By RAY HENRY
MYRNA, Ga. (AP) -- After strong objections from local Roman
Catholics, Archbishop Wilton Gregory said in an interview Wednesday that
he believes the church will probably sell a $2.2 million mansion built
for his own use.
The top-ranking churchman in Atlanta said he will decide what to do
with the Tudor-style mansion in Atlanta's toniest neighborhood after
consulting with several church councils. Under church rules, the
archbishop alone has the authority to sell the nearly 6,400-square-foot
Still, Gregory said he wants advice from others in his diocese before
making the final call. The prelate said he has not discussed the
controversy with his church superiors. He sent documents this week
describing the decision to buy and build the property -- including his
public letter of apology -- to the pope's ambassador in Washington.
"I intend to speak directly and clearly, but more importantly I
intend to listen to them, which I did not do effectively at the
beginning of the process," Gregory told The Associated Press during an
interview at the diocesan headquarters. "My heart tells me ... they're
going to recommend that the property be sold. But I don't want to
anticipate that, I don't want to deprive them of the opportunity to
grapple with me over the situation. But I'd be surprised if they
If the mansion is sold, Gregory said he will look for a more modest residence.
The archbishop has come under criticism since moving into the massive
home in January. It has an upper-level safe room, an eight-burner
kitchen stove, an elevator, public and private offices and two dining
rooms. It was initially envisioned as more opulent. For example, earlier
plans called for a wine room and an antique chandelier in the foyer.
Gregory said he scaled back the costs. For instance, he said he
remembered selecting the least-expensive brickwork when presented with
"My first question was, 'What's the least expensive option?' That's
what we would do. So yeah, it's still very expensive. ... I'm not in any
way distancing me from that."
Gregory sold his old residence to Christ The King Cathedral so it
could move its priests into the archbishop's former home, freeing up
space on the cathedral campus. The cathedral purchased Gregory's old
home for $1.9 million using funds donated to it after the death of
Joseph Mitchell, the nephew of the author of the Civil War epic "Gone
With The Wind."
With the money from that sale and additional funds from the diocese, Gregory built his new mansion in Buckhead.
In his will, Mitchell asked that church officials use his estate,
worth more than $15 million, for "general religious and charitable
purposes." Mitchell sought primary consideration for his home parish,
Christ the King Cathedral.
Gregory apologized Monday to local Catholics in a column written for
the website of the archdiocese newspaper, saying that the new pope has
"set the bar" for Catholics and others. Pope Francis has made it clear
that he wants bishops and priests to live modestly, even asking that
they avoid driving fancy cars or using the latest iPhone.
Francis wrote an apostolic exhortation -- effectively a blueprint for
his papacy -- in which he denounced the "idolatry of money,"
self-indulgence and "insidious worldliness" within the church. Under his
watch, church officials are reviewing Vatican spending, putting a
freeze on hiring and cutting overtime.
Gregory said the real estate plans in Atlanta were in place before
Francis was elected pope in 2013. When asked whether the spending was
appropriate even before Francis took office, Gregory said that he
initially set out to replicate his old home, which was built before he
arrived in Atlanta.
The archbishop said his old home allowed him to host thousands of
people over the years at dinners, receptions and other social events. He
said he will miss hosting those events.
"Hindsight is always 20-20," Gregory said. "And obviously, going
forward, if the next stage is to sell that house, which as I said was a
real possibility ... I certainly won't try to replicate that in a future
purchase or rental."