The weekend home of Roman Catholic Archbishop John Myers is already a 4,500-square-foot getaway in suburban New Jersey. It features five bedrooms, three baths, a three-car garage, elevator and swimming pool set on 8 acres in Hunterdon County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country.
Now, workers are tacking on a 3,000-square-foot extension to the house for Myers' retirement in two years.
But in a time when Pope Francis is preaching austerity in the church, spending $500,000 — mostly from the sale of church assets — to pay for the project has rankled Myers' flock in the archdiocese of Newark. Some worshippers are refusing to contribute to church collections in protest.
“It’s vulgar ... The church is changing around him,” said Kevin Davitt, a parishioner at St. Catharine’s Church in Glen Rock who has stopped donating to church appeals.
“He loves the pomp and circumstance, he loves the robes. That’s his world. There’s an obvious tone-deafness about him,” Davitt told Reuters of Myers.
News of the three-story extension has consumed worshippers in the archdiocese since the plans were first reported by the Newark Star-Ledger two weeks ago. The building will include a library, an indoor exercise pool and what the newspaper described as a hot tub.
In a harshly worded editorial about Myers in its latest issue, the National Catholic Reporter said the “arrogance and self-importance” required for such a use of diocese assets was “breathtaking.”
The archdiocese has implored parishioners to reconsider their protest.
It says most of the construction funding is coming from the sale of underused church property, along with some private donations, and the house will remain a church asset even after Myers’ death.
“By withdrawing their support, who are they harming?” Jim Goodness, the archbishop’s spokesman, said in a statement. “The very people that we as a Church are pledged to help.”
— Erik Ortiz
Reuters contributed to this report.