Monday, October 26, 2009

Churches Close, Bishop Lives in a Mansion: Backdrop to Maine Catholic Diocese's Attack on Gay Citizens

As Maine's voters and the Catholics of Portland diocese assess the $252,600 that the diocese has donated to remove the right of marriage from Maine's gay citizens, I wonder if they're remembering the persistent complaints that have come from many quarters about Portland Bishop Richard Malone's plush living quarters.

Those complaining about Bishop Malone's palatial residence have noted that the Catholics of Portland diocese are contributing large sums of money for the upkeep of the bishop's residence at the same time that the diocese announces its intent to close churches due to financial exigency. As the Ignatius Group blog noted this past August, Bishop Malone lives in a 7,000 square-foot, three-story brick residence in a posh section of Portland.

The mansion has 16 rooms, including 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. It's assessed at $1.2 million. Catholics of the Portland diocese pay more than $18,000 in property taxes each year to maintain this lavish episcopal residence for Bishop Malone.

While expecting Maine's Catholics to support the residence, the bishop refuses to disclose the cost of heating it.

Bishop Malone lives in the house alone.

As the Voice from the Desert blog notes, in July 2007, as the diocese issued its annual financial report, Portland diocese financial director David Twomey stated,

Both parish offertory and the Bishop’s Appeal have increased but not at a pace to cover the inflationary increases in expenses. Fortunately, we have been able to hold the rate of growth in operating expense at about 1.8%. Unfortunately, this has caused some ministries to be constrained or reduced. The challenge we face as we move to a cluster structure is to make best use of our current resources…

Bishop Malone is asking Maine's Catholics to tighten their belts, to accept the closing of parishes and schools, to resign themselves to constraints in various ministries, while he himself continues to live in a lavish house that costs the faithful a great deal of money annually to maintain.

And yet as it closes parishes and schools and curtails ministries--and supports a 3-story, 16-room mansion for one person--the Portland diocese manages to find over $250,000 to remove rights from a targeted minority, money whose source the diocese can't quite remember. And that sum doesn't even take into account the $86,000 the diocese has taken in through special collections to remove the right of marriage from Maine's gay citizens.

Something seems awry with this picture, from a gospel standpoint.