The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta has apologized for using a multi-million dollar donation to the Church to build a $2.2 million mansion for himself.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory funded the mansion out of $15 million left to the archdiocese by the estate of Joseph Mitchell, who died in 2011. Mitchell is the nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of ‘Gone With The Wind’. Mitchell stated that his estate would pass to the archdiocese on the condition that it would be used for “general religious and charitable purposes”.
Archbishop Gregory has been heavily criticised for his extravagant spending, which stands in stark contract to the example of austerity being set by Pope Francis. He said he had received letters, e-mails and phone calls from local Catholics unhappy with the message he was sending.
In a statement on the archdiocesan website, Archbishop Gregory said:
[box type=”shadow”]”I am disappointed that, while my advisers and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God or north and central Georgia. 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.”[/box]
Archbishop Gregory said he would discuss the controversy with several diocesan councils before making a decision. However he did say that if asked, he would demolish the mansion.
In his half-apology in which he defended the decision to build the mansion on fiscal grounds, but said he had not counted on being judged so harshly by his parishioners, His Grace seemed to suggest that he was sorry he had been caught. It reminded this writer of the apology issued by the Church in 2000 for the forced conversion and attempted extermination of Indians in Latin America. Following that apology, Pope Benedict XVI said that it was important to remember that, despite the violence and torture and murder, the indigenous people of the Americas were “silently awaiting” the coming of the Church and the Gospel.
This is not the first time individual bishops have found an exorbitant lifestyle to be at odds with the Church’s official position of austerity and simplicity. In October last year Americans Against the Tea Party reported that the Bishop of Limburg in Germany had been suspended from pastoral duties after he admitted spending €40 million renovating the mansion that serves as his official residence.