With the Pope Francis effect, bishops who waste money on themselves and grand pastoral centers and the like seem now to be targets of the press throughout the world. Has Pope Francis opened Pandora's Box in this regard and how healthy will it be.
Today Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the "Bling Bishop" of Germany who submitted his resignation in October. It was Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg. There appeared to be some hefty money spent on his residence and the pastoral center for the diocese only about $43 million. But of course, this isn't his, it belongs to the Church of his diocese. But evidently he was extravagant.
Part of the criticism of Bishop Elst is that Pope Francis didn't move into the apostolic palace, although his offices are still there and he goes to work there everyday, but rather, moved into the Vatican Motel 6 taking over the entire second floor. At least it is a modern accommodation, but a motel nonetheless.
Then the retiring Archbishop of Newark, John Myers has been unmercifully criticized for the expansion of his retirement compound.
And now Atlanta's newspaper is going after Archbishop Wilton Gregory and the cost of his mansion in a very rich neighborhood in Atlanta. As well the cathedral priests have moved into a swank house in Buckhead and are drawing criticism over it.
Where does it all stop?
Secular priests do not take vows of poverty as do most religious order priests. We can earn a salary and own property, but we are required normally to live in the parish house where we live. In recent times, there has been a concerted effort to separate the residence from the office to make home life a bit more humane and less work-oriented and thus healthier for most priests.
Most priests live alone now and more than likely enjoy it that way. Secular priests are not called to community life as are religious order priests. Is it time now to give priests a just salary and allow them to live where they choose and can afford to live?
I'm tending toward my practical solution for secular priests, not religious vowed to poverty and community life.
This is what Pope Francis said today at his general audience about bishops and priests and married people, (Sacraments of Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony, both intimately linked):
The Sacraments of the Holy Orders and Matrimony, two specific vocations and two great paths to the Lord” were the theme of the Holy Father's catechesis during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square. “The ministers who are chosen and consecrated for this service prolong Jesus' presence over time, and they do so with the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of God, and with love”.
“Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community. Yes, they are at the 'head', but for Jesus this means placing their authority at the service of the community. … 'whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave'. … A bishop who does not serve his community does not do good; a priest or a curate who does not place himself at the service of his community does not do good, he is mistaken”.
Pope Francis emphasised that “impassioned love for the Church” is a characteristic that always derives from this sacramental union with Christ. “The bishop, the priest, love the Church in their own community, they love the Church greatly. How? How Christ loves His Church. … The spouse loves his wife as Christ loves His Church. ... The priesthood and matrimony are two Sacraments that represent the path by which people habitually reach the Lord”.
Finally, the Pope cited the words of St. Paul to Timothy when he advised him not to neglect, but rather always to revive the gift given to him. “When the ministry is not nurtured by prayer, by listening to the Word of God, with the daily celebration of the Eucharist, and also with regular confession, the authentic sense of one's own service is inevitably lost from view, along with the joy that comes from profound communion with Jesus. … The priest who does not do these things loses, over time, his union with Jesus and becomes mediocre, which is not good for the Church. Therefore, we must help bishops and priests to pray, to listen to the Word of God that is our daily bread, to celebrate the Eucharist every day and to confess regularly”.