Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

4/3/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The good news out of Atlanta is the way this good Bishop responded to the public outcry. He apologized and took immediate action. His humility, integrity and prompt action have now turned the entire story around.

The quick attempt by some in the media to categorize this matter and this good Bishop by trying to squeeze this story into the template of the so called "Bishop of Bling" was inappropriate. It was especially inappropriate for the Catholic media.In particular, some on the blogosphere and on Catholic aggregation sites. What happened to presuming the best about all people, especially our brethren in the Church? The Archbishop made an error in judgment, a mistake. We all have. We are also all invited into a life of continual conversion - and we all fall short. When we do, it is how we respond to that wrong judgment which reveals who we are and who we are becoming. His actions show humility, integrity and accountability. In addition, The Archbishop is not only our brother; he is our father in the Lord. We should presume his good intentions and protect his reputation, especially in our reporting. The quick rush to this comparison by some in the Catholic media presents a moment for review.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/3/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, Archdiocese of Atlanta, The Georgia Bulletin, humility, calumny, slander, integrity, blogs, speech, Deacon Keith Fournier


ATLANTA, GA (Catholic Online) - The religious and secular media exhaustively covered the story of German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg, who was disparagingly referred to as the "Bishop of Bling."

The matter has been properly handled by Church authority and the Bishop is under pastoral care.
 
Sadly, the behavior of that one Bishop seems to have added fuel to a story in the United States concerning Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. Though I have never met the Archbishop of Atlanta, I have long admired his love for the Lord, his pastoral care of his clergy and his humility.

The reports I have heard, from many of his clergy, as well as members of the lay faithful in that booming Catholic Center for the New Evangelization, have all been stellar. He is said to be a good teacher and a man of godly character and holiness of life. That is why when I saw the reports concerning the building of that new residence for this Bishop I was surprised. 

I am a lawyer by training. So, I look to the facts. Upon further examination, the factual difference between the two stories is huge.  However, I will not go into the facts, because this Bishop has taken what could have been a wound to the Church and turned it into an occasion of grace.

The good news out of Atlanta is the way this good Bishop responded to the public outcry. He apologized and took immediate action. His humility, integrity and prompt action have now turned the entire story around.

My readers know I have a pet peeve, the haranguing of Catholic Bishops on cranky corners of the Catholic blogosphere and in some Catholic media circles. I refer to it collectively as the Catholic circular firing squad. I think it impedes our mission, often results in sins against charity and fails to honor our obligation in solidarity to one another.

One of my antidotes to the malady is to call attention to the courageous Bishops standing firm in the ancient but ever new Catholic Christian faith. These men are unafraid of engaging the collapsing culture in which we live with the liberating Good News of the Gospel.

In my ecumenical work at the intersection of faith and culture, I am increasingly reminded by Christian friends in other faith communities of the impact of many of our Bishops upon them. I wish some cranky Catholic commentators could hear what I hear and stop their sniping.   

The Archbishop of Atlanta is leading a Diocese which exhibits the good fruit which comes from the leadership of a good Bishop. He made a decision which, though well intended, required his apology and proper remedial actions. How refreshing it was to witness his sincere, heartfelt and humble response.

Here is his own written response, from the news service of the Archdiocese. The Bishop used one of the responses he received as an opportunity to do what a Christian leader should do.  It can be found in the Georgia Bulletin.

******
The Archbishop Responds

We are disturbed and disappointed to see our church leaders not setting the example of a simple life as Pope Francis calls for. How can we instill this in our children when they see their archdiocesan leadership living extravagantly? We ask you to rethink these decisions and understand the role model the clergy must serve so the youth of our society can answer Jesus' call. Neither our 18- or 14-year-old sons understand the message you are portraying.

So went just one of many of the heartfelt, genuine and candidly rebuking letters, emails and telephone messages I have received in the past week from people of faith throughout our own Archdiocese and beyond. Their passionate indictments of me as a Bishop of the Catholic Church and as an example to them and their children are stinging and sincere. And I should have seen them coming.

Please understand that I had no desire to move; however, the Cathedral Parish has a problem, albeit a happy one. The Cathedral of Christ the King is one of our largest, most vibrant and fastest growing parishes-but it is landlocked. The site of the current rectory could be used for expansion if the priests could be moved to a new rectory nearby. Because of the proximity of the Archbishop's house to the Cathedral and the way it is configured with separate apartments and common space, the rector of Christ the King one day summoned the courage to ask me if I would give some thought to letting the parish purchase the residence from the Archdiocese to repurpose it for its rectory. It made more sense for them to be in walking distance to the Cathedral than I, so I said yes, knowing full well that literally left the Archbishop without a place to live.

Soon thereafter, the Archdiocese and the Cathedral Parish received a generous bequest from Joseph Mitchell, including his home on Habersham Road, to benefit the whole Archdiocese, but especially his beloved parish, the Cathedral of Christ the King. Through the extraordinary kindness of Joseph Mitchell, we had a perfect piece of property nearby on which to relocate the Archbishop's residence.

Some have suggested that it would have been appropriate for the Cathedral Parish to build a rectory on the Habersham property and have the priests each drive back and forth, and in retrospect that might be true. At the time, though, I thought that not giving up the Archbishop's residence, which was so close to the Cathedral Parish, would have been perceived as selfish and arrogant by the people at the Cathedral Parish and might damage my relationship with them!
So I agreed to sell the West Wesley residence to the Cathedral Parish and set about looking for a different place for me and my successors to live. That's when, to say the least, I took my eye off the ball. The plan seemed very simple. We will build here what we had there-separate living quarters and common spaces, a large kitchen for catering, and lots of room for receptions and other gatherings.

What we didn't stop to consider, and that oversight rests with me and me alone, was that the world and the Church have changed.

Even before the phenomenon we have come to know as Pope Francis was elected to the Chair of Peter, we Bishops of the Church were reminded by our own failings and frailty that we are called to live more simply, more humbly, and more like Jesus Christ who challenges us to be in the world and not of the world. The example of the Holy Father, and the way people of every sector of our society have responded to his message of gentle joy and compassion without pretense, has set the bar for every Catholic and even for many who don't share our communion.

As the Shepherd of this local Church, a responsibility I hold more dear than any other, certainly more than any configuration of brick and mortar, I am disappointed that, while my advisors and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia.

I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services.

I failed to consider the difficult position in which I placed my auxiliary bishops, priests, deacons and staff who have to try to respond to inquiries from the faithful about recent media reports when they might not be sure what to believe themselves.

I failed to consider the example I was setting for the young sons of the mother who sent the email message with which I began this column.

To all of you, I apologize sincerely and from my heart.

We teach that stewardship is half about what you give away, and half about how you use what you choose to keep. I believe that to be true. Our intention was to recreate the residence I left behind, yet I know there are situations across the country where local Ordinaries have abandoned their large homes, some because of financial necessity and others by choice, and they continue to find ways to interact with the families in their pastoral care without the perception, real or imagined, of lavish lifestyles.

So where do we go from here?

It is my intention to move deliberately forward and to do a better job of listening than I did before. When I thought this was simply a matter of picking up and moving from one house to a comparable one two miles away, we covered every angle from the fiscal and logistical perspectives, but I overlooked the pastoral implications. I fear that when I should have been consulting, I was really only reporting, and that is my failure. To those who may have hesitated to advise me against this direction perhaps out of deference or other concerns, I am profoundly sorry.

There are structures already in place in the Archdiocese from which I am able to access the collective wisdom of our laity and our clergy. In April I will meet with the Archdiocesan Council of Priests, and in early May our Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (a multi-cultural group of Catholics of all ages, representing parishes of all sizes, who serve as a consultative body to me) will convene. I will ask for the Finance Council of the Archdiocese to schedule an extraordinary meeting. At each of these meetings I will seek their candid guidance on how best to proceed.

If it is the will of these trusted representative groups, the Archdiocese will begin the process of selling the Habersham residence. I would look to purchase or rent something appropriate elsewhere.

It has been my great privilege and honor to be your Archbishop for the past nine years. I promise you that my service to you is the reason I get up each day-not the house in which I live or the zip code to which my mail is sent. I would never jeopardize the cherished and personal relationships I have built with so many of you over something that personally means so little after all.

I humbly and contritely ask your prayers for me, and I assure you, as always, of mine for you.

****

Now, allow me to share a few reflections as I conclude.

The quick attempt by some in the media to categorize this matter and this good Bishop by trying to squeeze this story into the template of the so called "Bishop of Bling" was inappropriate.

It was especially inappropriate for the Catholic media.In particular, some on the blogosphere and on Catholic aggregation sites. What happened to presuming the best about all people, especially our brethren in the Church?

The Archbishop made an error in judgment, a mistake. We all have. We are also all invited into a life of continual conversion - and we all fall short. When we do, it is how we respond to that wrong judgment which reveals who we are and who we are becoming. His actions show humility, integrity and accountability.

In addition, The Archbishop is not only our brother; he is our father in the Lord. We should presume his good intentions and protect his reputation, especially in our reporting. The quick rush to this comparison by some in the Catholic media presents a moment for review.

We are called to follow the admonitions contained in our shared Catechism, particularly in our relationships with one another. For example, following the clear direction contained in the following paragraphs of the Catechism, found within "Life in Christ" and entitled "Offenses against Truth":

Christ's disciples have "put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. By "putting away falsehood," they are to "put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander.(#2475)

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty: - of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor; - of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them; - of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.(#2477)

Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one's neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity. (#2479)

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2015
Universal:
That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.
Evangelization: That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be ready to proclaim Jesus.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

Crackdown by federal agents on 'Pill Mills' in four southern states Watch

Image of An average of 44 people in the U.S. dies every day from opioids. These drugs include Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Drug Enforcement Administration and other authorities are raiding pharmacies, pain clinics and other facilities in four southern U.S. states. It is all part of an aggressive crackdown on prescription pain drug abuse. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Matt C. Abbott: Why I wrote Pope Francis about an exorcist

Image of Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. Father Bowdern was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of Robbie, the teenaged boy whose case inspired William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist, which subsequently was made into a feature film.

By Matt C. Abbott

Here's one name I haven't heard mentioned in regard to possible canonization, yet it seems he'd be a good candidate: Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. Father Bowdern, who was born in 1897 and died in 1983, was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of "Robbie," ... continue reading


FBI lectures High school students on resisting ISIS recruitment Watch

Image of The FBI is planning to take its message to other schools in the Tri-State Area to reach kids at critical adolescent ages.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

High school students at Bergen County School, in Bergen County, New Jersey got a surprise lecture from FBI agents. They warned students away from sophisticated new techniques used by Islamic State to join their ranks. In particular, a new ISIS-produced video ... continue reading


Bin Laden's secret files: What we found and what's been released Watch

Image of The U.S. Department of National Intelligence has released a report of documents that were captured during the May 1, 2011 raid in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. government has begun declassifying and releasing documents that were captured during the 2011 raid of Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan, and some of what has been released shows that America's number one enemy for almost a decade was obsessed with ... continue reading


Are there weapons aboard? U.S. Air Force space shuttle's secret contents no longer a secret Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Air Force's X-37B space shuttle, launched into Earth's orbit, was revealed not to contain weapons as many feared. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - According to the published manifest, the space shuttle carries a new form of Hall ion-powered ... continue reading


Catholic University removes insensitive mural honoring convicted killer Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Marquette University in Wisconsin has officially taken down a mural of Assata Shakur, one of the FBI's most wanted. Shakur was convicted of killing a state trooper in New Jersey before fleeing to Cuba in 1973. The Catholic university's authorities were warned of the ... continue reading


As John Wayne would say, YO! America's biggest ranch up for sale for $725 million Watch

Image of  The Waggoner Ranch includes the 510,000-acre ranch spread over six North Texas counties, with two main compounds, hundreds of homes, about 20 cowboy camps, hundreds of quarter horses, thousands of heads of cattle, and 30,000 acres of cultivated land.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Waggoner Ranch, America's biggest ranch stretches over 510,000 continuous acres, or 796 square miles, making it a plot of land bigger than the island of Oahu and New York City. It is up for sale for $725 million. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Realtors are hoping ... continue reading


See what is REALLY killing Americans with macabre 'Death Map' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While heart disease and cancer are the most common killers in the United States, a new map proves that these causes vary from state to state. Said "Death Map" shows the most distinctive cause of death, which is the rate higher than the national average. LOS ... continue reading


What will Boston Marathon bomber face in Supermax prison, described as 'worse than death?' Watch

Image of Inmates have little to no contact outside of guards and prison staff. All prisoners must wear leg irons, handcuffs and stomach chains when taken outside their cells.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

ADX, the nation's most secure "Supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado may be getting another inmate shortly: 21-year-old Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may get life in prison - or if he's given the death penalty, a brief stay in Terre Haute, Indiana ... continue reading


Has OPEC won the oil war? Oil prices rebound after shale market collapse Watch

Image of The first battle between OPEC and the U.S. over the oil market may be over, but don't count the U.S. out just yet.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Saudi Arabia's strategy of flooding the global markets with oil in an effort to hamper production by rivals such as Russia, the U.S. and other non-OPEC countries seems to be working. The oil producing giant has produced a little more than 10 million barrels of ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 25:13-21
13 Some days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20
1 [Of David] Bless Yahweh, my soul, from the depths ... Read More

Gospel, John 21:15-19
15 When they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 22nd, 2015 Image

St. Rita
May 22: St. Rita was born at Spoleto, Italy in 1381. At an early age, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter