Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Pope Francis accepts the Bling bishop's resignation. He will be reassigned but where?

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”.

“Access to the priesthood cannot be sold. This is an initiative the Lord takes. The Lord calls”, he added, and concluded by encouraging the young who hear this call to “cherish this invitation and pray so that it might grow and bear fruit in all the Church”.


Gene said...

"Lord, we left all to follow thee…" LOL! LOL!

Gene said...

Bishops and Priests tend to lose credibility when they immerse themselves in riches and material wealth. However, this is a difficult discussion because the individual standards for "riches" vary so much from person to person.

Anonymous said...

If you have to ask, "Is this too much?"

Then most likely, it IS too much and then some.

Anonymous said...

"No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

"Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. ... For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also."

Pretty simple. If the shepherds cannot live the gospel, how can they guide the flock? Preach against consumerism while you conspicuously consume? St. Matthew and St. Luke probably had tidy stashes in their day as tax collector and physician, but they walked away from it all to follow Jesus who, we are reminded, had no place to lay his head.

When is too much, too much? When the lifestyle gives scandal. Is a mansion really necessary in a city that has a plethora of housing options?

Perhaps, this explains why the Church stands on the shoulders of religious who give up everything to follow Christ. St. Francis, St. Anthony, and St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:06.....BINGO....I was about to respond...then I read yours and already said it. Going one more step, the same avoidance of excessive opulence and extravagance might well be applied to everybody...not just clergy.

In closing,I'd suggest that some of the soaring cathedrals around the world that were built "for the glory of God" were also built as monuments to those who caused them to be built.

There's a trite, worn out slogan that goes "WWJD" that is also quite profound.

Православный физик said...

I tend to side with you Father, clearly live within reason (but this is a bit subjective, for each person has their own needs), but secular priests do not have a vow of poverty strictly speaking.

I believe it's the rule of St Augustine where each is given according to their need.

The good Bishop I believe was mistakenly persecuted out of his own diocese for being orthodox (by the faithful, that was a diocese of progressive leanings)

Imposing religious life on secular priests will only lead to bad things.

rcg said...

Could this lesson be extrapolated to all of the other worldly things that people want priests to do: marry, support contraception, divorce, etc.? By the way, it has nothing to do with any of those things, but rather that the world wants to own the priest rather than have him give himself to God. Those things are only how the world likes their puppets to jump.

GenXBen said...

I think Bishop Myers will be ok. He's in New Jersey, after all, where a Boy Scouts can get a merit badge for "Bribery".

A bishop should live as his people live. If it's a rich diocese I see no problem with a Bishops Mansion. If the diocese is complaining for lack of funds but building a huge castle for the Bishop, then eyes rows will be raised.

Anonymous said...

Instead of worrying about what kind of house a priest lives in. I would suggest the Holy Father's efforts might be better spent on concentrating on what priests and nuns are teaching in "Catholic" schools and universities. Instead of worrying about cars and mozettas, Pope Francis might want to start worrying that nuns are promoting contraception and abortion. The Holy Father could adjust his priorities a bit.

Anonymous said...

From a 43 million dollar rectory to abortion in nine quick steps. OCD in action.

Gene said...

"Bishop, Bishop, have you heard,
Church gonna' buy you a mocking bird.
If dat mocking bird don't sing,
Church gonna' buy you a diamond ring…"

Anonymous said...

Bishop Van Elst was on the Traditional side and did say the TLM very often, that was the motive by Bergoglio to remove him, just like the poor Franciscans of the Immaculate.

John Nolan said...

In Germany and Austria progressive clergy and laity will combine to force out bishops who are regarded as too conservative. This happened in Linz in 2009 when Gerhard Maria Wagner had to ask Pope Benedict to rescind his appointment as an auxiliary bishop. (Linz, by the way, is one of the most dissident sees in Europe, many priests making no secret of having concubines.)

The Bishop of Limburg's building project certainly went over-budget, which is not unusual, but he was building for the diocese, not for himself. However, he was subject to a disinformation campaign (some of the alleged costs were exaggerated tenfold for effect) on account of his orthodox views.

The same thing was tried in the case of Bishop Thomas Olmstead. It was fortunately unsuccessful, but it is only a matter of time before what happened in Linz and Limburg will happen in England or America.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

If Pope Francis has a desire to stamp out the celebration of the EF Mass, it is odd that the two most recent bishops he has named in England both celebrate it. Maybe he is just plain serious about Gospel simplicity as it concerns the ordained and that extravagance that is over the top will have repercussions. With the Franciscans, I am willing to be patient to find out what really is going on in that order. Many people refused to believe that there was anything amiss, but gossip, as it concerned the Legionaries of Christ. Of course in the minds of many, many conservative Catholics it was thought that there was a liberal conspiracy against the Legionaries and his founders, especially by the media. I'm glad Pope Francis has acted in a pro-active way with the Franciscans and that he is asserting his papal authority over them. We need strong popes!

But with that said, yes, the Holy Father needs to scrutinize our Catholic schools of higher learning the the corruption they bring to the young as it regards the true Faith. Religious orders that staff these schools should be investigated if there are questions of orthodoxy and rampant heterodoxy being shoved down the throats of young people, whose parent's hard earned money is sending to these schools for a Catholic education.

Rood Screen said...

Pope Francis seems concerned primarily with the message the Church presents to non-Catholics and to marginal Catholics. "Liberace" priests do this Catholic evangelization no favors.

All clerics are required to cultivate a simple style of life, and even secular clergy are required by law to give away all money and other benefits beyond what's needed for "decent support". If you're a priest or bishop and you have money and goods you don't need, then you must get rid of them.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

At the risk of sounding worldly and by that I mean practical, our diocese since the first day I was ordained told us to prepare for retirement. They indicated that we should obviously be paying into Social Security and our parishes would pay into our retirement fund. We were told that we should have other funds set aside, such as investments and IRA's. Once we retire, we must pay rent to the parish if we are allowed to live in a parish rectory or we may buy a home or rent something. We need to recognize that many dioceses have no retirement homes or nursing homes and that eventually many of us will end up in the most horrible of nursing homes forgotten by all. Religious orders do take better care of their priests than dioceses do. There is a scandal in this obviously.

Anonymous said...

May I ask whether, in the absence of any publicly identifiable foundation, it is morally responsible to suggest any resemblance between the case of the Legionnaires of Christ and that of the Franciscans of the Immaculate?

Long before their official demise, rumors and charges of gross immorality at the top circulated widely regarding the Legionnaires.

Whereas never has there been even a hint or whiff of moral or financial scandal regarding the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Whatever the alleged problem may be, whether by friend or foe. A previously hidden problem could possibly emerge, but so far, no suggestion or even rumor of ethical irregularities--no public charge or allegation about what seems universally regarded as an exemplary holy order, from top to bottom. Neither by friend nor by foe.

With only one exception (to my knowledge)--the repeated innuendo by association with the Legionnaires here at the Southern Orders blog.

Anonymous said...

Father, posting about the German bishop is one thing, but I would warn you, as someone who likes you and your blog, to be very careful about posting anything about local bishops. That especially applies to Wilton Gregory. Do not forget that he one of Bernadin's boys.

Rood Screen said...

"...Many of us will end up in the most horrible of nursing homes forgotten by all."

Indeed, I've (reluctantly) visited several priests over the years who finished their lives almost completely forgotten in nursing homes. The moment he retires from active ministry, a diocesan priest is pretty much on his own. If you haven't saved up enough money, then you're in trouble, especially if you develop a lengthy illness. You only have to be retired a few years before almost all former parishioners stop visiting you. And, once you pass away, as the saying goes, "there's nothing deader than a dead priest". You never hear of anyone going to visit the grave of a diocesan priest.

Time for me to listen to some violin music and read "The Journal of a Country Priest"!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Henry, we don't know what is going on with this Franciscan group. The pope would not involve himself in something trivial in this regard. I suspect it could be an affinity for the schismatic FSSPX and maybe financial mismanagement.

As far as the Archbishop of Atlanta or Newark, part of the point of my post is that the media will start campaigns against Catholic bishops based on what they spend. I personally don't think this is healthy and that giving into media expectations is not good unless there are real problems.

Archbishop Gregory seems to know how to handle himself with the media, so I presume this brouhaha born of the Bling Bishop and then of Newark's bishop and now trickling down to the birthplace of Gone With the Wind and an African American Archbishop, while ironic, will nonetheless blow over!

Rood Screen said...

"I would warn be very careful about posting anything about local bishops..."

Yes. They may determine that your knee renders you incapable of active ministry, and then ship you off to that obscure nursing home!

(One uses humor to allay one's fears.)

Anonymous said...

Fr. McDonald: "Henry, we don't know what is going on with this Franciscan group."

Which is precisely my point. And why, in the absence of any accusation or even rumor, it seems (to me) morally irresponsible for one with no personal knowledge to suggest "maybe financial mismanagement", which so far as I know no one but you has alluded to as even a possibility.

My concern would rather be whether the pope actually has in fact involved himself to the extent that seems needed in this case. The public appearance now is that he is not in fact in charge. Whatever the truth may be, it looks like that a petty independent administrator is running amok settling personal grievances without any review or supervision from above. This messy situation is generating serious misunderstanding that may indeed call for effective papal leadership not yet seen.

John Nolan said...


The canonical status of the SSPX and its regularization is regarded by the Holy See as an internal matter, so they cannot by definition be schismatic, and unless (like all other schismatics) they declare by word or action that they are indeed so, it would be as well not to label them as such.

Anonymous said...

The archbishop of Atlanta’s new home: 6,000 square feet, $2.2 million

Gene said...

Yeah, I read about the Archbishop's new house. He says he needs it so he can have backyard BBQ's and fish fries. No joke. He says it will help him "mix with the sheep" easier. Wow…some high end flock that must be!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

cashmere? or merecash?