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Wineke: Listening to the pope, or not

Published On: Feb 18 2014 03:04:00 PM CST
Pope Francis

Vatican TV

Pope Francis may be charming the world with his emphasis on simplicity of life and mercy for transgressors, but one group that doesn’t seem impressed is the Roman Catholic bishops.

At least Bishop John Myers, of Newark, N.J., hasn’t gotten the message.

Myers, who is scheduled to retire in a couple of years, now lives in a $800,000 home in a ritzy suburb. Apparently, he thinks that pad will be a little confining in retirement, however, so he’s adding a $500,000 addition, complete with hot tub, three fireplaces, an elevator and an exercise pool. Furnishings, architectural fees and landscaping will be extra.

That’s a pretty nice retirement home.

It makes me recall the early days of the late Bishop William Bullock in Madison. He sent a group of nuns packing and remodeled their convent into a pretty nice house for himself.

But, when Bullock retired, he moved into an apartment at Holy Name Seminary and left the grand surroundings for his successor, Madison’s current bishop, Robert Morlino. Morlino has since moved to downtown quarters at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. The diocese is planning to lease its buildings at the Bishop O’Connor Center to a developer for use as housing.

In the meantime, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has come forward with its bankruptcy plans. The plans leave most victims of clergy sex abuse out in the cold and pays those who will be helped an average of $27,000 each.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the diocese will spend about $18,000 on legal fees, however.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that what’s about to begin in the church is a very polite civil war between the pope, who wants to renew his church and the bishops, who pretty much like things just the way they are.

Now, I have to admit that if I was a bishop, I would side with those who opt for luxury. I like luxury. Nor, if I was a bishop, would I be happy about spending millions of dollars to pay off sexual assault victims. Especially if the wrongdoing took place before I came to town.

But, do you know what? I’m not a bishop. I’m not even Catholic.

Like many other cynics, however, I have been moved by the year-long papacy of Francis. The pope gives evidence of what the church could be if it chose to be like Jesus, and live and work among the poor and the outcast.

He makes me wonder if there is more to his faith than I had hereto thought. But, it only takes a couple of bizarre bishops to make me realize that whatever changes the pope wants to make, he will have his work cut out for him.