Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta issued an apology after feeling convicted about building a mansion on land that had been donated to the archdiocese. When confronted by parishioners and other church leaders who cited Pope Francis' call to modest living, the archbishop came to realize that his $2.2 million home was extravagant.
Pope Francis has been speaking out against living lifestyles of luxury and of worldliness, especially for the leadership of the Catholic Church. He recently removed German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst for spending a reported $43 million on the purchase of a new residence and its renovation. The Pope has urged clergy to refrain from idolatry of money and of comfort and to live more simply. He has also reportedly set a hiring freeze at the Vatican and is reviewing the church's spending needs.
Joseph Mitchell, nephew of "Gone with the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell, had donated $15 million and his estate to the archdiocese upon his passing. About half of the inheritance was reserved for the Atlanta cathedral's building fund, and $3.75 million was given to Catholic charities and outreaches. The rest was used for clergy retirement funds and for Archbishop Wilton Gregory's residence.
Gregory had previously sold his $1.9 million estate which was next to the cathedral so that the church could expand, and decided to build his new residence on the Mitchell estate. After demolishing the one-story home where Joseph had lived, Gregory proceeded to build a Tudor-style mansion. Fox News reports that the dwelling spans 6,400 square feet and includes a safe room, two dining rooms, and the "finest amenities and details."
When confronted about the cost of his home by parishioners and other leadership in the church, the archbishop initially tried to justify his spending by saying that he had moved away from his previous estate for the sake of the church. Gregory later apologized for building the residence so extravagantly, acknowledging that Pope Francis is calling leadership in the church to higher standards of integrity and humility.
"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 responded year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services," he says. Gregory is now purposed to sell the home if advised to do so by internal church councils.