Thursday, October 23, 2014

FORGOING BISHOP'S MANSIONS, GOOD OR BAD?


I know for a fact that in the poorer black Christian denominations of the south, the members of particular congregations want their pastor to live well. He will normally have a very nice house, compared to them, drive a very nice car(s) and have nice jewelry to wear.  Perhaps the members of these denominations live vicariously through their pastors and see an upward mobility in them not only in this life but the life to come.

Catholic bishops around the world were accorded a similar sort of status in terms of their "regalness" and where they lived. The pope too, in terms of the Apostolic Palace, now a museum of sorts as Pope Francis lives in the Vatican Motel 6.

Now the new Archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich has decided not to live in the Archbishop's mansion which has 14 fire places and is down right huge, but paid for I presume. I presume too others live there. So it is like an apartment, I suspect, for clergy and domestic help.

Bishop Raymond Lessard when he was the Bishop of Savannah chose not to live in a home in a regular neighborhood as his predecessors did. He moved into the Cathedral rectory. He had a large living room and bedroom/bath and a small chapel for the Blessed Sacrament and private Mass.  He lived humbly. He was named Bishop in 1973 and retired in 1995.  I lived with him in the Cathedral rectory for six years and with three other priests.

So what do you think? Should bishops live in cathedral rectories rather than separate residences or mansions?

19 comments:

Vox Cantoris said...

One of the first things that then Archbishop, now Cardinal Collins in Toronto did was to move to the "Bishop's Palace!" The palace, is the oldest building in Toronto used for its original purpose. It is attached to the Cathedral. Others in the past lived in a mansion, a little smaller than Chicago's in the area known as Rosedale. So, in this case, moving to the actual "palace" was a downsizing and an true act of humility and it made a whole lot of sense.

If the new Cardinal of Chicago is going to cost money by not living in the existing "palace" where you are right, others probably live too, then what is the point of that?

Just like our Holy Father, the room in the Motel Six could be let nightly for cash, right? Is the whole floor not restricted for security purposes? How much does this cost?

The apostolic palace would not cost so much and is more secure. So, how is staying in the Vatican Motel an act of humility? Chicago would be the same, no?

I'm not trying to criticise the Holy Father but let's be logical.

Anonymous said...

Governors also face that same dilemma. Some choose to live in "the Governor's mansion", while others choose a private residence that suits their lifestyle and philosophy. I would not look down on a Bishop or Priest for living in the residence the diocese or parish provides them any more that I would judge a politician for living in the residence that their citizens provided for them.

Robert Kumpel said...

I am not offended that a bishop lives in a large house. Did the popes believe that they "owned" the Apostolic palace? Of course not. Think for a minute folks: that property belongs to the Church! In many cases, these bishops mansions are historic residences that have long been the property of the local church. I don't condemn bishops who decide to sell off the properties and live in the rectory (like Chaput of Philadelphia). It's really their call. What Is getting a bit tedious is hearing about bishops who are having their already large houses expanded. When a family with several children struggles to pay their mortgage, it is more likely that they will not look kindly upon a bishop who expands his already 8,000 square foot house to add a wine cellar and jacuzzi.

When Bishop Brom was appointed coadjutor of the diocese of San Diego, the bishop lived in a large house--not quite a mansion--in a lovely historic neighborhood called Mission Hills, perched on a Mesa that overlooked downtown. It had originally been purchased in the 1940's by San Diego's first bishop, Charles Buddy. Most of the Catholics in the area probably didn't even know where it was. Anyway, the retiring bishop, Leo Maher, resided there, so Bishop Brom purchased a very large house in San Diego's second-oldest (and rather luxurious) neighborhood, Kensington. THAT was offensive. Couldn't he have just lived in the other house with Bishop Maher? Or found a more modest residence to stay in until Bishop Maher moved or passed on. Ironically, almost as soon as Brom came to San Diego, Maher died. The bad publicity prompted Brom to sell BOTH properties and he announced he would live at the seminary in the canyon below the University of San Diego. I have never seen his seminary residence (the area is not open to the public) but seminarians have told me that he has his own house separated from the rest of the seminary by a wall. Hmmm.

When Tod Brown took over the Diocese of Orange, he bought $1.1 million dollar house for himself in 1998 in Santa Ana, which had five bedrooms, three and half baths, marble floors and a solar-heated pool. It was remodeled several times (see http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news3/arellano/2004_09_16_Arellano_LifestylesOf.htm)
This ticked a lot of people off, especially when some of the poor Hispanic parishes in his dioceses had decaying church buildings in need of serious repair. In fact, Bishop Brown didn't like rectories and bought several "residences" for his favorite priests in expensive locales like Irvine, San Clemente and Newport Beach, ranging from $600,000 to over $2 million. Now if Brown had inherited his mansion from the outgoing bishop, that would not bother me. But this kind of conspicuous consumption is downright insulting.

No one expects a bishop to live in one bedroom condo, but some bishops have given their brothers a bad name by going to the other extreme.

Who am I to judge?! said...

I think it's fine for a bishop or priest to live in an apartment in a nice large house, provided that the rest of the building is taken up by diocesan or parish offices, or is used for accommodating other clergy.

One problem in the UK and Ireland is that large parochial houses, built for the use of the three or four priests who used to work in the parish, are now occupied by just one priest. Often such houses don't really lend themselves to other uses, or would require substantial expense to be converted for other uses. In these cases it surely is best to sell up and downsize.

This is pedantic, but... the archbishop's house in Chicago has 14 chimney stacks, not 14 fireplaces (so it probable has 40 or so fireplaces). It would be a shame for it to be sold and converted into flats, but it must be worth a fortune.

Pater Igtnotus said...

That a mansion is not owned by the bishop who resides in it is immaterial. (In many cases, where the diocese is legally incorporated as a Corporation Sole, as is the Diocese of Savannah, the Bishop is, in fact, the owner...)

The grand house is one of the trappings of earthly, not spiritual power and authority that really doesn't meld well with the idea or image of a Gentle Shepherd.

At nightfall, the shepherd pulls up a blanket and sleeps with the sheep, he doesn't retire to a comfortable chalet with servants.

Carol H. said...

PI-

The servants would rather be employed in a comfortable chalet than have the Bishop sleep in the cot next to them in the homeless shelter.

Pater Ignotus said...

Carol H - I don't think the preferences of servants are much considered by the masters...

Anonymous said...

I don't care where the bishop lives. What is important is that he teaches and lives the Faith as the Church requires.

Anonymous said...

I believe one of the first guys I recall pulling the imaginary austere trick was Moonbeam Brown in CA. After Reagan left office Moonbeam wanted to demonstrate how he was a man of the people and refused to move into the governor’s mansion. That was a cheap political gimmick but it looks to be catching on amongst our religious folks. If Francis wants humble surroundings I would like to oblige him. He seems to admire the friendliness of Marxists and is impressed with what good people they are. I’d be happy to give him the same living conditions of an ordinary prisoner in a Marxist prison. As well he could switch to the same diet too. From what I can see, I think he might miss the Vatican motel culinary delights. It appears that he indulges his cravings for them. As Paul commented previously; conspicuous humility is an oxymoron. It would be very simple to live in the home that a Cardinal is provided and to strip the bedroom of all creature comforts. Taking short cold showers isn’t a bad solution to having a luxurious bathroom. It’s not that hard to deny yourself of the comforts if you put your mind to it and in fact it might be an even greater sacrifice to perform because the temptation of living cozy is within your grasp. Better to keep one’s mouth shut and perform self-mortification without any fanfare. Mike

rcg said...

Don't they teach priests how to manage a rectory? When selected for seƱor rank in the military you are sent to a charm school. Seems like they should do the same for bishops and teach them about how the physical assets are used. Otherwise it could turn into a rock star mansion.

I think PI Is right, melodramatic, but right. The bishops residence should be a place where he gathers people for interaction appropriate for the setting. The problem with hanging out with the sheep is that if you do it long enough then not only smell like them, you act like them. It should the other way around and unless the preist and bishop can recharge and gather people to help his growth he could slide backward.

Pater Ignotus said...

rcg - Unfortunately, there is no equivalent to "General School" in the priesthood.

There is, however, "Bishop School" which is held each year in Rome for those newly ordained to that office. I suspect that it entails mostly canonical matters, though.

Carol H. said...

PI-

The women in my mom's side of the family tend to live well into their 90's. I have several great aunts who outlived their husbands by about 20 years. They were very happy that well-to-do families were willing to take them in as servants; otherwise, they would have had to suffer out on the streets, and they would have died alone.

Pater Ignotus said...

Carol H - And as servants they did as they were told. I don't think you ever heard, "Essie, would you like to cook my eggs scrambled or poached this morning?" or "Eloise, would you enjoy skipping the ironing this week?"

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

But you treat your servant secretary and other staff the same way or do you allow then to do as they wish?

Carol H. said...

PI-

Thanks for the laugh! In that day, husbands were no less demanding than masters.

rcg said...

It isn't demeaning to serve others.

Gene said...

Hey, Ignotus, Tote that bale! Shuck that corn! Hitch that mule and git that wagon movin!

Carol H. said...

But Gene, I don't think that mule wants to get hitched!

Gene said...

I agree that there is a limit to what is appropriate for the residence of a Priest or Bishop, but I believe the limit is a broad one. I would rather have a devout, believing Bishop who is hands-on in his diocese and living the Gospel who resides in a mansion than a liberal one living in section 8 housing.