House to Let?: Atlanta archbishop apologizes, responds to criticism of new residence

Responding to public and media criticism about his new $2.2 million residence, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory issued a statement of apology in his April 3 column in the archdiocesan newspaper.

"As the shepherd of this local church, a responsibility I hold more dear than any other, certainly more than any configuration of brick and mortar, 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 of north and central Georgia," he wrote in The Georgia Bulletin.

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The archbishop acknowledged that he had received "heartfelt, genuine and candidly rebuking letters, emails and telephone messages" during the past weeks about his residence.

"Their passionate indictments of me as a bishop of the Catholic Church and as an example to them and their children are stinging and sincere. And I should have seen them coming," he wrote.

"To all of you," he said, "I apologize sincerely and from my heart."

The archdiocesan communications office has received more than 100 emails and messages, mostly positive, about the archbishop's column.

The new 6,000-square-foot residence is located on property donated to the archdiocese from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of "Gone With The Wind."

In his will, Mitchell requested that primary consideration be given to the Cathedral of Christ the King, where he worshipped. The cathedral received $7.5 million for its capital fund and spent roughly $1.9 million to buy the archbishop's former residence. Cathedral officials are planning to spend an additional $292,000 to expand the archbishop's former residence so its priests can live there, freeing up space on the cathedral's cramped campus.

The new archbishop's residence, purchased with funds from the sale of the former residence, ran up additional costs of $300,000 to make the home handicapped accessible and to build a chapel.

The home has four bedrooms, including a master suite. The downstairs level is designed for entertaining. It also has a two-car garage and additional guest parking.

Archbishop Gregory moved into the newly built home in January. Some local Catholics reacted unfavorably to the move and articles in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets were critical of it.

In his April 3 column, the archbishop said he would meet with archdiocesan consultative bodies in upcoming weeks to hear their assessment of what he should do about the new residence.

If the groups recommend he no longer live in the residence he said the archdiocese will begin the process of selling the property and would "look to purchase or rent something appropriate elsewhere."

Franciscan Father John Koziol, chairman of the archdiocesan priests' council, said he admired the archbishop for "trying to do the right thing" and for "being so up front and transparent."

Archbishop Gregory noted that bishops have been "called to live more simply, more humbly, and more like Jesus Christ who challenges us to be in the world and not of the world."

He added that by example, Pope Francis has profoundly communicated the call to simplicity.

He ended the column with the assurance that he values the privilege and honor of being the archbishop of Atlanta. "I promise you that my service to you is the reason I get up each day -- not the house in which I live or the ZIP code to which my mail is sent."

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Marie Rehbein
3 years 8 months ago
The letter does not explain what he was thinking, even if he says he and his advisors were able to justify it. How were they able to justify it? It makes no sense that one individual should live in a house that large, but those who have earned or finagled their way to wealth do so to show off. There is no other reason for something like that. It cannot have been what the nephew of Margaret Mitchell intended unless he was so corrupted by wealth that he wanted to corrupt the Church. In addition, unless the Pope says to live simply, there is nothing in Catholicism that would guide the archbishop to do so on his own initiative??!
Tom Helwick
3 years 8 months ago
I wonder if the bishop had not been called out by his parishioners would he had this change of heart on his own, something tells me no.
Tom Helwick
3 years 8 months ago
It pretty obvious that this conspicuous consumption cuts across denominational lines. http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/beacon-hill-bishop-bling-clergy-housing-faces-new-scrutiny
Stanley Kopacz
3 years 8 months ago
I'm retired at the moment. The only thing I'm interested in now is finding a way to downsize, maybe to 500 sq-ft. Why waste all that energy heating a big house for little old me? I don't understand how the archbishop was blind to the excess of it?
Richard Gegenwarth
3 years 8 months ago
The pope may"live" in humble surroundings but that is not where he entertains the thousands of people who visit him on business or pleasure. An archbishop needs to have a place to entertain high rollers who contribute to building churches, schools,etc, including funds for the poor, relief missions, food pantries etc. I think he got good advise and he should not sell out. Let him do his job in a proper environment.
Marie Rehbein
3 years 8 months ago
An archbishop needs to entertain in his home? I don't know about archbishops, but all the bishops I have heard of invite people to the Cathedral assembly hall for functions or rent space somewhere when they solicit money. If an archbishop is inviting small groups of extremely high rollers so that a hall is too big, he still doesn't need an enormous and enormously expensive house. Maybe you know more about the fundraising efforts of archbishops, but if I were a "high roller", I would not be impressed that the guy asking for money looks like he spends it on himself.
Hailey Adams
2 years 11 months ago
Records reveal that ten of the country's top church leaders defy the Pope's example and live in residences worth more than $1 million. Clearly, "lifestyles of the rich and religious" doesn't cut it for Pope Francis.The pontiff has said it "breaks my heart" to see priests and nuns driving the latest-model cars.He's blasted "airport bishops" who spend more time jet-setting than tending to their flocks.

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