Bishop-bashing has become all the rage now that the Bishop of Rome (AKA the Pope) has opted in favor of a simpler life style. He drives his own modest car and sits on a large chair rather than a throne, although he has not dismissed the Swiss Guard or sold off any art works yet. The recent “outrage” that greeted Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s new $2.2 million home in Atlanta is the latest item added to the list of episcopal improprieties zealously kept by the mass media.
While the residence seems excessive by US standards in some respects, beating up Gregory seems to be a bridge too far. Yes, Archbishop Gregory’s new house was expensive and the decision to build it with a bequest from Margaret Mitchel’s estate was a blunder, although it represents a very far cry from the $43 million lavished on remodeling his residence by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, Germany, that got him demoted by the pope.
According to Zillow.com, the medium home value index of the suburb of Chicago where I live is $323,200. In Chicago, it’s $187,200. In River Forest, the suburb where my university is located, that value climbs to $496,300 and big homes still sell for well over a million dollars. The average listing price of a home in Kenilworth, a more affluent suburb north of Chicago, is currently about $2,304,971 – a tad higher than Archbishop Gregory’s new house. In Atlanta itself, the home value index is currently $145,300, with a median sale price of $231,465. Big houses go for a lot more.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman’s six-bedroom Winnetka mansion is on the market for $3.5 million, half a million more than the $2.94 million he bought it for a few months ago. Although not quite as big as Gregory’s mansion, it boasts “6 1/2 baths, a cherry wood library, a third-floor loft, and a lower level with a fully equipped sport court, a movie theater and a wine cellar. The house sits on a one-third-acre lot.” [http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/transactions/ct-marc-trestman-elite-street–20140320,0,5107869.story] There was no mention of a panic room, however, and Bears coaches probably need one more than archbishops do. The late great chef Charlie Trotter’s mansion lists for $2.48 million, by the way. I doubt if any bishops seem interested in buying it at the moment.
The trend, if such it be, toward a simpler, more “impoverished” lifestyle among the episcopates is surely a welcome development, since the average yearly income of the members of the Church (worldwide it’s about $1,000 per annum) is astronomically less than what a mansion like Trestman’s or even Gregory’s costs to operate for just a few hours. Jesus said that, unlike foxes and birds, he had nowhere at all to lay his head. Not that bishops should be chucked out onto the street, but how many bedrooms (and panic rooms) do they really need?
Archbishop Gregory’s decision to sell the house and give the money to the poor is a good one. Wonder where he got that idea?