In Germany a Catholic Bishop is in big trouble for his lavish ways. Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst is said to have spent a whopping $42 million on his residence. At a time when the new Pope Francis is urging clergy to promote the simply life. Religion report Jane Little joins us. Jane who is this Bishop Tebantz-van Elst? And where the heck did he get $42 million dollars?
Jane Little: Well Bishop Tebantz-van Elst is a 53 yr old Bishop. He was the youngest bishop in the German Church when he was appointed in 2003. He is in charge of a diocese that includes the banking capital, Frankfurt , also the rural Rhineland area. How was he able to spend $42 million dollars on a residence and associated complex? It is a good question. Some are saying he had too much autonomy as a bishop. He had the sole authority over the Episcopal Holdings were the bulk of the cash came from for this project.
Schackter: We are talking about a compound here it is not a single house . Is there anyway to get some of this money back?
Little: I would think it is unlikely. It is many times the price tag he had claimed. Unfortunately for him the architect has publicly contradicted him by saying the Bishop has always known the true cost of this project and there were no surprises. The cost is said to include 3.9 million dollars on his private apartment . That is said to include and extravagant bath tub that cost about 20,000 dollars and I contrast that with Pope Francis who has shooed the Papal palace in the Vatican for an oster guest house. In simple roads he plans to drive himself around Vatican City. And has very quickly and publicly said about restyling the papacy and restructuring the church hierarchy. An early this month Pope Francis went to the hometown of his name sake St Francis of Assisi. He is very much following in those footsteps. Rejecting the trappings of wealth for the simple life of with the mission of serving the poor. Though the contrast between Bishop Tebantz-van Elst image and the Popes really couldn't be greater.
Schackter: What I also find shocking is that this is kind of the last straw. He has had other examples of luxury lifestyles.
Little: Right there is something else facing him as if this wasn't enough being hauled in front of the Vatican. A state prosecutor has charged him with making false statements during legal action he took against the weekly news magazine Spiegel which reported last year that he flew first class on a trip to India which was a trip to visit the poor. And he disputes that and said he flew business class. Now he has flew to Rome on the no frills airline Rhine Air. But many suggest that it could be too late to save him.
Schackter: So Jane what is the likely outcome for Bishop Tebantz-van Elst?
Little: He is going to be meeting with Vatican officials they never open there doors on these meetings but it is very likely he will be appearing before the head of the congregation for Bishops Cardinal Mark Wellet . He is likely to get a dressing down. I think it is highly likely he will be asked in no uncertain terms to resign. And then the Pope will except his resignation.
Schackter: So how is this being seen by the faithful back in Germany, I imagine they are fairly upset?
Little: They are , and many of the Catholics in Germany have been leaving the church in recent years. Not least over the clerical sex abuse scandal. So this latest story is not helping the church's reputation. Meanwhile we have it accumulating the headlines , leading tabloid built from the negative story on Friday to the headlines, ‘For Heavens Sake’and asked why does the Bishop need a 784,000 Euro garden . Thousands have signed petitions against him and have protested outside his Gothic Cathedral and have been calling for his resignation. It is not going down well.
Schackter: Jane Little always a pleasure to chat Thank you !
Little: You too Aaron, take care.