By David Cruz
At 73, Archbishop John Myers is about two years away from the Archdiocese’s mandatory retirement age. In fact, most if his day-to-day duties have been handed over to his Coadjutor Bernard Hebda. But as Myers prepares his exit, the accommodations he’ll be retiring to have drawn sharp criticism from some fellow Catholics. Jim Reilly is one of a group of Teaneck parishioners who say they are so dismayed with Myers that they are boycotting the church’s annual appeal.
“If Archbishop Myers was a responsible custodian of our money, we wouldn’t have any problem with it,” he said. “But you’re talking about asking for funds to help shelter and feed the poor and he’s going to live in a 7,500-square-foot retirement home.”
The house which has caused the controversy is a 4,500-square-foot home on eight acres. A 3,000-square-foot addition will add two bedrooms and a so-called therapeutic pool. Janice Machin runs the soup kitchen at Our Lady of Assumption in Bayonne who can barely contain her anger.
“Here we are; we’re struggling. All the parishes are struggling, just to keep our doors open,” she said. “People, they break their backs trying to make money to keep the church open. We’re struggling to keep our food pantry and our soup kitchens open and he needs a hot tub installed.”
A spokesman for the Archdiocese says withholding contributions from the annual appeal is misguided.
“It’s painful to hear some people talking about stopping their contributions to the annual appeal and to the Church in general,” said a statement issued by spokesman Jim Goodness. “By withdrawing their support, who are they harming? The very people that we as [the] Church are pledged to help.”
Father John Bambrick is a parish priest in the Diocese of Trenton who has criticized the Archbishop for his handling of sex abuse and other scandals.
“The Archdiocese says the money is not coming from parishioners; it’s coming from the sale of land,” he said. “Well, as many people have pointed out to me, they bought that land with their donations, so really their donations are being used to buy the house, but most certainly their donations are being used to maintain the building and its upkeep.”
Some parishioners say the idea of the archbishop retiring to a five-bedroom home in the woods flies in the face of admonitions by Pope Francis for Catholic clergy to live more humbly. Jesus, said one, didn’t preach about retiring to a 7,000-square-foot home.