A few weeks ago I wrote about Pope Francis removing the "Bishop of Bling," a German Bishop known for his expensive lifestyle, from his diocese. Here's the update (now a few days old): Francis orders the multi-million dollar (euro!) home to be used to serve the needy:
Germany’s recently suspended “Bishop of Bling” faces the prospect of seeing his lavish multimillion euro residence turned into a refugee centre or a soup kitchen for the homeless, Catholic church officials in his home diocese announced today.
Bishop Franz Peter Tebartz-van Elst was formally suspended last week amid accusations that he had spent over €31m (£26.5m) on renovating his official residence in Limburg. The charges, which earned the 53-year-old bishop his nickname, provoked outrage among German Catholics.
Yesterday, church officials in Limburg said they were taking their own steps to admonish him.What's really interesting to me about this story is not what happens to the German bishop, but the message it sends more broadly. In a CNN piece following Francis' long interview with America, I wrote:
“The residence is like an inherited sin which the bishop has left in his wake,” said a spokesman for the Caritas organisation for the homeless. “People who seek sanctuary with us could be given food in the residence,” he added.
In a recent interview with the New Catholic Reporter, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York talked about the new pope. He said that in the wake of Francis, he found himself "examining my own conscience ... on style, on simplicity, on lots of things." The cardinal wondered whether his living arrangements, in the historical residence of the archbishops of New York, were appropriate. But the cardinal wasn't quite sure what to do about it, given that he can't sell the building.
St. Francis would have agreed. He carefully never argued for the church to sell of its property or divest itself of income. Of course, he was outside the church hierarchy and relied on papal protection for his safety.
I think this act in Germany puts Cardinal Dolan and many more like him on notice.Pope Francis, on the other hand, might have a plan for an empty archbishop's residence if Cardinal Dolan wanted to downsize. After all, he did recently suggest that empty church property should be used to house refugees.