TPM Livewire

New Jersey's 'Bishop Of Bling' Is Taking A Ton Of Heat

Fzttqydqi6xdguvroyep
AP Photo / Mel Evans

There's a growing public backlash, both in New Jersey and within the Catholic community, over the Newark Archdiocese's plans to build a $500,000 addition to the retirement home for Archbishop John J. Myers.

The 3,000-square-foot expansion to the home, replete with a host of luxurious amenities, is unseemly to many.

The Bergen Record ran a devastating editorial on Tuesday that called on the archdiocese to sell Myers' "princely palace."

"Let the profits from the sale fund something more important than Myers' desire to live like one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey," the editorial read.

A day later, New York Times columnist Michael Powell blasted the archdiocese for building the home's expansion two years after it closed one of its Catholic schools due to a lack of funding.

The archdiocese's spokesman Jim Goodness told TPM that the criticism was unfair because school closures stem from low enrollment, but such rebuttals have done little to quell the public outrage. The archdiocese's official Facebook page is currently littered with negative comments about the home.

On Thursday, the Star-Ledger published several letters to the editor from readers who are incensed at Myers.

Katherine Rollo of Verona, N.J. dubbed him the "Bishop of Bling."

"Archbishop John J. Myers has long since forgotten what it means to be a priest, so it should surprise no one he once again is ignoring the needs of the people of the archdiocese by squandering our money and setting a poor example of charity," she wrote.

The National Catholic Reporter piled on with an editorial of its own on Thursday.

What can the example possibly suggest about the church to the residents of Newark, where 28 percent of the population lives below the poverty level? How does one, in that context, explain the Lazarus story? The rich young man? The beatitudes? What does one say in the face of Pope Francis' call for a humbler church, for bishops who walk with their people, with his urging a poor church for the poor? Myers swims in his endless pool while the city of Newark drowns in poverty.

Goodness refused to say if the retirement home is consistent with the pope's recent directives.

"I'm not going to answer that question," he told TPM. "I'm not taking any side on that at all."