Archbishop’s Pricey Retirement Home

The Archdiocese of Newark is spending at least $500,000 to build a new wing on the weekend residence and future retirement home of Archbuishop John J. Myers. (Mark Mueller/The Star-Ledger)
The Archdiocese of Newark is spending at least $500,000 to build a new wing on the weekend residence and future retirement home of Archbishop John J. Myers. (Mark Mueller/The Star-Ledger)

The 4,500-square-foot home sits on 8.2 wooded acres in the hills of Hunterdon County. With five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a three-car garage and a big outdoor pool, it’s valued at nearly $800,000, records show. But it’s not quite roomy enough for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers.

Myers, who has used the Franklin Township house as a weekend residence since the archdiocese purchased it in 2002, is building a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition in anticipation of his retirement in two years, The Star-Ledger found. He will then move in full-time, a spokesman for the archbishop said.

The new wing, now just a wood frame, will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator, among other amenities, according to blueprints and permits filed with the Franklin Township building department.

The price tag, the records show, will be a minimum of a half million dollars, a figure that does not include architectural costs, furnishings and landscaping.

Construction is progressing as Myers asks the 1.3 million Roman Catholics of the archdiocese to open their wallets for the “archbishop’s annual appeal,” a fundraising effort that supports an array of initiatives, including religious education, the training of future priests and feeding the poor.

More significantly, it comes at a time when Pope Francis has made profligate church spending a target of his early tenure.

Francis, who eschewed the papal palace for a modest guest apartment and who gave up a Mercedes in favor of a Ford, has criticized bishops for living “like princes” and has called for a “poor church for the poor.”

In a move that signaled his impatience on the matter, the pope suspended the bishop of Limburg, Germany, in October for spending $42 million to renovate his residence and other church buildings. The German press dubbed the free-spending cleric the “Bishop of Bling.”

“Archbishop Myers obviously is not paying any attention to the pope,” said Charles Zech, who has studied bishops’ spending as faculty director of the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University’s business school.

“The pope is calling on clergy to live a simpler lifestyle and to be in touch with their people,” Zech said. “This is extreme, way beyond what you’d expect to happen. I can’t believe the parishioners of Newark are going to allow this to happen.”

Read the story on NJ.com 

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ADDITIONAL COVERAGE

Archbishop’s retirement home spurs backlash as parishioners withhold donations (March 2, 2014)

Every year, without fail, Joe Ferri writes a $100 check to the Archdiocese of Newark for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, a fundraising drive that benefits a variety of religious causes.

This year, Ferri left the empty envelope on his pew at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Bloomfield. He’s done writing checks.

“If this is the only way I can be heard, so be it,” said Ferri, 70. “I’m disgusted. The archdiocese is not going to get another penny out of me.”

Two weeks after The Star-Ledger disclosed that Archbishop John J. Myers isbuilding a 3,000-square-foot addition on the expansive home where he will spend his retirement, it appears the work will cost the archdiocese far more than the $500,000 allotted for construction.

Parishioners, 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, say they’re cutting off contributions entirely or sharply curtailing them.

Others said they will continue supporting their local parishes but will ignore the annual appeal, which has been heavily promoted in churches over the past month across the archdiocese, home to 1.3 million Catholics in Essex, Hudson, Union and Bergen counties.

At stake are millions of dollars that support schools, youth ministries, retired priests and Catholic Charities, the nonprofit agency that runs homeless shelters and provides a wide array of services for the poorest residents. In recent years, the appeal has brought in between $10 million and $11 million annually, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for Myers.

While acknowledging the good work the church does, the parishioners said they believe their complaints will be ignored if they don’t make the point more indelibly with their pocketbooks.

Every year, without fail, Joe Ferri writes a $100 check to the Archdiocese of Newark for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, a fundraising drive that benefits a variety of religious causes.

This year, Ferri left the empty envelope on his pew at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Bloomfield. He’s done writing checks.

“If this is the only way I can be heard, so be it,” said Ferri, 70. “I’m disgusted. The archdiocese is not going to get another penny out of me.”

Two weeks after The Star-Ledger disclosed that Archbishop John J. Myers isbuilding a 3,000-square-foot addition on the expansive home where he will spend his retirement, it appears the work will cost the archdiocese far more than the $500,000 allotted for construction.

Parishioners, 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, say they’re cutting off contributions entirely or sharply curtailing them.

Others said they will continue supporting their local parishes but will ignore the annual appeal, which has been heavily promoted in churches over the past month across the archdiocese, home to 1.3 million Catholics in Essex, Hudson, Union and Bergen counties.

At stake are millions of dollars that support schools, youth ministries, retired priests and Catholic Charities, the nonprofit agency that runs homeless shelters and provides a wide array of services for the poorest residents. In recent years, the appeal has brought in between $10 million and $11 million annually, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for Myers.

While acknowledging the good work the church does, the parishioners said they believe their complaints will be ignored if they don’t make the point more indelibly with their pocketbooks.


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