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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Newark parishioners pay for Archbishop’s luxury retirement home: Pope Francis is ignored

Newark Archbishop John J. Myers spends his weekends at his 4,500-square-foot home on 8.2 wooded acres at the end of a private drive in the hills of Hunterdon County, NJ. With five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a three-car garage and a big outdoor pool, it’s valued at nearly $800,000. The home, built in 1989, has property taxes of $18,695 last year -- before the addition.  But that’s not big enough or fancy enough for Myers.

So he is building a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition which will be ready for his retirement in two years, according to the NJ Star-Ledger. The third floor will house a 28-foot by 28-foot gallery with sweeping views of the property and a fireplace on each level said the Ledger. A "wellness room" will connect the main house and the addition. It will include a hot tub and a 14-foot by 7-foot Endless Pool, where Myers can swim in place.
Who is paying for all of this luxury?  We are of course!  Myers’ spokesman, Jim Goodness, said that money for the addition will come from the sale of other church-owned properties – like churches and schools. Donors also have contributed to the project, Goodness said but wouldn’t tell which properties are being sold or how much was received in donations. While the property will revert to the church once Myers knocks on the pearly gates, there will probably be other greedy clergy to take his place.

"Archbishop Myers obviously is not paying any attention to the pope,"  Charles Zech, faculty director of the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University’s business school thinks that Myers is not listening to Pope Francis’ admonishment for clergy to live a simpler lifestyle. "This is extreme, way beyond what you’d expect to happen. I can’t believe the parishioners of Newark are going to allow this to happen," said Zech.
A parishioner, Joan Rubino, was furious when told about the work on the home. Rubino, who who regularly contributed to the archbishops’ appeal for funds — called Myers a "hypocrite." She said, "To ask people to make sacrifices and then to live in a sumptuous residence, it makes me very annoyed. Isn’t there a better use for this money? In plain English, I feel like people are getting screwed."

"This is taking money out of the pockets of parishioners," Zech said. "Current revenue and past revenue at one point all came from parishioners. If he thinks he can sell property and use it for his own extravagant needs, it’s mind-boggling."
Myers isn’t the only clergy with rich tastes. The pope suspended the bishop of Limburg, Germany, in October for spending $42 million to renovate his residence and other church buildings. The German press called the free-spending cleric the "Bishop of Bling."

The current Metuchen NJ bishop, Paul Bootkoski, contributed a portion of his own savings toward the purchase of a future retirement home near Lake Mohawk in Sussex County, The diocese picked up the remainder of the cost, but would not provide the precise amount. The diocese closed on the home for $471,000 last year, property records show.
Earlier this year, Camden Bishop Dennis Sullivan came under fire after using diocese funds to buy a historic 7,000-square-foot home in Woodbury. The house, with eight bedrooms and six bathrooms, cost $500,000. The bishop said he would share the house with two other priests – how generous of him.  What about a three bedroom apartment in a senior citizen home?

Most of us can’t even retire and certainly will downsize our homes and lifestyles. Living in luxury is not on our horizon, especially if we donate money to support life styles of the rich and famous clergy.