When Pope Francis decided to occupy a small suite in the Vatican guesthouse rather than live in the Apostolic Palace with its museum-quality trappings, he was doing more than delivering a poignant message to the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world.
Francis was offering a not-so-veiled criticism of those princes of the Church who could easily star in the television reality show, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
Indeed, American Catholics will find little pleasure in reading an in-depth report on CNN.com of records pertaining to the homes of the country’s top church leaders.
Here’s the summary of the story by Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog editor:
“Records reveal that 10 of the country’s top church leaders defy the Pope’s example and live in residences worth more than $1 million.”
Burke builds the story on this quote from Pope Francis: “How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor.”
The author also took an excerpt from Francis’ blueprint for the Roman Catholic Church: “God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings.”
While the pope has publicly criticized priests and nuns who drive latest-model cars and bishops who spend their time jet-setting instead of tending to their flocks, he has yet to set his sights on the archbishops in America who live in opulence.
But that’s certain to change in light of the CNN story that found that at least 10 of the 34 active archbishops live in buildings worth more than $1 million.
DOLAN’S $30 million digs
At the top of the list is the outspoken, nationally renowned Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York who lives in a 15,000-square-foot mansion on Madison Avenue. CNN describes the neighborhood as “one of the priciest corridors of Manhattan.”
The building’s value has been pegged at $30 million.
“Dolan shares the neo-Gothic mansion, which is reportedly filled with thick red carpets and priceless antiques, with three other priests,” the CNN report states.
Then there’s Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George who lives in a mansion that has 19 chimneys and sits on 1.7 acres of prime real estate in the city’s ritzy Gold Coast neighborhood. It’s worth $14.3 million “as is,” CNN revealed.
Accompanying the network news’ investigative piece are photographs of some of the homes that are certain to prompt this question: Do the leaders of the Catholic Church actually believe they are princes and, therefore, have a God-given right to live as royalty?
But Pope Francis is justifiably concerned about Church leaders who bear the “psychology of princes” and has taken a firm stand against such public displays of wealth.
The Vatican fired German Bishop Franz-Peyer Tebartz-van Elst, who spent $43 million to remodel his opulent home, according to CNN. He was known as “The Bishop of Bling.”
Given the extreme poverty afflicting most of the underdeveloped world, the attacks on Catholics in many non-Christian countries and the fact that membership in the Church is declining, especially in the West, there is a need for an examination of conscience on the part of the “princes.”
They need to move out of their opulent residences and live in the type of stark quarters that Pope Francis is occupying.