Message from parishioner to Atlanta Archbishop Wilton 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.”
Gregory, in the latest issue of his Archdiocese Bulletin, apologized for recently moving into a 6,400-square-foot mansion he had built, valued at $2.2 million. He said he would try now to be more like Pope Francis, known for his humble ways:
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.
While the home was no match for the $43 million estate of the so-called “Bishop of Bling” in Germany, it nevertheless stirred up a fuss among Atlanta Catholics.
And while it was no “Tara” either, it did have a connection with the Georgia plantation made famous in “Gone with the Wind.”
According to the AP, its construction was made possible by a large donation from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of the Civil War epic that made his family wealthy. When Joseph Mitchell died in 2011, he left an estate worth more than $15 million to the archdiocese on the condition it be used for “general religious and charitable purposes.”
In his will, Mitchell requested that primary consideration be given to the Cathedral of Christ The King, where he worshiped. The cathedral received $7.5 million for its capital fund and spent roughly $1.9 million to buy the archbishop’s old home, according to tax records, the AP said. So the archbishop needed a new home and had the money to build it.
“The plan seemed very simple,” he said in the Bulletin. “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.
….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.
The Catholic leader said he will discuss the situation with several diocesan councils, including a special meeting of its finance council. If church representatives want the bishop to sell the home, Gregory said he will do so and move elsewhere, the AP said.