Atlanta Archbishop has Catholics Rethinking Vow of Poverty

Gregory's House

Because that reeks of a humble rectory, right?

If you belong to a Catholic Church, you may know the three vows clerics take when entering the ministry — chastity, conformity, and poverty. Be the life cenobitic (in a monastery) or eremitic (as a hermit), anyone in the clergy is to take on a vow to personify and illustrate the life of Christ.

In terms of the media and PR, this hasn’t been the case for clerics with horrendous stories of altar boys and stuff. Conformity is also something that has been in debate, all the way up to the Pontiff discussing the rights of marriage in the clergy and among the congregation. And now, poverty has taken center stage thanks to Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta.

How? He owns a $2.2 million home and now, he’s being “asked” to sell it. 

Archbishop Wilton Gregory announced the decision to move out of the home he had built three months ago. In fact, the pressure from his congregants was so overwhelming that he publicly apologized for building the Tudor-style residence and offered to move elsewhere.

“I have decided to sell the Habersham property and invest the proceeds from that sale into the needs of the Catholic community,” Gregory told The Associated Press after the meeting.

popetimeFolks in Gregory’s archdiocese have come close to picketing his home and send bags of flaming dog poop to his front door. Since January, they have demanded this house be sold. And why? Blame that great guy in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Elected last year, Francis said he wants a church for the poor, drives in an economy car and lives in a guest house instead of a Vatican palace. He has denounced the “idolatry of money” and warned against “insidious worldliness” within the church. And then, there’s this McMansion of an Archbishop.

What’s been difficult to understand about the vow of poverty is that it is not to be interpreted as being “forever poor,” but rather to sharing everything in common. Those who embrace a vow of poverty do not claim private ownership of any possessions: everything they have is used for the common good of the Religious Order.

Yet, there it is — standing in its opulence. So, how did it get to him if poverty is important?

Joseph Mitchell, the nephew of the author of “Gone With The Wind,” left an estate worth more than $15 million to the archdiocese when he died in 2011. Mitchell asked in his will that the proceeds be used for “general religious and charitable purposes.” He also requested that his parish, Christ The King Cathedral, get primary consideration.

The archdiocese gave $7.5 million to the cathedral, and cathedral officials bought Gregory’s old home. By moving its priests into Gregory’s former residence, the cathedral can free up space on its crowded campus.

So, there’s the rub: Should he be forced to sell if it was indeed given to him, or should have ever accepted the keys given what Pope Francis insists should be the clarion call of the Papacy? That’s a much larger PR question open to more people in ecumenism. At least, it should be.