NEW YORK — After a long delay, the archdiocese of Newark will finally be able to sell the mansion of retired Archbishop John Myers, who has now moved to Illinois.
In a statement earlier this week, Cardinal Joseph Tobin said that Myers’ physical and mental health is now in “serious decline.”
“After a recent visit with his family in central Illinois, Archbishop Myers decided to remain in the region of his birth where he is receiving specialized care and can be visited by his family as well as the clergy of the Diocese of Peoria,” wrote the New Jersey cardinal on January 28.
“I ask all the faithful in our Archdiocese to pray for Archbishop Myers that the mercy of God comfort and strengthen him in this moment of fragility,” he continued.
The 7,500 square foot home in Hunterdon County was first purchased by the archdiocese in 2002 for $700,000. Yet as Myers approached retirement, he spent an additional $500,000 on the three-story property, which includes a whirlpool, elevator, and a library.
As Myers faced retirement in 2014, an online petition gained over 22,000 signatures asking that the archbishop follow the example of Pope Francis and sell the property and live in a more modest setting.
“We’d like see the money that’s been used to put an addition of nearly a half million dollars on to his mansion used for a better cause: Feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless,” Kevin Davitt, a parishioner with St. Catherine Church in Glen Rock, said at the time.
Over the last decade, a range of figures in the U.S. Church have decided to sell off church property and live in more modest locations, including Archbishop Wilton Gregory during his time in Atlanta and the soon to be retired Archbishop Charles Chaput, who sold the historic archbishop’s residence for $10 million when he arrived in Philadelphia.
While guidelines from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) note that each diocese should provide a residence for retired bishops, it does not specify the type of facility that should be provided.
Myers, who is 78 years old, retired in 2016 after 15 years as Newark’s archbishop. He succeeded Theodore McCarrick in 2001.
During his tenure in Newark, Myers came under criticism for his handling of clergy abuse cases, including for allowing a convicted abuser priest to return to ministry, which prompted calls for his resignation at the time.
Following the downfall of McCarrick, it was revealed in 2018 that in 2005 and 2007, respectively, the archdiocese of Newark and the diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey paid financial settlements to individuals who had accused the now former archbishop and former priest of abuse.
His history of allegedly mishandling abuse cases, combined with the public outrage over his retirement home renovations, have led many New Jersey Catholics to call on the archdiocese to enforce the retired archbishop to live a humbler lifestyle and sell off the property.
As of this week, Tobin said that would soon occur.
“The Archdiocese has begun preparation for the sale of his retirement residence in Hunterdon County,” he said in his statement. “After members of his family have collected his personal possessions, the home and property will be sold and the funds will be returned to the Archdiocese.”
Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212
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