A house built for $2.2 million by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta will be put up for sale — with proceeds to be spent on the local Catholic community — after some parishioners questioned why the mansion was ever erected, the archbishop announced Saturday.
The mansion, which Archbishop Wilton Gregory had moved in to early this year, represented a symbol of excess to some parishioners, he acknowledged this week. And its grandiosity contrasted with the calls for frugality from those made by Jesus Christ to those made by “the phenomenon we have come to know as Pope Francis,” the 66-year-old archbishop said.
After a meeting with church leaders and community members Saturday, Gregory released a statement declaring his plan to vacate the residence early next month and then sell it.
The 6,000-square-foot Tudor-style home was built on the site of a home donated to the archdiocese by the estate of Joseph Mitchell, whose aunt Margaret Mitchell wrote "Gone With The Wind." In 2012, Gregory announced a plan to demolish the original 2,400-square-foot Mitchell home. He then had the larger structure built to better accommodate church gatherings.
As part of the plan, the archdiocese is turning the old $1.9-million archbishop’s residence into a home for priests from the parish Mitchell had been a member of. Mitchell had wanted most of the funds to benefit that growing parish, Cathedral of Christ, which plans to use its own old housing area for other purposes.
Some parishioners defended the entire plan because of how generous Gregory has been opening his doors to needy families. But others said the church should have made do with the original Mitchell house. The Associated Press reported that the mansion that was raised in its place has an upper-level safe room, an eight-burner kitchen stove, an elevator and two dining rooms.
Gregory wrote this week that though the project made sense “fiscally, logistically and practically,” he failed to account for how living in a giant home would be viewed by families struggling to pay their bills.
“We teach that stewardship is half about what you give away, and half about how you use what you choose to keep,” Gregory wrote in the Georgia Bulletin, the archdiocese newspaper. “I believe that to be true.”
He said options were being explored for where he could live going forward, but that he won’t be moving back into the old residence.