Newark Archbishop John Myers in New Jersey is reportedly facing the anger of parishioners who are withholding donations to the church after finding out that more than $500,000 is going into expansions for his lavish retirement home.
A detailed report in The Newark Star-Ledger on Sunday stated that parishioners are "infuriated by what they call a tone-deaf show of excess at a time when Catholic schools are closing and when the pope has called on bishops to shed the trappings of luxury."
"If this is the only way I can be heard, so be it," said 70-year-old Joe Ferri, after finding out about the expansion plans. "I'm disgusted. The archdiocese is not going to get another penny out of me."
"We need to start an 'empty envelope month' to replace the archbishop's annual appeal. If parishioners in every church in the Newark Archdiocese sent in an empty envelope, then they will get the message," added Maria Bozza, 69, who said she is urging fellow parishioners at Holy Family Church in Nutley to withhold contributions to the archdiocese in protest.
The Newark archdiocese apparently bought the 4,500-square-foot home in 2002 for $700,000, which includes five bedrooms, three full-bathrooms, a three-car garage and a basement office, and is used as a weekend retreat. The 3,000 square-foot addition has already been started, with plans to add a bedroom with a sitting area, a large study with an attached library, a full-floor gallery on the top level, two bathrooms, three fireplaces and an elevator.
The Archdiocese of Newark did not respond to requests for comment by The Christian Post at the time of press on Tuesday.
In February, Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the diocese, told The New York Times that the $500,000 expansion is not coming from parishioners, and that the press tends to exaggerate some aspects of the story, for example by calling a whirlpool a hot tub.
"Any extra monies will go to the diocese," Goodness said.
According to a biography on Myers, he is set to reach retirement age in three years' time when he turns 75. Born in Ottawa, Ill., he was installed as archbishop of Newark on October 9, 2001, and has served for 25 years as bishop and member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"Archbishop Myers' motto, Mysterium Ecclesiae Luceat (translated: 'Let the Mystery of the Church shine forth') is a succinct summary of the central theme of the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium," the biography states. "He has often said, 'I cannot make someone believe. I can, however, explain what the Church teaches and the reasons for that teaching, and then invite him or her to be open to that teaching and embrace it.'"
In October 2013, a scandal broke out in Germany after it was revealed that Diocese of Limburg bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst spent over $42 million on a luxury residence last year, seemingly going against Pope Francis' mission to model the church as one of the poor and for the poor.
Tebartz-van Elst was nicknamed "The Bishop of Bling" for his extravagancies in Germany and criticized by top politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel, who spoke out about the harm this does to the faithful's confidence in the institution. The Limburg bishop was eventually suspended by the Vatican, while an investigation was launched into misused finances.