Of the residences of bishops

CNN has posted what an only be called a cheap shot at American bishops.

This is yellow journalism.

The story, HERE, is about the “lavish” residences of some bishops.

The piece starts out with an rookie … or rather unprofessional… error, that is, the suggestion that the personal residence of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, is some sort of studio apartment over the local mercado.  It cost a hell of a lot of money to get the building ready for the Pope to live in, and it ain’t cheap to provide security there.  But poverty can be expensive.

In any event, Fishwrap took this tack a while back.  HERE

The idea CNN and Fishwrap are proffering is that unless His Excellency (or just plain “Bill”) lives in a box over a grate and drinks from puddles on the sidewalk, he must be some sort of heartless sybarite. The hitch is that, no matter how humbly an American bishop would choose to live, his life couldn’t possibly suck enough for liberals and dissidents.  The next article would be “ARCHBISHOP HAS LAVISH DRINKING PUDDLE”.  “Why?”, they would cry “Why was this puddle not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor undocumented children?”

Meanwhile, I await the CNN and Fishwrap article which praise His Excellency, the Extraordinary Ordinary, Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison, whose residence, though still of almost rococo elegance, is in a less than opulent neighborhood.

Note the elegant (power) lines, the superb architraves which caress the windows, the balustrade and corbels of the balcony with its subtle and yet insouciant jut, the whimsy of the kitchen’s stove-hood vent:


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  1. mrshopey says:

    I don’t think they are above criticism but I am like you regarding the article.
    We have a group of retired priests that live in the most expensive house/area here. It was donated to them but, they are living it up meaning, they are not humbly living in the house. They also are available to the rich at anytime. Who wants to live among the poor really except Pope Francis?
    Even our high school moved to the rich area so they could cater to them.
    I try to focus on myself. Some of these place I know were donated to them. But you are right that the ones who are not living it up get passed over.
    I need to examine myself.

  2. hredux says:

    I see that brother Eccles has been “praising” the Fishwrap, in his own way.

  3. Mark says:

    Why does His Excellency get a balcony? I don’t see anyone else with a balcony in the picture? Does he think he’s above everyone else?

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  4. One of the absurd comments in the CNN article was someone saying that even though the fancy homes of some bishops are (a) built long ago, (b) integrally connected to the cathedral and (c) on the register of historic places — all of which means you can’t modify them, can’t easily sell them, and so forth…

    Nevertheless, they should be vacated and turned into museums!

    Yes, that’ll save money, won’t it?

  5. Blas says:

    As I understand that article is the result of a non catholic interpretation of the Francis words “I want a poor Church for the poors”. The problem is that the Pope frase interpreted in a catholic way do not make much sense because the Church or was always poor (in the cathoic sense) or will never be poor (in the modern sense).

  6. Kerry says:

    Next week at CNN, “An insiders tour of the Gore Global Initiative Mansion(s), in all their humility and splendor!”

  7. RJ Sciurus says:

    When the original story blew up in Atlanta (which btw was never covered accurately ) Kansas City media saw another opportunity to catch Bishop Finn doing something else that they could present out of context so as to stir-up the uneducated rabbles. So they sought out his castle and fleet of limos – and a front page story.

    Alas, they found instead that not long after assuming the chair, he sold the bishop’s residence in a private neighborhood of century-old stately homes and moved into a humble apartment in the old building downtown that houses the Diocesan offices and Catholic Charities. Of course, that meant that in their eyes, there was no story.

    May God bless and protect our humble shepherds.

  8. jhayes says:

    The CNN article points out that not all bishops live in luxurious quarters:

    Not all bishops live like princes, however.
    Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley resides in a rundown rectory on the South End.
    “We no longer need all the symbols of the past, especially when those symbols now seem ambiguous at best and a contradiction of some of our Gospel values at worst,” O’Malley said when he moved out of the archbishop’s traditional mansion in 2003.
    Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, shares part of a converted convent with his elderly mother.
    And Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia sold the church’s $10 million mansion when he moved to town in 2011.
    “He felt it was not really necessary to live in a residence that large,” said Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. “He wanted to live more simply.”
    With Pope Francis leading the way, more archbishops may be doing the same.
    After getting an earful from angry Catholics, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory agreed to give up his $2.2 million mansion….
    Gregory apologized for building the mansion, calling it a lapse in judgment and out of step with his boss, the Pope.
    “What we didn’t stop to consider,” Gregory said, “was that the world and the church have changed.”

    It is probably worth noting that the article is only about the 34 (33?) archbishops in the US, not the much larger number of diocesan bishops, like Bishop Morlino.

  9. tzabiega says:

    One thing is when Archbishop Gregory uses money received from the sale of Margaret Mitchell’s estate to build a spanking new multi-million dollar mansion and in the process destroys a historical mansion that should have been a museum, another is the case of pre-existing Church property. I am not a fan of Cardinal George, but he is a man who truly lives modestly according to the OMI religious vow of poverty. He didn’t even have anyone taking care of his home for many years until he invited the Albertinian Sisters (founded by Saint Brother Albert in Cracow) from Poland to take care of it. These full habited nuns (as in the pre-Vatican II days without any hair showing) have the charism of serving the poorest, just like Blessed Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, and were invited to help run food pantries and other facilities for the poor in the Chicago Archdiocese. When they first arrived, Cardinal George went to O’Hare Airport to meet them, but apparently they had arrived earlier and the Cardinal was confused where they were. So he came back home and found that the Albertinian Sisters after a 9 hour flight got to work as soon as they arrived cleaning the Cardinal’s residence, which had not been properly cleaned for years. Though Pope Francis lives outside of the Papal Palace, when Saint Pope John Paul II lived their, the conditions of the room he stayed in were so deplorably poor that most people would cring at staying there for a night. That is why it took over a week to fix it before Pope Benedict XVI could move in to his simple but clean room, not the dirt poor room the Polish pope wanted to live in. Actually Pope Francis lives in greater luxury than Pope JPII did.

  10. stpetric says:

    Your picture of Morlino’s episcopal palace doesn’t capture the majestic view his balcony commands, of the parking lots and the backs of executive office buildings for the ruling elite of the state of Wisconsin.

  11. Tradster says:

    Next up, an article critical of the opulent lifestyle of televangelists. Or not.

  12. TopSully says:

    I’m not sure but this might have started after Ann Coulter suggested that if Cardinal Dolan wanted so badly to help the poor Central American kids at the border he should offer them a place in his NYC mansion.

  13. TWF says:

    The article doesn’t really provide much context. Residences valued at over $1 million? That number doesn’t even make me blink. I know many US cities do have a reasonable housing market, but surely some of these cities / neighbourhoods are expensive to begin with. In my city, $1 million will not get you a mansion…it might get you an average 3 or 4 bedroom family home, with a tiny yard if you’re lucky.

  14. Bthompson says:

    Not to nit-pick, well, actually I AM going to nit pick…
    This article smells of not doing the research (in addition to Fr Z’s comment about nothing ever being enough for the enemies of the Church). As has been mentioned, the value of a property is not itself a relevant piece of information. Many of the properties were bought or donated long ago and have appreciated as cities grew around them, many of the properties are historical and all are part of the Church’s patrimony and so either could not or should not be sold on principle. Additionally, these “mansions” are often used for more than just the personal residence of a bishop, even if that additional use is the housing of priests and bishops who are travelling through. Also, some of the bishops’ names were wrong in the article, but just wrong enough that it betrays journalistic inattention (I am thinking particularly of the Archbishop of Seattle who goes by his middle name. Indeed, I don’t even think I have seen his first name in print more than a few times ever)

  15. NBW says:

    Why doesn’t CNN run a piece on what US senators make, their excellent health benefits, and great houses,mostly funded by our tax dollars that we are forced to turn in on April 15th.

  16. moon1234 says:

    It seems the secular media is trying to do what the modernists did after VII, namely, wreck-0-vate the traditional examples of Catholic Patrimony. What better way to make an archbishop more humble than to sell his residence that has no loan, was built by Catholics long ago and stands as a reminder that an Archbishop of God is present here?

    Archbishops are human and have failings just like every other human. HOWEVER, the way they live and how they act should be a reflection of the lord and our outward signs toward them should be a reflection of how we love the Lord.

    When a Bishop or an Archbishop forsakes part of the heritage that previous Catholics paid for with their Blood, Sweat, Tears and Treasure, then all Catholics lose. By the argument of the writer of the article all Churches should be sold. They are not necessary for today’s “enlightened” Catholics anyway. Sounds just another former roman prelate Fr. Z. was writing about.

    These historical homes should be maintained and upheld for future generations of Catholic prelates. Building “NEW” palaces should ONLY be done if the Catholic faithful chooses to do so or the structure will pay for itself. It would be hard to justify a 2 million dollar “palace” in remote Iowa, but it would barely be a middle-class home in New York.

    I attend Mass in Roxbury, Wisconsin. The existing church was built of local limestone over a century ago. I can only imagine it is worth millions today. Think about trying to erect a limestone structure today with 3-4 feet thick walls made of limestone. It would be insanely expensive. Yet when the Church was built, it was done by those Catholics who lived in the area. It is a testament to their love of the lord and his Church. I could not imagine selling it no moving Mass to the local gym to portray a “poor” lifestyle.

    A prelates true test of his character is if he can accept the lifestyle that comes with his office, live it graciously and not denigrate the hard work of those Catholics that came before him and worked hard to build a proper edifice for the prelate. THAT is the true nature of humility, to accept what God gives you with graciousness and respect and use it for the betterment of all humanity.

  17. colemanmd says:

    many times I have heard this idiotic rant ” if the Pope really wants to reach people and help the poor, why does he live in the Vatican, and why doesn’t he sell off all the art in the Vatican museums, he could feed and house all the poor, that’s the problem with the Catholic Church.”

    my response: “Really? that’s what keeps you from embracing the Catholic Church? your ill conceived notions about the Pope and the wealth in the Vatican, that is sooooo ignorant it deserves a blank stare off to the left. and a sip of my coffee.

  18. colemanmd says:

    maybe the Pope and Bishops should live in tents, oh, but then the fabric would come into question, there is no answer that would suffice, they are ignorant…

  19. Charles E Flynn says:

    Are you sure those are power lines, Father? They could be providing the very latest in dial-up Internet access.

  20. Imrahil says:

    Dear Blas,

    the Church was always poor (in the catholic sense) or will never be poor (in the modern sense).

    Good point in summed up in a neat way. Thanks!

  21. Serviam1 says:

    Why is the default [or knee jerk] definition of ‘the Poor’, almost always refers to ‘Material’ poverty?

    It seems the greater emphasis in the ‘First World’ should [and most always] focus on the great ‘Spiritual’ poverty of those whose material needs are comfortably met.

    I have first hand experienced great ‘Spiritual’ wealth amongst acquaintances that are ‘Material’ Poor. Is it me or do I rarely hear the difference between material and spiritual poverty, when pronouncements are made about ‘the Poor’ and ‘Poverty’?

    My sense is all the talk of the ‘the Poor’ by those who live comfortably, has more to do with political egalitarianism that attempts to assuage ‘First World’ guilt, that masks a greater spiritual impoverishment.

  22. Gail F says:

    What a load of bull! I see my Archbishop (Cincinnati) is in there with his nearly $500,000 house… bought by a committee when he moved here. It is far more than the average house in Cincinnati costs (mine is nowhere near even half of that), but hardly outlandish, in a well-to-do suburb of similar-priced homes — and not the most expensive suburb here by far. Our last archbishop lived in an apartment, which may be laudable… but I don’t see that it’s preferable. And it hasn’t been all that long since archbishops here DID live in mansions. So what? Living habits are not like doctrine, they change with time and place. If a diocese bought a mansion for their bishop more than 100 years ago, why shouldn’t their bishop live in it? CNN should check out what Rick Warren’s house costs.

  23. Joseph-Mary says:

    With some of the residences being old and historical, the charge against them is rather moot. There ARE some living very opulently and have vacation and retirement homes and such though.
    The holy Father has a whole floor, I think I read. He likes company. Also read that he has more room than if he had stayed where Popes live. Gloria TV reported that it cost about 10G to fly the pope to Caserta to meet with his Protestant friends. Not so poverty stricken after all.

  24. robtbrown says:

    NBW says:
    Why doesn’t CNN run a piece on what US senators make, their excellent health benefits, and great houses,mostly funded by our tax dollars that we are forced to turn in on April 15th.

    The health insurance available to Senators has always been the same that is available to everyone working in the Federal Civil Service System.

    Considering the price of real estate to live in DC, the salary for Reps and Senators is not that much. The money is made when they leave and because lobbyists.

  25. robtbrown says:

    When JPII was pope, the papal apartments were so luxurious that they didn’t even have a walk-in shower. There were only tubs with the shower accessory. When he was 74, he fell stepping out of the tub and broke the femur near the hip joint.

    Those old palaces and castles are beautiful but often not so comfortable.

  26. Eraser says:

    I don’t know the exact timeline but here in Pittsburgh, Bishop Zubik moved into the seminary. My high school is next door and sometimes for gym class, we used their swimming pool. That was 30 years ago and judging from the pool (all we female students saw of the seminary), the accommodations must be spartan. The bishop’s mansion might have been sold already by the time he took office but it was quite old, therefore expensive to maintain even though it had been donated like so many others around the country. However, it was very close to the cathedral while the seminary requires going through or around downtown Pittsburgh to reach the cathedral, a path considered by us locals to be one of the most harrowing in the area.

    In any event, I recall hearing that Bishop Zubik wanted particularly to live among the seminarians and not necessarily to renounce the trappings of his office.

  27. jhayes says:

    I think it is not an issue of money but the way you interact with other people. If your surroundings interfere with that interaction, you need to change your surroundings. Phil Lawler comments on the difference between the way Francis presents himself and the way previous Popes did:

    Pope Francis is on a campaign to remind the world—and, yes, to remind his aides at the Vatican—that the Bishop of Rome is not a temporal potentate, and the spiritual authority of the papacy should not be camouflaged by the trappings of an archaic monarchy. That message, I sense, is beginning to sink in.

    Ready for another illustration of my point? Check out this report from Vatican Radio, on the Pope’s earlier visit with Catholic priests in Caserta. To be more specific, take a good look at the photo that appears on the top of the Vatican Radio report. Do you notice anything unusual?

    I do. The Holy Father is sitting beside another bishop (I assume that’s Bishop Giovanni D’Alise of Caserta) at a small table. The Pope is not seated on a throne, not set apart, not alone on a raised platform, not even on a higher chair. He is seated beside his brother bishop as any other man might be seated beside a colleague at a business meeting. At first glance it seems so natural, and in fact it is. But again I can testify that in 20+ years of following news from the Vatican, I cannot recall similar staging for any public appearance by a Roman Pontiff.

    Some good Catholics regret this Pope’s approach, I realize. Some people love the traditional honors reserved for the Roman Pontiff. For myself, I have trouble imagining St. Peter in a cappa magna let alone a sedia gestatoria. Traditions can enrich us, but they can also sometimes imprison us. If the “old ways” of the Vatican have interfered with the exercise of the Pope’s spiritual leadership, then the changes wrought by the “Pope Francis effect” may be a tonic.


    Elsewhere in the article, Lawler points out the difference in the way the Vatican reports meetings. When Francis met the Evangelical pastor, Vatican Radio gave nearly equal time to what the pastor said [And that’s good?]while, in the past, most of the coverage would have been devoted to what the Pope said.

    [And yet there are times when the Supreme Pontiff needs to put on all the gear and sit in a big chair.]

  28. MarkG says:

    >>>That’s the case with Dolan’s mansion, which connects to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York. Besides, it’s on the National Register of
    Historic Places, which means it can’t easily be sold or converted to other uses, he said.

    Funny that the same Archdiocese doesn’t have the same logic about selling historic Churches.

    Local Catholics need to get historic Catholic Churches on local, state, and/or national registers of historical places to protect them against being closed and sold.

  29. ASPM Sem says:

    They fail to mention the concrete structure Archbishop John Nienstedt lives in; it has been likened to an Omaha beach bunker. And that the chancery USED to be the largest house in Minnesota, but the Archdiocese sold it to the Minnesota Historical Society for $1.

    I wonder why. /s

  30. iamlucky13 says:

    I’ve had trouble finding clear numbers (not a surprise considering how much Christian charity is not money, but time, talent, and goods), but as far as I can tell, if the Catholic Church does not do more charitable work than any other organization in the world, including entire nations like the USA, then it is at least darn close.

    But it will never be enough for the critics. We are held to a higher standard:

    (a) Because we believe in a higher standard, and it’s arguably good for us to be reminded of what we believe, and

    (b) Because it’s a convenient stick for those who disagree with us to beat us with.

  31. benedetta says:

    Here is Anderson Cooper’s pad (actually I think this is only one of his residences):


  32. Reconverted Idiot says:

    Chesterton on the button as usual:
    Orthodoxy, Chaper 6:
    “For instance, it was certainly odd that the modern world charged Christianity at once with bodily austerity and with artistic pomp. But then it was also odd, very odd, that the modern world itself combined extreme bodily luxury with an extreme absence of artistic pomp. The modern man thought Becket’s robes too rich and his meals too poor. But then the modern man was really exceptional in history; no man before ever ate such elaborate dinners in such ugly clothes. The modern man found the church too simple exactly where modern life is too complex; he found the church too gorgeous exactly where modern life is too dingy. The man who disliked the plain fasts and feasts was mad on entrees. The man who disliked vestments wore a pair of preposterous trousers. And surely if there was any insanity involved in the matter at all it was in the trousers, not in the simply falling robe. If there was any insanity at all, it was in the extravagant entrees, not in the bread and wine.

    “Becket wore a hair shirt under his gold and crimson, and there is much to be said for the combination; for Becket got the benefit of the hair shirt while the people in the street got the benefit of the crimson and gold. It is at least better than the manner of the modern millionaire, who has the black and the drab outwardly for others, and the gold next his heart. But the balance was not always in one man’s body as in Becket’s; the balance was often distributed over the whole body of Christendom. “

  33. frjim4321 says:

    I’m rather familiar with Cincinnati and its environs. Quite so, actually.

    With respect to the residence of the provincial in the Buckeye State the CNN article content bordered on absurdity.

    “The bishop lives in a four-bedroom house. Something that the members of his diocese could not afford.” Really? Really?

    By Cincy standards +Schnur’s home is rather modest and as far as I am concerned quite appropriate.

    I expect the high-functioning members of my parish to have fairly nice digs. I certainly don’t resent them. I also expect (naively?) that the Vatican is selecting individuals with advanced skills and talents that are on a par with the more highly functioning members of my parish community. I would fully expect that they would live in a settings that are appropriate to their aptitude and achievement.

    The attention on the living arrangements of bishops is misplaced. What is far more important is the degree to which they effectively serve their people. Is the bishop who lives in a mansion loved by his people? God bless that bishop. Is the bishop who lives in a two room apartment resented by his people? Better that he live comfortably and be a good pastor.

  34. frjim4321 says:

    Excuse the typo’s and grammatical errors, but in all honestly, this text editor is not very good.

    I would add . . . our good people really don’t care how or where the bishop lives . . . they just want to know that he loves them.

  35. benedetta says:

    The amount that news celebrities make is so ridiculous. I mean, 20 million?? For being glib on camera. We essentially are living in an oligarchy.

  36. Matt R says:

    I agree with Fr. Jim on most points.

    I thought the move by AB Gregory was a good one, at least in thought. He needed more space for hosting archdiocesan events, important visiting clerics, etc. and the cathedral parish needed a new rectory. Now, its execution? Maybe not so much. I only hope the Archdiocese of Atlanta recouped the cost of the home in the sale.

    Most of these houses probably are justified, even if it seems over the top to me. As far as the bishop’s pursuit of holiness is concerned, we ought to look to the Pontifical Mass. The cappa magna is a symbol of the world, which is removed as he prepares to celebrate the Mass. The bishop in his own particular way fights against pride, vanity, and indulgence like the rest of us. And who knows which among the clergy wear a hairshirt?

  37. jflare says:

    I am suddenly reminded of my experience of seeing the palace at Versailles for the first time. As I walked around the corner, I was confronted by the spectacle of this palace that gleamed golden in the sunlight, probably because it had been recently soaked by a rain shower.
    I most remember the size of the place, being awed by the idea that somebody had lived there a few hundred years prior.
    It was only later that I realized that the palace there had not been merely a means for Louis to show off his wealth and power. Certainly it filled that purpose too, but the place had been built very large so he could fit a large chunk of his government there with him.
    I had much the same impression of the Louvre.

    Before we go nuts over the size and lavish appearance of a bishop’s home, we ought to consider that he may use it for more than a place to live.

  38. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    Excuse the typo’s and grammatical errors, but in all honestly, this text editor is not very good.

    I would add . . . our good people really don’t care how or where the bishop lives . . . they just want to know that he loves them.

    I would hope that the people also want to know that he loves the Church.

  39. robtbrown says:

    colemanmd says:

    many times I have heard this idiotic rant ” if the Pope really wants to reach people and help the poor, why does he live in the Vatican, and why doesn’t he sell off all the art in the Vatican museums, he could feed and house all the poor, that’s the problem with the Catholic Church.”

    my response: “Really? that’s what keeps you from embracing the Catholic Church? your ill conceived notions about the Pope and the wealth in the Vatican, that is sooooo ignorant it deserves a blank stare off to the left. and a sip of my coffee.

    You might also mention that the opinion puts him in the company of Judas Iscariot.

    John 12:2-8

    There they made Him supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denari and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. “For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have a

  40. robtbrown says:

    It’s true that clerics should not live luxurious lives. It’s also true that these old, large episcopal houses (which usually houses other priests), are anything but luxurious.

    Aside from slanted “reports” from journalists looking for a story and willing to make one up, the criticism of churches, art, residences, etc., usually comes from those who object to spiritual things. This is sloth–the apathy or antipathy for that which is spiritual For them the worship of God, including the contemplation of Truth, is a waste of time and money. They can only understand religion as “Brotherly Love”.

    And so a work of art, e.g., Caravaggio’s Calling of St Matthew, can only be considered for its material value.

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