As the Roman Catholic pope makes headlines for his bold calls to austerity and humble living, one Newark archbishop is being skewered in the news for a half-million dollar addition on his weekend home in Franklin Township.
The archdiocese purchased the 8.2 acre "future retirement home" of John J. Myers for $700,000 in 2002 and is currently renovating the residence. When construction is complete, the home will boast two swimming pools, an elevator, a three-car garage, and stand at some 7,500 square feet.
Local parishioners are “infuriated” by the “tone-deaf show of excess” by Myers and the Newark Archdiocese and may stop donating to the organization, according to a report in the Star-Ledger.
The more-than-$500,000 addition is occurring during the “archbishop’s annual appeal,” a time when the local archdiocese asks its 1.3 million parishioners in Essex, Bergen, Union and Hudson counties to open up their wallets to fund “an array of initiatives, including religious education, the training of future priests and feeding the poor,” the Star-Ledger reported.
A diocese spokesman told the newspaper that not a cent of appeal money would go toward construction at Myers's home and the project's costs were being funded by the sale of other church properties—namely, a NJ shore house once used by a retired cardinal and a disused Connecticut retirement home—and some undisclosed donations.
But the brouhaha comes at a time when New Jersey parents are seeing Catholic schools in the archdiocese close due to insufficient funding.
One Glen Rock churchgoer told the Ledger that he even went so far as to petition a high-ranking church official to pull Myers from his duty: “I am hopeful you might be able to communicate to our Holy Father the need to remove the archbishop from his position in Newark,” Kevin Davitt wrote.
The move wouldn't be unprecedented.
Last year Pope Francis urged priests across the papacy to eschew more expensive, flashier transportation in lieu of more modest cars.
"If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world," Francis said in July 2013.
The pope, who has been driven around the Vatican City in a Ford Focus, has preached a consistent message of humility from the Holy See.
Late last year, the pope punished the bishop of Limburg, forcing him into an early retirement, for lavish renovations at his already palatial German home.
"Oh how I would like a poor church and a church for the poor," Francis said in 2013.
What do you think of the decision to renovate the archbishop's Franklin Township home? Tell us in the comments.