From the Vatican website, dated three days ago, 26 March 2014:
Con riferimento all’amministrazione della diocesi di Limburg, in Germania, la Congregazione per i Vescovi ha studiato attentamente il rapporto della Commissione voluta dal Vescovo e dal Capitolo Cattedrale, per intraprendere approfondite indagini circa le responsabilità coinvolte nella costruzione del Centro Diocesano “St. Nikolaus”.
Atteso che nella diocesi di Limburg si è venuta a determinare una situazione che impedisce un esercizio fecondo del ministero da parte di S.E. Mons. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, la Santa Sede ha accettato le dimissioni presentate dal Presule in data 20 ottobre 2013 e ha nominato un Amministratore Apostolico sede vacante nella persona di S.E. Mons. Manfred Grothe.
Il Vescovo uscente, S.E. Mons. Tebartz-van Elst, riceverà in tempo opportuno un altro incarico.
Il Santo Padre chiede al clero e ai fedeli della diocesi di Limburg di voler accogliere le decisioni della Santa Sede con docilità e di voler impegnarsi a ritrovare un clima di carità e riconciliazione.
The translation reads roughly as:
With reference to the administration of the diocese of Limburg, Germany, the Congregation for Bishops has carefully studied the report of the Commission ordered by the bishop and the cathedral chapter, whose brief was to undertake thorough investigations about the responsibilities involved in the construction of the Diocesan Centre “St. Nikolaus “.
Considering that events in the diocese of Limburg have come to a situation that prevents the fruitful exercise of the ministry by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the Holy See has accepted the resignation of said Bishop on October 20, 2013, and has appointed an Apostolic Administrator of the vacant see in the person of Bishop Manfred Grothe.
The outgoing bishop, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, will receive another assignment at an appropriate time.
The Holy Father asks the clergy and faithful of the diocese of Limburg to willingly accept the decisions of the Holy See with patience and wanting to commit to finding a climate of love and reconciliation.
Yesterday, I published with awe about the public confession of Pope Francis. But, today’s news shows that Pope Francis is not merely a show Pope, a Pope who uses appropriate political gestures in order to maintain popularity. A good manager of the household of God also has to know when to take action, and take it swiftly. And he has. The “resignation” of a bishop under ecclesiastical investigation has been accepted; the bishop has been recalled; and no future assignment has been announced. It is important to note that there are no legal charges of any type that are pending against the bishop. He has done nothing legally wrong. Spending money inappropriately is not a crime, so long as there is no embezzlement of malfeasance involved. And, there has been none of that. The money is scrupulously accounted for. But, oh, how he spent the money! It is those decisions to spend that raised the ire of many and brought this bishop to the attention of Pope Francis, a Pope who has been living reasonably, drives a Ford Focus, and refuses ostentation. So, what am I talking about?
Well, the good bishop decided that his living arrangements needed an upgrade. That upgrade has been an upgrade worthy of a princeling. He spent $43,000,000 on home renovations. Among the items that have been brought to light by the investigating commission:
- Item: Two-meter deep fish tank, filled with Koi carp, cost of $300,000.
- Item: Garden. Bill: $917,000. Fun Fact: it was called the “Garden of Silence.”
- Item: Hanging an advent wreath. Bill: $25,000. Fun Fact: Workers had to open up the chapel roof — with a crane — to install it.
- Item: Heated stones. Bill: $26,000.Fun Fact: They were used to line outdoor paths for more comfortable walking.
- Item: Bronze window frames. Bill: $2.38 million. Fun fact: The cost was supposed to be half that. But Tebartz-van Elst, the report shows, really wanted his window frames to be bronze.
- Item: Light switches. Bill: $27,000. Fun Fact: Really, they’re just light switches.
- Item: Doors. Bill: $673,000. Fun Fact: They were of the “highest quality.”
- Item: Art. Bill: $1.6 million.
- Item: LED lights. Bill: $894,000. Fun Fact: They were built into floors, the walls, underneath steps, inside handrails and window frames — which were of course bronze.
Speaking of the Ford Focus, the photograph at the top of the post is the car driven by the erstwhile bishop. Because there is no crime involved, the Church will take care of the bishop. He may well receive an appointment as a functionary without much authority in a non-public post. In the old days, he would have been sent to a monastery to allow him the opportunity to repent and grow in the Lord. Frankly, I am not as interested in how exactly the Church deals with him, so long as he does not receive another diocese. I am interested in the fact that Pope Francis took real and concrete action. I almost hesitate to use this worn cliché, but Pope Francis is showing that he not only talks the walk; he also walks the walk. (Now, I feel like washing my hands for typing that worn cliché.)
The best way to get the point across that the Church is concerned for the poor and disadvantaged is to make sure that you swiftly deal with those who see themselves as having the right to profit from the Church’s donations. And Pope Francis has certainly begun to get that message across. This was not the first action he has taken of this type. He already has replaced the head and most of the board of the Vatican bank, a bank that has not previously conformed to international banking standards. His practical decisions are showing that you do not misuse or incorrectly spend the money given to the Church. Good job, Francis!