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Pope encourages simple lifestyle: how many clergy will follow example?

Should church leaders worship the good life?
Should church leaders worship the good life?
Thomas Lohnes/AP

With the recent news that a Catholic bishop in Germany and the archbishop of Atlanta have had their taste for the finer things derailed by the Vatican, faithful of all denominations are watching to see what happens.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Germany (known as the “Bishop of Bling”) was removed from his official position after spending $43 million of church funds on a luxury residence.

And Archbishop Wilton Gregory in Atlanta, Georgia, perhaps becoming aware that his decision wasn’t the smartest in light of the Franciscan ideals of the Pope, made a public apology and announced that he was reconsidering his decision to build a new $2.2 million mansion for himself (to take the place of the rectory he’d given up so that a new priests’ residence could be built on the same property).

Pope Francis, whose inspiration is the original St. Francis of Assisi (known for giving everything away and adopting an austere lifestyle while he and fellow brothers of his religious order served the poor) has made it very clear that he does not think that Catholic priests should be revering wealth more than service to God.

In light of the embarrassment caused by the “Bishop of Bling,” it is not yet clear whether the Vatican will take similar measures in the case of Archbishop Gregory, asking him to step down as well.

Many clergy of other denominations, not able to draw on resources like their counterparts in the Catholic church, often find themselves in the opposite situation, struggling to make ends meet in the face of dwindling resources and membership.

On the other hand, there are also denominations, similar to the Catholics, who could do well to learn from the current controversy over these free-spending bishops, and curtail their own bishops’ excesses.