Catholic bishop in Germany removed after building new McMansion

Catholic priests living in McMansions are controversial and one German bishop was just removed from his post due to the uproar about his new large house:

Pope Francis on Wednesday permanently removed a German bishop from his Limburg diocese after his 31 million-euro ($43-million) new residence complex caused an uproar among the faithful.

Francis had temporarily expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg in October pending a church inquiry.

At the center of the controversy was the price tag for the construction of a new bishop’s residence complex and related renovations. Tebartz-van Elst defended the expenditures, saying the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because the buildings were under historical protection…

Francis has called on his priests and bishops to be models of sobriety in a church that “is poor and is for the poor.”

McMansions don’t get many favorable reviews for the average homebuyer so it is not too surprising they may be even more disliked for religious figures. But, this sounds like it could be more than just a personal McMansion in a suburban neighborhood and more about luxurious finishes and a larger complex. At the least, this is a good example of the term McMansion being used more in a moral judgment sense rather than strictly matching a home that has all of the typical American McMansion characteristics.

What happens if a Catholic archbishop moves to a New Jersey McMansion in retirement?

“A Catholic archibishop moves into a McMansion for his retirement…” might be the start of a joke or it may be this story from New Jersey:

The 4,500-square-foot home sits on 8.2 wooded acres in the hills of Hunterdon County. With five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a three-car garage and a big outdoor pool, it’s valued at nearly $800,000, records show.

But it’s not quite roomy enough for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers.

Myers, who has used the Franklin Township house as a weekend residence since the archdiocese purchased it in 2002, is building a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition in anticipation of his retirement in two years, The Star-Ledger found. He will then move in full-time, a spokesman for the archbishop said.

The new wing, now just a wood frame, will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator, among other amenities, according to blueprints and permits filed with the Franklin Township building department.

There are quite a few details about the house in this story. It sounds like a fairly lavish McMansion but there are plenty of similar homes in New Jersey, a state closely tied to McMansions due to its many suburbanites as well as the famous Soprano McMansion.

However, there is also a lot of questioning of why an archibishop needs such a lavish house. The issue isn’t just that this is a big or poorly-designed house. Rather, this is a moral issue. Shouldn’t priests live simply and serve God rather than live it up in a McMansion paid for by church members? If purchasing a McMansion is excessive spending for an average American and threatens to throw off their retirements, how much more so is it for an archbishop? This could lead to an interesting conversation of just what kind of housing priests should live in to best pursue their vocation and provide the image the church wants to project.