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April 5th, 2014
04:48 PM ET

Archbishop to vacate $2.2 million mansion

By Chandrika Narayan, CNN, and Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - After coming under sharp criticism and issuing an apology earlier this week, the Archbishop of Atlanta announced Saturday that he would vacate his $2.2 million mansion in early May.

The decision came after a meeting with members of several church councils and parishioners in Archbishop Wilton Gregory's headquarters north of Atlanta.

"I want to thank those parishioners whose prayers, counsel and concern brought this issue to light and ensured that their Archbishop was properly attuned to the important symbolism of simple actions and the challenges faced by many of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Atlanta," Gregory said in a statement.

There were nearly 60 people present at the closed-door meeting, said Pat Chivers, communications director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. They included members of the Archdiocesan Pastoral and Finance Council, the Council of Priests and parishioners of differing points of view,

"He listened to everyone's concern ... there is tremendous love and respect for Archbishop Gregory, and support for his decision to move forward," Chivers said.

Gregory moved into the 6,000-square-foot home in Atlanta's upscale Buckhead neighborhood in January. It was built on land donated by Joseph Mitchell, nephew of "Gone With the Wind" novelist Margaret Mitchell.

The property will be sold and the proceeds invested in the needs of the Catholic community, according to the statement. The archbishop will move into another available Archdiocesan property.

Earlier this week, Gregory publicly apologized for building the mansion.

"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," Gregory wrote Monday in the archdiocesan newspaper.

The archbishop's apology came just days after the Pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, also known as the "Bling Bishop," who spent $42 million renovating his residence in Limburg, Germany.

Since his election last year, Francis has repeatedly urged Catholics to focus on income inequality and the suffering of society's marginalized. "Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor," he has said.

The Pope himself has eschewed many of the trappings of papal life, living in a small apartment in the Vatican guesthouse instead of the sumptuous apartment in the Apostolic Palace, and traveling in a small car instead of a limousine.

Francis' example has put pressure on American bishops to adopt similarly austere lifestyles, and it has emboldened rank-and-file Catholics to call them out if they fall short.

In the past year, Archbishop Jon Myers of Newark, New Jersey, has been criticized for planning $500,000 to outfit his retirement home with a elevator, exercise pool, hot tub and library.

Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden, New Jersey, was slammed for spending the same amount on a mansion in the suburb of Woodbury while presiding over one of the state's poorest cities.

Catholics in Charleston, West Virginia, have written to the Pope's ambassador, asking him to probe construction costs, including $7.5 million spent on the chancery, the diocese's central offices, according to the Charleston Gazette.

In Atlanta, Gregory said he had received "many ... heartfelt, genuine and candidly rebuking" e-mails, phone calls and letters during the past week.

"I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services," the archbishop said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

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soundoff (410 Responses)
  1. Bootyfunk

    can we please start taxing these con-men?

    April 5, 2014 at 11:57 pm |
    • zendraxus

      this

      April 6, 2014 at 1:36 am |
  2. Bootyfunk

    dirtbags. they fleece the people in the pews to give give give, using their favorite tools guilt and fear. they subtly suggest that the more money you give, the more likely you are to get into heaven. and what do they do with the money? spend it on themselves buying all sorts of luxuries while the gullible believer goes home after donating money to the church and can't pay his bills. and then the parishioners that are just plain desti.tute. a priest buys a hot tub while another family that attends his church goes homeless.

    i'm an atheist and while i don't agree with everything jesus said, he had a pretty consistent message about money and being rich. how do these religious leaders and christians in general get past stuff like jesus saying there is more of a chance for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven? remember jesus turning over the tables of the money lenders? do rich christians believe they are going to heaven despite the words of their own messiah telling them they aren't? even more so, how can rich priests, who are supposed to be representatives of christ, think they are going to heaven?

    April 5, 2014 at 11:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      What a gig, eh?

      April 6, 2014 at 7:59 am |
    • sam stone

      How can you be certain what jesus said?

      April 6, 2014 at 8:01 am |
  3. amymay2012

    It's ok, Ranbis own all of East New York.

    April 5, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      Who is Ranbis?

      April 6, 2014 at 7:57 am |
  4. cgahaw

    Lots of good coming out of this Pope – its called leadership and holding people accountable – something that this world just does not do. More to come from his leadership = just watch and also follow his example.

    April 5, 2014 at 10:44 pm |
    • minuano72

      After the guy robbed people blind? Why would a holy man live in a $2M house......ever?

      April 5, 2014 at 11:08 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      besides a few flowery words, what has the pope actually done?
      he hasn't changed church dogma or doctrine.
      g.ays still can't get married.
      women can't be leaders in the church
      child molesters within the church are no more held accountable now than they were last century
      he made an over-the-top rub it in your face "i'm rich, biotch" priest give up his mansion?
      wow, he sure is cracking down...

      April 5, 2014 at 11:48 pm |
      • cgahaw

        Nothing to change in doctrine and dogma – follows the gospel. Gays cannot marry under Christianity – why would he change it? Women cannot operate in the priesthood per the Bible – why would he change it? He has removed more people from office and brought in new people to eradicate the good ol boy system more than the last several popes combined. He is cracking down way more than any another leader out in the world. Do some studying and reading before you post.

        April 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
    • zendraxus

      Yes...the pope vacated the papal apartments...and now the Church pays for a rental on top of what they would normally spend. His motorcade has all the security of past popes and more – because he's not commuting in the traditional armored vehicle. I would be VERY surprised to learn that the palace is actually not being used. Is all for show because the RCC is losing active members (and their cash) at a rapid rate.

      April 6, 2014 at 1:57 am |
      • cgahaw

        Actually people and cash flow have remained consistent. No increases or decreases – research and find facts before posting

        April 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • zendraxus

          No increases or decreases? -lol so no change then... Sorry could resist:)

          What you say makes absolutely no sense. the RCC owns the palace already...its completely dark? no lights, no heat, cooling -no staff?

          and his security? no extra eyes for an expanded perimeter>? try to get to the man in his motorcade as a member of the unwashed masses, you ll be stopped before you get within handgun range.

          no – this all for show...and this show actually costs MORE

          April 6, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
  5. pg1016

    I was fortunate enough to be confirmed by Archbishop Gregory while he was a Bishop in Chicago in the '80s. He is a great person and has done an amazing job in his roles throughout the years. That being said, I am extremely happy that Pope Francis has shone a light on the materialism that has consumed the church for centuries. Pope Francis truly is the face of our Catholic church, and I sincerely hope his legacy continues for many generations to come. Deus Beatus!

    April 5, 2014 at 10:31 pm |
    • Kevin H

      The Archbishop may be a great guy, however, he essentially stole from the people of the diocese. To spend so much money on a home that benefits him personally is absolutely unforgivable. He could have invested the money in a building to benefit the poor. This man's mistake rose to a level that went far, far beyond making a mistake. Spending $1,000 for a party – that would be a mistake – $2.2 million is a criminal investment.

      April 5, 2014 at 10:55 pm |
      • pg1016

        I completely agree. The church has been far too materialistic for centuries. I am saddened that Bishop Gregory was caught up in this, but to err i human – I am not to judge. I am relieved that Pope Bishop is holding his flock accountable, he is truly an inspiration and has also shown me the error of my ways. I sincerely hope that we can all become more compassionate to those less fortunate.

        April 5, 2014 at 11:04 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          "I am not to judge"
          +++ well i will. those men are thieves that conned good people out of their money and then spent it on himself. the elderly probably gave the church part of their social security check for a donation and he buys a $2.2 mansion? i'll go ahead and judge him - he's a dirtbag.

          April 5, 2014 at 11:51 pm |
  6. Kat

    It's unfortunate that some Christians think they can get away with living rich. It makes no sense to preach the Bible and not live it.

    April 5, 2014 at 10:21 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      there are so many orders to kill in the bible, anyone actually following it word for word would become the world's most notorious serial killer/mass murderers. christians cherry-pick the bible, following the parts that promote how they want to live their lives and ignoring the rest.

      April 5, 2014 at 11:52 pm |
  7. beyondthetech

    Have all the faith you want. Faith is a one-on-one relationship between you and God. Anything else is a religion, and that's where all the corruption is seeded from.

    April 5, 2014 at 10:15 pm |
    • cgahaw

      Well then you obviously don;t believe in or read the Bible. After the personal relationship with God is the communing of believers and the Eucharist as well as all other sacraments. The Bible is clear on organized worship of Christ – read anything Paul wrote.

      April 5, 2014 at 10:48 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Faith is belief without evidence, so saying you have faith is no different than admitting to not caring about actual evidence...no wonder so many pick their imaginary friend god over realistic updated facts.

      April 6, 2014 at 5:48 am |
      • cgahaw

        Actually your argument is completely untenable. Physical evidence in a physical world is not logical or possible on spiritual matters. Faith on God and the spiritual world will never have physical evidence yet those of faith very much use evidence to operate in the physical world. The resolute atheist has no capability to speak to other humans' spiritual experiences. If you choose to only believe in a physical world – that is your issue and problem – don't assume everyone else believes as you.

        April 6, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
        • G to the T

          I believe human spiritual experiences can be explained via natural means. That being said, experiences are still not evidence either way unless they can be repeated/verified.

          If god has any influence on the physical world (i.e. miracles) then those influences are subject to physical examination, regardless of the source.

          April 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
        • hotairace

          Yup! Only believer's definition of their alleged but never proven god allows him to hide from us.

          April 6, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
  8. rdub2k14

    I really feel this criticism has very subtle racial overtones. If it was a fat jolly stereotypical irish accent catholic priest ... old devout parishioners wouldve said "oh Archbishop O'Flatery really deserves this place - he's so sweet - he deserves it"....you wouldn't have heard a peeps. He couldve built a home where a few people couldve lived on that plat - so i think that was a mistake.

    April 5, 2014 at 9:55 pm |
    • Kat

      I hope not. Funds for the Lords work should never be at the sola discretion of the priest. No preacher or priest should live in opulence, no matter their nationality.

      April 5, 2014 at 10:15 pm |
  9. gmenfan54

    Religion is the oldest and biggest scam on earth and should not be tax exempt. Its a huge money making business enterprise.

    April 5, 2014 at 9:55 pm |
    • cgahaw

      It has to be tax exempt because governments are incompetent and incapable of providing for the needy. If it were not for charitable organizations which are mostly religious, suffering across the world would be much worse. Think before you write.

      April 5, 2014 at 10:50 pm |
  10. ugetthefacts

    google 'NYTIMES the-shame-of-the-church'

    the popes, bishops and cardinals worldwide. Including this pope

    April 5, 2014 at 9:30 pm |
    • ugetthefacts

      this video just released 6 days ago..

      April 5, 2014 at 9:46 pm |
  11. gginsandiego

    No, actually it's not up for sale. Check the MLS, nothing on Habersham Road in Atlanta for sale. Perhaps he is hoping it will all blow over and he can keep his castle.

    April 5, 2014 at 9:26 pm |
    • Akira

      The article says it will be sold, not that it's been listed already...he 'a due to vacate it in early May.

      April 5, 2014 at 10:19 pm |
  12. wickeylane

    I believe Christ, whom Christians profess to follow, said to a rich man who was of high moral character that he should give away all his riches to the poor, if he wanted eternal life. Which made the rich man very sad and Jesus went on to tell him something about a camel passing through the eye of a needle more easily than the rich getting to heaven. But this doesn't apply to Catholics right, because they can say 'Hail Mary's' and give their money to Bishops to get to heaven?

    April 5, 2014 at 9:24 pm |
    • cgahaw

      Are you even a Christian and have you ever practiced as a Catholic – either way your interpretation and recitation of the scripture is completely wrong and you obviously have no clue what Catholics do.

      April 5, 2014 at 10:45 pm |
      • TruthPrevails1

        Until all the pedophiles are turned over to the authorities for prosecution, that is all anyone needs to really know-Catholic church=Cult of Pedophiles!

        April 6, 2014 at 6:28 am |
        • cgahaw

          Idiotic to call the RCC a cult of pedophiles – labeling an entire group of people based on the heinous actions of some. Also, plenty of pedophiles have been arrested and convicted within RCC. DO some research and check out facts and avoid non-sensical blanket statements.

          April 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          You're right I should not have broad painted. I've done my research, don't assume I haven't. I'm not oblivious to the fact that there are a great many more who are being protected by the RCC than there are being prosecuted.
          bishopaccountability.org tells it as it is.

          April 6, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
  13. nickbartow

    I will not defend these bishops but I will not engage in catholic bashing as most here today have done. What I will point out is that this pope is the first one in my life who has cought the admiration of not just Catholics but everyone. There is no doubt that over the pass 2000 years the church has calculated much wealth and sadly most of it has come from those who think they can buy their way into heaven. Today we Christians are not followers of those old ideas and this new pope soundly rejects the old ways.

    April 5, 2014 at 9:21 pm |
  14. thefinisher1

    Hey buddy, Jesus isn't for a sale. If I'm not mistaken, Jesus preached but didn't own a home and wasn't rich. When Jesus saw a woman give all she had (which was extremely little) while the rich boasted how much they had, he favored her doing more. Of course atheists will most likely ignore this and still continue their attacking and flaming as usual.

    April 5, 2014 at 9:09 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Jesus isn't for a sale ? Why, everyone is for a sale. Especially the Old Navy Easter Sale.
      You do realize that post make no sense AT ALL.
      But thanks for continuing to demonstrate your mentally challenged condition.

      April 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm |
      • thefinisher1

        You lack the maturity to understand because it disproves what you think. It's ok. It takes time ^_^

        April 5, 2014 at 9:28 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      And you, Church-Lady-from-the -trailer-park, will continue to do your self-righteous superior dance.
      A one two three, one two three, one two three.

      April 5, 2014 at 9:19 pm |
      • thefinisher1

        Lol. You think I'm a woman? That's classic. When did I ever claim I was better? Might want to get your eyes checked, kid.

        April 5, 2014 at 9:34 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          I think bucky is referring to the Church Lady character on SNL and her superiority att.itude/complex. (played by a man by the way).

          April 5, 2014 at 9:48 pm |
  15. CS

    Re: rap
    ~~
    Preachers preach for a paycheck
    You know you do it, nothin’ to it

    People want you to lie so you try
    Make them feel good inside and help the blue hairs get by

    She can’t get her pants on herself cause of the palsy
    It’s balsy to lie and tell her to pray that away

    Acting on Sunday and counting on Monday
    The mob might just rip you up one day

    The good Lord above makes you smile
    But you’re a pile and vile

    Never take the blame
    Gods are all the same

    April 5, 2014 at 8:53 pm |
  16. hjezek

    The church always was a gang of thieves and this is still true today.

    April 5, 2014 at 8:14 pm |
    • jkflipflop

      Indeed. Every single one of these indignant "church officials" already knew of this guy's habits and regularly visited this mansion. It wasn't until people got in an uproar that they actually did something.

      April 5, 2014 at 8:34 pm |
      • CS

        Some say they visited a little too often...

        April 5, 2014 at 8:46 pm |
    • CS

      And pimps. Don't forget pimps...

      April 5, 2014 at 8:45 pm |
    • daftshadow

      i hope ppl realize religion is another form of a business and nothing more. you'd be amazed how rich some of these church officials really are.

      April 5, 2014 at 8:55 pm |
  17. 1n2n3n4n

    "For you shall NOT use the Lord your God's name in vain". Isn't that the second commandment? But hey, that's how the satanic catholic church and the televangelist$ have become so rich. And with the Jesuit "hidden hand of jabula" pope with his satanic bent cross... he's just the cherry on top of the new world luciferian order. Gosh... but they're just so nicey nicey. Awwwwww

    April 5, 2014 at 8:14 pm |
    • CS

      Why does this concern you?

      April 5, 2014 at 8:48 pm |
  18. malookabear

    What a load of BS Spin! Off with their heads!

    April 5, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
  19. janesauric

    How many centuries has it been since Martin Luther complained of this same thing about the Catholic Church? Did this priest think people like to give 10% of their earnings so their 'spiritual leader' can live in oriental luxury? Does the archbishop have a Bible that says blessed are the filthy rich who live off the labor of peasants?

    April 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
    • doobzz

      Catholics don't t.ithe, to my knowledge. I haven't been in a RCC for about 25 years but prior to that I never heard the word t.ithe used. I have heard it pushed very hard in some Protestant churches.

      Also, we don't know that he lived in "oriental luxury". It could have been "Early American luxury" or "French Provincial luxury" or any number of decorating themes.

      April 5, 2014 at 9:33 pm |
  20. realbuckyball

    "brought the issue to light" ...... great corporate PR speak.
    Hahaha. It's frikin' staring him in the face, and he needed someone to "bring it to light ?"
    What is he ? Blind ?

    April 5, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
    • ssq41

      From one who was obviously ignorant enough to have it built and move in in the first place, I'm sure it was a "Damage Control" Meeting and he acquiesced.

      April 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.