Editor’s note: Bishop Patrick McGrath has decided not to move into the 2.3 million dollar home the Diocese of San Jose purchased for him. The following story has been updated below with the bishop’s statement.
When San Jose’s Bishop Patrick J. McGrath went hunting in Silicon Valley for a place to settle down and retire, he knew it wouldn’t be easy to find a modestly priced abode in one of the country’s most-expensive real estate markets.
But his decision to buy a $2.3 million, five-bedroom home in the city’s desirable Willow Glen neighborhood on the Diocese of San Jose’s dime raised some eyebrows among the diocese’s 640,000 Catholics, given the church’s mission of charity and serving the poor.
“That’s a lot of money,” McGrath, 73, acknowledged in a phone interview Friday from his native Ireland where he was visiting, adding “I could understand” it might not sit well with some.
Real estate websites gush about the “grand-sized chef’s kitchen,” “soaring ceilings,” “lush lawns” and “luxurious master en-suite” with a “spa-like marble bathroom” in the 3,269-square-foot “Tuscan estate” the diocese purchased for McGrath earlier this year.
“It seems very inappropriate for this expenditure to be made on so many levels,” said one parishioner who asked not to be identified to avoid harming relationships with other Catholics. “Our diocese is greatly underfunded as it is.”
Pope Francis, who declined the traditional papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace for a sparse suite in the Vatican guesthouse, also has urged bishops to demonstrate “outward simplicity and austerity of life” and avoid “the psychology of princes.”
McGrath acknowledged some retired clergy chose cheaper digs. Many live in Villa Siena, a retirement community in Mountain View sponsored by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Others live in church rectories, the homes of parish priests. Catholic orders like the Society of Jesus provide accommodations for fellow Jesuits.
“Those are all possibilities,” McGrath said. “But I’d like to live in a house so I would have the freedom to help the diocese but not disturb the priests in the rectories.”
McGrath said he looked at various homes both within and beyond the diocese but “they all had some kind of drawback.”
“I looked at places way out in the East Bay, but I like the valley,” McGrath said. “I thought it would be nice to be here, to be of assistance if I can.”
The Willow Glen house lists five bedrooms, but McGrath said he’s not planning to have other clergy as regular housemates, though people to help him cook and clean might come and stay. And he said the third of an acre would allow him to pursue one of his passions.
“I like to putter around in the garden,” McGrath said. “So I think it would be good for me.”
Full story at Mercury News.
After backlash, Bishop Patrick McGrath decides not to move in. Bishop McGrath’s official statement:
When I began plans to retire, and considered where I would live, I had wanted to remain in the Diocese of San Jose. This has been my home for nearly 20 years. At first, I had hoped to live in a diocesan-owned house that is located on cemetery property, but necessary retrofitting proved to be too costly.
This made it necessary to look for another house. The Diocesan Finance Council and the College of Consultors approved the purchase of the home in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. I agreed with them that in economic terms the purchase of the home made sense in terms of financial return on investment. It was bought primarily with funds that had been designated for this sole purpose, funds that had accrued from the sale of Bishop DuMaine’s condominium, when he was no longer able to live in it due to failing health.
However, I erred in judgment in the purchase of a 5-bedroom home for $2.3 million. I failed to consider adequately the housing crisis in this valley and the struggles of so many families and communities in light of that crisis.
I have heard from many on this topic and I have decided that I will not move into this house. The Diocese will put it up for sale as soon as possible; if there is any profit to the Diocese from that sale, those funds will be donated to Charities Housing, a division of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.
I assume full responsibility for this decision and I believe that the sale of the house is the appropriate action. I thank those who have advised me.
When I retire, I now intend to live in a rectory at one of our parishes.
From Diocese of San Jose website.