many events that are appropriate and helpful to the Archdiocese. He has be told that he should hold more such events, such as for SVDP volunteers and the K of C, but his current space is quite inadequate. As for the poor I cannot say, but I’m not inclined to criticize too much until I start inviting homeless people into my home like you do.

  11. Here’s a note that the Archbishop sent out to the Archdiocese this morning.

    What I Have Seen and Heard: The archbishop responds

    By Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory

    “We are disturbed and disappointed to see our church leaders not setting the example of a simple life as Pope Francis calls for. How can we instill this in our children when they see their archdiocesan leadership living extravagantly? We ask you to rethink these decisions and understand the role model the clergy must serve so the youth of our society can answer Jesus’ call. Neither our 18- or 14-year-old sons understand the message you are portraying.”

    So went just one of many of the heartfelt, genuine and candidly rebuking letters, emails and telephone messages I have received in the past week from people of faith throughout our own Archdiocese and beyond. Their passionate indictments of me as a Bishop of the Catholic Church and as an example to them and their children are stinging and sincere. And I should have seen them coming.

    Please understand that I had no desire to move; however, the Cathedral Parish has a problem, albeit a happy one. The Cathedral of Christ the King is one of our largest, most vibrant and fastest growing parishes-but it is landlocked. The site of the current rectory could be used for expansion if the priests could be moved to a new rectory nearby. Because of the proximity of the Archbishop’s house to the Cathedral and the way it is configured with separate apartments and common space, the rector of Christ the King one day summoned the courage to ask me if I would give some thought to letting the parish purchase the residence from the Archdiocese to repurpose it for its rectory. It made more sense for them to be in walking distance to the Cathedral than I, so I said yes, knowing full well that literally left the Archbishop without a place to live.

    Soon thereafter, the Archdiocese and the Cathedral Parish received a generous bequest from Joseph Mitchell, including his home on Habersham Road, to benefit the whole archdiocese, but especially his beloved parish, the Cathedral of Christ the King. Through the extraordinary kindness of Joseph Mitchell, we had a perfect piece of property nearby on which to relocate the Archbishop’s residence.

    Some have suggested that it would have been appropriate for the Cathedral Parish to build a rectory on the Habersham property and have the priests each drive back and forth, and in retrospect that might be true. At the time, though, I thought that not giving up the Archbishop’s residence, which was so close to the Cathedral Parish, would have been perceived as selfish and arrogant by the people at the Cathedral Parish and might damage my relationship with them!

    So I agreed to sell the West Wesley residence to the Cathedral Parish and set about looking for a different place for me and my successors to live. That’s when, to say the least, I took my eye off the ball. The plan seemed very simple. We will build here what we had there-separate living quarters and common spaces, a large kitchen for catering, and lots of room for receptions and other gatherings.

    What we didn’t stop to consider, and that oversight rests with me and me alone, was that the world and the Church have changed.

    Even before the phenomenon we have come to know as Pope Francis was elected to the Chair of Peter, we Bishops of the Church were reminded by our own failings and frailty that we are called to live more simply, more humbly, and more like Jesus Christ who challenges us to be in the world and not of the world. The example of the Holy Father, and the way people of every sector of our society have responded to his message of gentle joy and compassion without pretense, has set the bar for every Catholic and even for many who don’t share our communion.

    As the Shepherd of this local Church, a responsibility I hold more dear than any other, certainly more than any configuration of brick and mortar, I am disappointed that, while my advisors and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia.

    I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services.

    I failed to consider the difficult position in which I placed my auxiliary bishops, priests, deacons and staff who have to try to respond to inquiries from the faithful about recent media reports when they might not be sure what to believe themselves.

    I failed to consider the example I was setting for the young sons of the mother who sent the email message with which I began this column.

    To all of you, I apologize sincerely and from my heart.

    We teach that stewardship is half about what you give away, and half about how you use what you choose to keep. I believe that to be true. Our intention was to recreate the residence I left behind, yet I know there are situations across the country where local Ordinaries have abandoned their large homes, some because of financial necessity and others by choice, and they continue to find ways to interact with thefamilies in their pastoral care without the perception, real or imagined, of lavish lifestyles.

    So where do we go from here?

    It is my intention to move deliberately forward and to do a better job of listening than I did before. When I thought this was simply a matter of picking up and moving from one house to a comparable one two miles away, we covered every angle from the fiscal and logistical perspectives, but I overlooked the pastoral implications. I fear that when I should have been consulting, I was really only reporting, and that is my failure. To those who may have hesitated to advise me against this direction perhaps out of deference or other concerns, I am profoundly sorry.

    There are structures already in place in the Archdiocese from which I am able to access the collective wisdom of our laity and our clergy. In April I will meet with the Archdiocesan Council of Priests, and in early May our Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (a multi-cultural group of Catholics of all ages, representing parishes of all sizes, who serve as a consultative body to me) will convene. I will ask for the Finance Council of the Archdiocese to schedule an extraordinary meeting. At each of these meetings I will seek their candid guidance on how best to proceed.

    If it is the will of these trusted representative groups, the Archdiocese will begin the process of selling the Habersham residence. I would look to purchase or rent something appropriate elsewhere.

    It has been my great privilege and honor to be your Archbishop for the past nine years. I promise you that my service to you is the reason I get up each day-not the house in which I live or the zip code to which my mail is sent. I would never jeopardize the cherished and personal relationships I have built with so many of you over something that personally means so little after all.

    I humbly and contritely ask your prayers for me, and I assure you, as always, of mine for you.

  12. This is a good statement. He recognizes the havoc and chaos he unintentionally released. He is “returning’ to his consultative bodies, which always is wise. This is the second ‘ bishop’s residence’ issue we have had recently in America, may it be the last.

    In the meantime we can move forward.

  13. While Buckhead can be expensive the $2.2 million for one Bishop was egregious as it was hypocritical. Archbishop would not allow the two Auxillary Bishops to live at either Mansion. One lives in an inexpensive condo and one lives 15 miles away in a Parish rectory in the suburbs. It is a colossal waste of money. The only people invited to Archbisop Gregory’s parties are his cronies, flu kids and donors.

    A total of roughly $5,500,000 out of roughly $11,000,000 designated for Archdiocese of Atlanta and Christ the King Parish was allocated for two homes and at most 10 Priests. That is not being a good steward. That is abusing Christ’s Flock.

    And this is only tip of iceberg with Gregory.

  14. Leaving aside the unseemly closing innuendo, I agree that the proposed use of the funds was sub-optimal, but (i) Buckhead is indeed expensive, (ii) CTK does need the rectory space for its programs, (iii) it is ridiculous to expect the AB not to invite donors and friends to his home, and (iv) I have been to the AB’s residence many times for functions honoring the work (not the donors) of various Catholic organizations. I am also a donor, I’m now proud to be a crony too.

  15. The 8 acres are producing nothing in this case excepting an inflated ego but may well and should make New Jersey taxpayers take another look at what kinds of Church related lands are tax free. ”
    All church property is held in trust for all future generations. The parishioners have paid their fair share of taxes as citizens. Two taxes, one vote.Taxation without representation.
    How the land will be used by future generations is not known. Many good priests have foreseen the need for future generations and supplied them with the land to build their churches.

  16. Mary de Voe wrote, “All church property is held in trust for all future generations”

    Indeed, and ecclesiastics are not always the most conscientious trustees. In the aftermath of Vatican II, many liturgical reformers in France were for removing the ancient rood-screens to give the congregation, or rather audience, an unobstructed view of the sanctuary. Fortunately, in France, the churches are public property and the government would not allow national treasures to be vandalised

    Here is the rood-screens at Albi Cathedral

    at Bourg-en-Bresse

    and at Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, Paris (where Pascal is buried)

    In Scotland, we have not been so fortunate

  17. There is no need to seek guidance from the various council’s and have extraordinary meetings. The AB already knows what he must do. My fear is that he gathers a group of sycophant’s for advise in this matter when one phone call to the Pope will will clear everything up.

  18. Leaving aside the fact that bishops do not have some mythical hotline to the Pope, it is probably true that the various lay advisors surrounding a bishop tend to be somewhat deferential in their behavior. That does not make then sycophants, however, and I know Archbishop Gregory well enough to be confident that he does and will genuinely want their candid counsel. I do not always agree with our Archbishop, but he is a good man who does love his flock. I tend to think he did make an error in judgment as to the use of the funds, but we all make such mistakes and there is no need for the uninformed one-sided vitriol. I was especially close to his predecessor and admired him greatly, yet I disagreed with some of his decisions regarding Catholic schools and told him so. Yet, I never challenged his good faith and intentions. Archbishop Gregory deserves the same fair treatment.

  19. I have long been a severe critic of pusillanimous prelates in the Catholic Church, whom I hold responsible for much of the current chaos wreaking havoc in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, but I am obliged to admit that I have not read a communication on the lines of Archbishop Gregory before. We should have the Catholic courtesy to believe him and what he has written, it must have been an effort to summon up the courage to write like that.

    PLease people, hold your horses for a bit.

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