Archbishop Gregory issues a public apology to the diocese for his new excessively lavish house and announces he’s putting it on the market
After the scandal involving the disgraced bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-Van Els, another diocese has ended up in the spotlight after it was discovered its bishop had spent $2,2 million dollars on a new residence. The man in question is the Archbishop of Atlanta (US) Archbishop Wilton Gregory. The archbishop published an open letter in the diocesan weekly in which he publicly apologises to faithful for the excessive sums of money spent on the bishop’s residence. This was after revelations made by the local press about the local Church’s real estate expenses began to cause a stir in the local diocese. The bishop’s new residence, a mansion donated by Joseph Mitchell, a nephew of “Gone With The Wind” author, Margaret Mitchell.
Gregory was formerly Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago assisting Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and is a prominent figure within the US Catholic Church: he was President of the US Bishops’ Conference from 2001 to 2004 and was the first African American prelate to be elected to this position.
In his open letter, the archbishop explains that the reason he was moving residence was that the Atlanta cathedral parish needed extra space for its pastoral activities. Hence the decision to free up the archbishop’s previous residence and making the most of the donation offered by the Mitchells. But many local faithful were unhappy about the decision to build a new representational building instead of just a simple house for the pastor’s use.
“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 instil this in our children when they see their archdiocesan leadership living extravagantly?” Mgr. Gregory’s letter reads.
In the letter, Mgr. Gregory expresses gratitude for the sincerity of his flock’s criticisms. “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.”
Hence his public apology: “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.”
Gregory concludes by announcing that he will now be presenting the issue before the Archdiocesan Council so as to discuss how to go about putting the new residence on the market and move to another abode that is more in line with the sober lifestyle bishops are being asked to lead.