The $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets ordered by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, have scandalised the German public. But he is only the latest clergyman to run into trouble in Germany.
- Religion News Service/NCR
Pope Francis temporarily suspended the Bishop on Wednesday while a Church commission investigates the expenditures on the $42 million residence complex. As the new Pontiff tries to reform the way the church does business, German dioceses, which reportedly include the world's wealthiest in Cologne, are chafing under the new direction as membership numbers continue to dwindle.
'Tebartz-van Elst is just the tip of the iceberg,' said Christian Weisner, spokesman for the German branch of We Are Church, an organization advocating Catholic Church reform. 'There is a real clash of cultures between Germany's current cardinals and bishops -- nominated under John Paul II or Benedict XVI -- and Pope Francis.'
Since becoming Pope, Francis has repeatedly urged the church to strip itself of all 'vanity, arrogance and pride' and humbly serve the poorest in society. Under Francis, priests living in luxury are no longer merely unseemly, but a scandal.
Still, even as Francis drives around Vatican City in a 30-year-old white Renault clunker gifted by an Italian priest, the head of the German bishops' conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, balked at the idea of giving up his company car, a BMW 740d.
'To me that car is not a status symbol; it is the office I use when I am traveling,' Zollitsch said at a press event in early October, when asked whether he would trade it down.