Collection Plates Empty As Backlash Builds Against NJ’s ‘Bishop Of Bling’

Churchgoing Catholics in New Jersey are closing their wallets to the church following reports that the Archbishop of Newark is having a large addition built on the already-large home where he will spend his retirement, The Newark Star Ledger reported on Sunday.

The Newark Archdiocese’s plan to build a $500,000 addition to the retirement home for Archbishop John Myers received press attention last month, prompting a public backlash. One Star-Ledger reader wrote a letter to the editor dubbing Myers the “Bishop of Bling.”

In its story on Sunday, the Star-Ledger spoke with parishioners, some of whom said they were cutting off contributions to the church entirely, and others who said they would still support local parishes but won’t give to the archdiocese’s annual fundraising appeal. A spokesperson for the archbishop told the newspaper that the annual appeal has in recent years brought in between $10 million and $11 million.

“We need to start an ‘empty envelope month’ to replace the archbishop’s annual appeal,” Maria Bozza told the Star-Ledger. “If parishioners in every church in the Newark Archdiocese sent in an empty envelope, then they will get the message.”

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Myers, 72, has used a 4,500-square-foot, five-bedroom home in Hunterdon County, N.J. as a weekend residence since 2002. With his retirement coming up, the expansion on the house would add an indoor exercise pool, three fireplaces, and an elevator. News of the addition became public at a time when Pope Francis has urged priests to avoid extravagant lifestyles.

Rev. John Bambrick, pastor of a parish in Jackson Township, part of the Diocese of Trenton, told the Star-Ledger that parishioners withholding money from the annual appeal may end up depriving funds from people in need.

“It does hurt the poor,” Bambrick, who is described as an occasional critic of Myers, said. “As priests, that’s the hardest thing for us. It doesn’t hurt the archbishop. There’s no way to hold him accountable. But the poor are held accountable for his bad decisions.”

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