An archdiocese in the suburbs of Atlanta has sparked debate amongst its parishioners over the purchase of two residences valued at $2.2 million each, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Cathedral of Christ the King in Buckhead recently acquired a rectory for its parish priests which it hopes to renovate next month. That residence once housed Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who has moved into a new, 6,196-square-foot mansion nearby. A $15 million bequest from Joseph Mitchell, the nephew of “Gone With the Wind” author and Pulitzer Prize winner Margaret Mitchell, was used to finance both homes.
According to the Journal-Constitution, some parishioners think the archdiocese should have followed the example of Pope Francis, who has urged priests to avoid an extravagant lifestyle. They say Mitchell’s wealth would have been better spent on schools and the poor.
But Archbishop Gregory and Rev. Monsignor Frank McNamee, the rector, explained that the expenditures were necessary for their living arrangements. Gregory believes the new $2.2 million mansion will allow him to “smell like the flock,” as he put it, and provide a space where he can host church goers.
Beth Maguire, a Christ the King parishioner, however, called the purchase the definition of “an excessive lifestyle,” according to the Journal-Constitution.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group for clergy abuse victims, also took issue with the archdiocese’s spending.
“We believe this money can be better spent on helping to better protect kids from predator priests,” said Barbara Dorris, the group’s outreach director, in a statement. “While we believe Pope Francis has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to the clergy sex abuse scandal, he is right when he criticizes his fellow Catholic officials for living extravagantly.”
An archdiocese in New Jersey last month also drew criticism for building an expansive, palatial addition to a retirement home for its archbishop, two years after it shuttered a school due to a lack of funds.
This post has been updated.