Churchgoers Withdraw Support Over Archbishop’s Lavish Mansion Expansion

I know Joel Olsteen is all about the (wildly unbiblical) prosperity gospel, but isn’t the Catholic Church all about the vows of poverty? Or is that just for the monks and nuns? Because clearly it’s not one taken by Newark Archbishop John Myers.

Parishioners are so upset by Myers’ lack of regard in expanding his weekend home to the tune of half a million dollars that they’ve stopped donating to the church in protest.

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70-year-old Joe Ferri, a parishioner as St. Thomas the Apostle Church, said that he’s written a $100 check every year for the archbishop’s annual appeal, but didn’t this year after he heard about the expensive remodeling plans for Myer’s home in New Jersey’s Franklin Township. He said, “"If this is the only way I can be heard, so be it … I’m disgusted. The archdiocese is not going to get another penny out of me."

The 3,000 square foot new addition reportedly includes plans to add a new bedroom with a sitting area, a large study and library, a full-floor gallery, two bathrooms, three fireplaces, and an elevator. Oh yeah, and a hot tub.

A spokesman for the diocese said it’s a “whirlpool” and not a hot tub. OK, so a small hot tub. Let’s not try to excuse this lavish excess with semantics, mmmkay?

Look, I am the first person to say there’s nothing wrong with having money and spending it on nice things. And it’s not like the archbishop is using church donations to fund his lifestyle. At least he better not be! He says he used real estate proceeds to fund the original $700,000 purchase of the home in 2002. The same spokesman that defended the hot tub whirlpool assured that funds from the campaign were not being used in the expansion.

But still, it just doesn’t sit well, does it? Especially when so many Americans are struggling to make ends meet in a still-recovering economy. People tend to turn to church and religion during times of need, and to be confronted with such indulgence by a man that has supposedly dedicated his life to helping the downtrodden is rather jarring.

Rev. John Bambrick, a pastor in Jackson Township, and a critic of Myers, said, “Unfortunately, this is going to hurt giving everywhere … The average priest lives in two rooms with a bathroom, and the pope lives in a hotel room … I don’t understand why a 75-year-old man needs a 7,500-square-foot mansion with two swimming pools."

Myers probably isn’t stupid. He’s got to know how this looks, and as a church leader, he should be setting a good example. An attitude of entitlement isn’t something one usually looks for in someone calling himself a man of God. Then again, it’s reported that Myers prefers to be referred to as “Your Grace.” Well there you go.

Do you think church leaders should lead luxurious lifestyles?


Image via Chris Sloan/Flickr

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