The Luxury Bishop


Pope Francis finally tied the can to the “Luxury Bishop”, 53 year old Franz Peter Tebartz-van Elst. His $43 million palace was too simply too much for both Limburg (Germany)  Catholics and the new pope. The high living prelate was a deep embarrassment to the church and the gospel. One churchgoer said,”I am praying for our bishop to be healed of his egomania.”

Others are praying for servile bishops to start hearing the cries of the baptized.

Forget his outrageous spending habits, the deeper question is how did this man ever get to be a bishop. You can bet he was an ultra conservative Benedict  XVl imposition on the people of Limburg. They had no say in this choice of a man guaranteed to be a loyal acolyte of Rome . He was typical of the John Paull/Benedict XVl bishops, all chosen for their predictable servility,answering as Richard McBrien said,”to a constituency of one—Rome.”

The last two pontificates, in reaction to the democratizing trends of Vatican ll and the ignoring the prime metaphor of that Council, the people of God, attempted to reverse Vatican ll. As Pope Francis has stated, “It is irreversible”. We are in a new moment where the people of God, the best educated Catholics in history must be consulted.

The Pope seems in synch with his brother Jesuit Karl Rahner who in 1971  railed against the attempt to turn the Church into “the little flock”, a favourite metaphor of Pope Benedict. Amazing how prescient Rahner was in 1971, virtually predicting the reaction to Vatican ll:

If we talk of the ‘little flock’ in order to defend our cosy traditionalism and stale pseudo-orthodoxy, in fear of the mentality of modern society; if we tacitly consent to the departure of restless, questioning people from the church so that we can return to our repose and orderly life, and everything becomes as it was before, we are propagating, not the attitude proper to Christ’s little flock, but a petty sectarian mentality. This is dangerous because it shows up, not under its true name but in an appeal to orthodoxy, church-loyalty and strict, Rome-dictated morality.

Pope Francis (taking his cue from Rahner?) rejects “the little flock” and “petty sectarian” mentality.

“This church is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”

The Luxury Bishop you can bet was Mr. Orthodoxy to the letter. His poor appointment was  guaranteed to drive even more   “restless, questioning people” from the church.

Maybe  Pope Francis can stem the exodus by appointing more pastoral bishops—chosen by the faithful.



  1. Another very good and appropriate article Ted. I remember you writing about the most expensive home in Ottawa belonging to the Vatican representative in which he uses upon visits to Canada. This is another disgrace and should be brought to the attention of Pope Francis.
    How about it Ted?

    Gordon Shaughnessy… SSM

  2. 2

    I was enjoying the article until you got into your typical assumptions without evidence. I’m not sure how orthodox he was, but it would be nice if you could write with a bit of self-control. I haven’t seen it yet. You just don’t know the facts behind this man’s election to office, and neither do I, but you still choose to speculate and you treat those speculations are gospel truth. If you would have been able to avoid that–or provide some evidence–, then your article would have been an “A”. But you just can’t seem to avoid throwing in some cheap ingredients into the mix, and the result is a bad taste is left in my mouth, when I was hoping for a really good meal.

    But you reveal your obsession by associating orthodoxy with opulence. Do you know who the priests are in the diocese of Toronto who are lavish spenders? Relatively speaking? And do you know who the priests are in that diocese who live simply? Do some research, and you’ll see that the lavish spendthrifts are “liberal and light”, and the serious hard working priests who live simply are the JP II priests. You are committing a common logical fallacy (the fallacy of accident) in order to create a confirmation bias in us. That is typical of the liberal media. You should have been a journalist. The Star would have loved you: you are devious, underhanded, a one “issue” Pony, a socialist, but you have a good heart. You’re just too “bugged” by conservatives, and that “bias” keeps you from being a good, objective, insightful and scholarly writer.

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