There is an uproar over the rather refined tastes of the bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. Despite the serious financial problems of the church and a new Pope who (to his and the church’s great credit) is shedding many trappings of the papacy, the bishop is building a luxurious home and offices next to Limburg Cathedral in the state of Hesse. Originally, estimated at €3 million, the complex is now up to €31 million. It includes a few items that seem out of place with a vow of poverty. He has now been called to Rome — apparently to answer why he seems to be a walk-on for a Robin Hood remake movie.
Those costs include €350,000 on built-in-wardrobes, €25,000 on a conference table and €783,000 for a garden. His own apartment will cost €3 million with €478,000 for the furnishings alone. The new chapel will cost €2.67 million — a curious necessity since he is next door to a cathedral. My favorite however is the bathtub where the most reverend body will be bathed: €15,000.
The bishop has been criticized by his own financial council about the runaway costs. He has been previously criticized for such expenses as flying to India first class to visit poor children. He is also under investigation by prosecutors for allegedly making two civil claims against Der Spiegel.
One question about the flight. Are we being too tough on the first class ticket? After all, a bishop is like the head of a large corporation and, with the reduction of space among airlines, it is increasingly difficult to work in coach. Should we cut him a bit of slack on the ticket in light of his work?