Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Cleric Bows to Criticism

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Cleric Bows to Criticism

Article excerpt

In a controversy that may resonate with Catholics in North Jersey, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory seems to have gotten the pope's message about modest living.

Days after Pope Francis permanently removed a German bishop for his lavish spending on a new residence, the Atlanta cleric apologized for building a $2.2 million mansion as his residence. He bowed to criticism from local parishioners and said he would consider selling the new home in Buckhead, Atlanta's toniest neighborhood.

In letters, emails and a meeting, local Catholics told Gregory that the price tag was outlandish, especially in light of Pope Francis' frugality. The Tudor-style mansion, stretching nearly 6,400 square feet, includes two dining rooms and a safe room. The archbishop said the new pope has "set the bar" for church leaders and others, and Gregory said he hadn't looked at the project's cost in terms of his own "integrity and pastoral credibility."

Meanwhile, Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, who at church expense is expanding his retirement home in upscale Hunterdon County, appears determined not sell the house or halt construction, his spokesman said, even as many parishioners protest the extravagance.

Located on 8 acres in rural Franklin Township, Myers' home will be about 1,000 square feet larger than Gregory's Atlanta mansion.

The Newark Archdiocese recently announced it will close three more parochial schools, which many parishioners have seized upon in decrying the $500,000 expense of the home expansion.

"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," Gregory wrote online late Monday.

It's a challenge bishops will be facing more pointedly -- and publicly -- in the age of Pope Francis.

"Pope Francis is setting the example for all clergy worldwide," said Laura Mullins, an Atlanta parishioner who arranged one of the meetings with Gregory. …

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