Pope Francis continues to advise Catholics to live frugal lives, but some local parishioners accuse the Archdiocese of Atlanta of waste.
The accusations come after the archdiocese spent roughly $2 million on a new mansion for the archbishop on Habersham Road in Buckhead. On top of that, Cathedral of Christ the King plans to spend at least another $2 million renovating the archbishop's old residence on West Wesley for its parish priests.
"The money could be better spent on parishes that don't have that money, for children who need help going to Catholic schools," said Laura Mullins, a member of The Cathedral for more than 30 years.
Patricia Chivers, communications director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said since 2001, the Archdiocese of Atlanta has opened Holy Redeemer Catholic School, Queen of Angels Catholic School, Blessed Trinity Catholic School, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School, and Our Lady of Victory Catholic School. Four independent Catholic Schools have also opened since then: Pinecrest, Msgr. Donovan, Holy Spirit, and Notre Dame Academy. In the fall of 2014, Cristo Rey Jesuit Catholic School will open for low-income families.
Sam Fraundorf, chairman of The Cathedral's Finance Council, said the parish had to move its current rectory off of church property to create more space on the landlocked campus.
"With that residence being freed up, we have the opportunity for meeting space. We have an opportunity for expanding schools; there's so much we can do."
Chivers said The Cathedral asked the archbishop to consider relocating his residence in order for the rectory to occupy the West Wesley property, because of its close proximity to the church campus. The archbishop agreed and moved to the Habersham property because it was bequeathed to the archdiocese by the nephew of the author of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell. Chivers said the money from the sale of the West Wesley property to The Cathedral was then used to build the archbishop's new home.
She said the home that came with the Habersham property did not fit the archbishop's needs.
"It was a very small, ranch-style house that needed a lot of work on it ... (the archbishop) entertains up to 300 people at a time at his gatherings, so it is necessary for him to have gathering space like that."
In a written statement, Most Reverend Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Atlanta, said, in part, "I will live wherever my people want me to live."
However, some parishioners, including Marci Maurer-Nunnery, said building these two mansions does not support the Pope's message.
"I think when you're in politics or religions, you are called to a different light and you have to live differently. You represent all people."
Renovations on the new rectory are expected to begin in April.
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