By Brenda Robinson
Atlanta Archibishop Wilton Gregory did the right thing when he sold his $2.2 million Atlanta home. He was so wrong, from the start. His first act of wrongness was building the mansion. His second act of wrongness was his initial statement that he “would consider selling the mansion.” If he was at all in tune with Pope Francis, his first statement would have been, “I will sell the property.” He eventually sold it.
The story unfolded two weeks ago. Reportedly, Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell who authored the book, “Gone with the Wind,” bequested $15 million to the Archdiocese. Gregory openly used some of the funds for his personal dwelling. And, there is at least one other archbishop who committed a similar act. Reportedly, Newark Archbishop John Myers was crucified by his parishioners for spending $500,000 to beautify and upgrade his retirement home. Amazingly, these two men made such expenditures despite the position of the pope! And, thats not all. The Vatican forced German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst to submit his resignation for the same type of “unholiness.” This man spent $31 million euros ($43 million) on his own residence. German people were outraged. Reportedly, the mansion had conference halls, a museum, private apartments, and a chapel.
Where is this nonsense coming from? The new pope is clear. The pope don’t play that. Upon his appointment he clearly showed his expectations for respecting and uplifting families and individuals who were poor and disenfranchised. The blueprint for the issues that were to define the pope’s expectations were forthright and in some instances “shocked the world.”
He criticized capitalism and called upon the rich to share their wealth and challenged the media to refocus on priorities. Let’s recall some excerpts from the pope’s speech, following his appointment:
“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it’s news when the stock market loses two points. Today, everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.”
He commented on the idolatry of money. He said:
“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confirmed and clinging to its own security.”
Before any Protestants start throwing stones, take a look at Protestant ministers. Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. He has a private residence valued at $10.5 million. Osteen boasts that he does not take a salary from his church. He really doesn’t need the church’s money as he makes his money selling books. However, the congregation made him rich before he sold one book. He has made millions on his publications with book advances as high as $13 million. Osteen pastors the largest congregation in America. And, there are others who are reportedly multi-millionaires living in mansions. Chris Oyakhiome has a net worth of $50 million, Benny Hinn $42 million, and Creflo Dollar (pardon the pun) $27 million, to name a few. These men sport BMWs, Rolexes and mansions, while most of us have trouble keeping our cars in running condition, while wearing mickey mouse watches, and paying mortgages on average priced homes which are badly in need of repairs.
Now, we “ain’t hating on the ministers.” This is a capitalist society. As the pope correctly acclaimed, “Under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, the powerful feed upon the powerless.” Our anger is directed at the hypocrisy. Osteen’s on-going verbiage is, “You are entitled to a life of abundance God intended for you.” If God intended for all of us to have financial abundant lives then why are there millions of faithful, dedicated poor Christians? If the wealthy ministers have millions of dollars tied up in cars, why not sell a few and buy some of the carless worshippers Impalas? And, what about those faithful worshippers who give their last dollars in collection plates, through faith, in lieu of paying their utility bill, and have no heat the next week?
We call upon those multi-millionaire preachers and priest to acknowledge their capitalism as a separate entity “from their calling.” The two need not be the same. As the millionaire Rev. Al Sharpton would say, “Keep it Real.”