In the era of Pope Francis — who last year decried an “idolatry of money” and just dealt with “Bishop Bling,” a German bishop who put tens of millions into a renovation — it’s probably not a good idea for an archbishop to pay more than $2 million on a new mansion.
So it’s no surprise that Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory has apologized after such a decision sparked a debate and an outcry (even if his $2.2 million dollar mansion doesn’t really live up to the $43 million shelled out by the German bishop).
In a column published this week in the latest edition of the Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, Gregory apologized for taking his “eye off the ball” in building the mansion.
“[W]hile 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,” Gregory wrote.
The mansion in the Buckhead area of Atlanta — a metropolitan region where the average home costs $220,000 — followed a $15 million donation from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, the nephew of “Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell. But criticism followed Gregory’s move into the nearly 6,200-foot-square-home, with one parishoner calling it “an excessive lifestyle.”
Gregory wrote that even before Francis, bishops were called on to live “simply” and “humbly.” But he particularly cited the example of Francis, noting “the way people of every sector of our society have responded to his message of gentle joy and compassion without pretense.”
And Gregory also quoted from one of the many “heartfelt, genuine and candidly rebuking” messages he said he had received, a message that called on him to rethink his decision and also invoked Francis:
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?
Gregory said he will ask priests, other Catholics and a financial council for guidance on what to do next.