Friday, 20 September 2013



  • Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst celebrates Mass at the cathedral in Limburg, Germany, Sept. 9. (picture-alliance/dpa/Fredrik von Erichsen)

A German bishop who was criticized by his priests and laity for an extravagant lifestyle and authoritarian leadership has apologized for "misjudgments" and agreed to an outside audit of his diocese's financial records.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg issued the apology at the end of a weeklong Vatican-ordered "brotherly visitation" by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, a veteran Vatican diplomat and the Holy See's nuncio to Germany for eight years in 1990s.
On Sept. 16, Tebartz-van Elst released a declaration signed by himself, Lajolo and Fr. Günther Geis, the cathedral rector, that calls on the German bishops' conference to appoint a commission to audit diocesan finances with special attention on the money spent redecorating the bishop's palace in Limburg. "The final report of the commission, which will examine and include all costs, finances and procedures involved, will be disclosed publicly," the declaration says.
It is highly unusual for a bishops' conference to audit the finances of an individual bishop in this way. Canon law has no provisions for such oversight. The power of supervision over individual bishops is reserved for the pope.  
Tebartz-van Elst also apologized, saying he was aware that the conflicts in recent weeks had angered and upset many of the faithful "not only in our diocese but in the whole country. I for my part am very sorry for any carelessness or misjudgment on my part."
Priests of the Limburg diocese in Western Germany had criticized Tebartz-van Elst's leadership during Masses Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, and the Frankfurt Catholic Association circulated a petition seeking the bishop's resignation. By the end of the month, they had collected 4,500 signatures.
Tebartz-van Elst flew to Rome Aug. 28 and met with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Later, Ouellet wrote to Tebartz-van Elst saying he had discussed the matter with Pope Francis, who had decided against an apostolic visitation, or formal Vatican investigation, but that Lajolo would visit the diocese as a mediator.
From Sept. 9-16 Lajolo met with Tebartz-van Elst, the diocesan council, the priests' council, the cathedral charter, and lay and religious order representatives, according a statement on the website of the Limburg.
Lajolo told a local radio station that he wanted to talk with everyone concerned -- "naturally" also with the bishop's critics -- and he wanted to "promote a brotherly atmosphere."
Fr. Johannes zu Eltz, dean of the cathedral in Frankfurt, told the German daily Kölner Stadt-Unzeiger that he would inform Lajolo that the diocese was in a "far-reaching, destructive crisis of confidence" and, because of that, the bishop was no longer able to carry out his duties.
Tebartz-van Elst, 54, was named bishop of Limburg in 2008, becoming Germany's youngest bishop at the time. He was already known for a luxurious lifestyle and that reputation was furthered when one of his first acts as bishop was to renovate the diocesan center and his residence at a cost of nearly $20 million. At this same time, the diocese was closing other church institutions.
It didn't help Tebartz-van Elst's reputation that his predecessor, Bishop Franz Kamphaus, had years before moved out of the bishop's palace into a modest apartment in the seminary and used the official residence to house refugees.
Tebartz-van Elst's critics say he was not open about the cost of the renovations he ordered. This summer, new accusations arose that he was squandering church money and refusing in an authoritarian manner to account for it.
Among the criticisms is that he flew first class to India to visit mission projects there last year. The diocese has denied these reports, saying he had reserved business-class seats but the airline upgraded them.
His extravagant style at liturgies has not set well with local Catholics either. He favors ornate vestments with gold brocade and white gloves when presiding at Mass. During a hospital chapel dedication this year, he used so much chrism oil and incense that the altar caught fire and two-yard-high flames shot up. A catastrophe was only avoided in the last minute.
In a Sept. 1 pastoral letter, Tebartz-van Elst told Limburg Catholics that he had been hurt by "resentment and criticism" directed against him and would invite parish representatives to a "personal encounter."
"I see some of my decisions in a different light today; looking back, I would have gone about some things differently," he said. "But I need your trust even more. Where only suspicion and mistrust govern, there can be no living Christian community."
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, current president of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, told the German press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur that he does not see Tebartz-van Elst as a victim of a media campaign.
"Media campaigns come to nothing if there is nothing," Marx said, adding that rules about transparency and truthfulness apply to bishops as well as ordinary people.
Cardinal Karl Lehmann of the neighboring diocese of Mainz, who was president of the German Bishops' Conference for 20 years, sees the fact that the Vatican is now involved as a "sign for alarm" and has called on his brother bishop to seek reconciliation.
Church observers have noted that the Vatican's sending a mediator instead of a visitator may reflect a more conciliatory way of dealing with internal diocesan conflicts under Francis.
The Austrian Catholic Press Agency Kathpress commented Sept. 10: "Sending an experienced diplomat on a 'brotherly visit,' as Cardinal Ouellet has called it, in order to mediate in a conflict concerning the way a bishop is carrying out his duties is unique in the German-speaking countries and has not happened before. Quite what a 'brotherly visit' denotes remains open for the moment. It is not a visitation as Lajolo does not have the necessary plenipotentiary powers. ... Much speaks in favor of a compromise solution."





  1. Sod the Gerries. We need more action & less talk to sort out our own shop! Sean

  2. Hello again:

    I'm commenting a good deal here at present ! I've only discovered Bishop Pat's blog in the last few weeks, and I must say that it does hit the spots which other 'church' blogs don't hit. He does introduce for our consideration some pretty important aspects of Church life.

    The one here is about power and privilege. Of Bishops. And, how that seems to be determined by the Bishop himself. In other words, it's a very subjective judgement. If a Bishop wants to live and act like a Prince Bishop of old, then by and large he can. If he wants to be a simple and humble sole living a simple life, then he can do that too.

    It's all very topical at the moment, because the present Pope is sending out very strong signals that he favours the latter - a simple and straightforward style and life. There is no doubt a lot of Bishops who are worried that they too are going to have to get rid of their Mercedes / BMW / Audi / Jaguar cars !

    Aside from the question of what style of life Bishops should lead, there is the more fundamental question about why, if they are inclined to a little louchness and extravagance, they are able to entertain their proclivities ? There seems to be little or no check or balance on a Bishop. He appears to be able to harness the resources of the Diocese at whim, with little or no accountability. There's a sense of "L'Etat, c'est Moi", rather like some 17th century French monarch or some African dictator. The resources of the Diocese appear to be at the Bishop's sole discretion and disposal. Oh, there may be some sort of hand picked crony financial committee, but in my experience essentially what the Bishop wants to do and get, the Bishop will get his way.

    The examples Bishop Pat cites of the Bishop of Limburg and the Bishop of D & C appear to be cases of this. Who, if anybody, has been able to stand up to them to question their plans ? There is something wrong with a system that has no checks and balances and where one individual, the Bishop, appears to be a rule unto himself, able to dispose of the hard earned resources of the Diocese on whatever grand project he sets his mind to.

    (see part 2)

  3. Part 2

    To focus on the case of D & C. I don't know the details, or what the Bishop is planning to do with Lisbreen, but one would question the advisability in this day and age of spending £2 million on renovating a house ! If he is going to turn it in to some sort of diocesan resource centre, or catechetical centre, or make it in to the diocesan offices, then maybe there could be a justification taking in to account the savings which would come from closing and selling off of other properties. But, if he is planning on using it as his Residence / Palace, then that is iniquitous and simply wrong. The trouble is, we don't know, because in the usual way Bishops do not feel that they have to explain. If he did explain, and there was good justification for this kind of expenditure because of the good use the building was going to be put to, I would be the first to support him. But, I guarantee he will not tell us what is really going on, and I suspect the bulk of the expenditure is to provide a Residence / Palace for him and his successors.

    The real issue here is the ridiculous structure of the Church and Dioceses that give Bishops such unquestioned authority and power, which they exercise solely and without any reference to anybody else. Not just in the question of money and finances, but in how they relate to priests and to the the laity. I've discussed in other comments about the plight of priests who are subjected to the authoritarian and unaccountable reign of Bishops, who have power over almost every aspect of a priest's life, even to the extent of removing faculties and permission to minister without even the courtesy of an explanation as to why. As for the laity, Bishops (and some priests !) still treat them like mushrooms but take their generosity in order to keep themselves in the style to which they have become accustomed. I suspect that some of the local difficulty at St Peter's and with Father HK has to do with an imperious and entitled style of ministry, which is not liked by the parishioners of St Peter's. Some laity, as evidenced in some of the comments in this blog over the weeks, are beginning to catch on and are starting to ask questions about such things.

    Maybe Pope Francis is beginning to show a new way forward. Certainly, his simply style and life (as much as he can do in being Pope) gives a new model for both priests and Bishops. Maybe, in some of the structural changes he is billed as going to make in terms of Church government, he might start a questioning of how Bishops and Dioceses are organised and run, and the days of the Prince Bishop will gradually diminish and we shall have something that is a lot more transparent and accountable. Just as it is in lots of other parts of life ! You wouldn't get away with spending £2 million on something without proper accountability in local government, in educational establishments, even in a business !

  4. This is what you are to teach the brothers to believe and persuade them to do. Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit - with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words. All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse and wicked mistrust of one another; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a profit. Religion, of course, does bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that. People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction. 'The love of money is the root of all evils' and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds. But, as a man dedicated to God, you must avoid all that. You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.

    Today's First Reading in the Catholic Lectionary (1Tim6,2-12)

  5. I have to say, Bishop Noel paid a relative of mine, 4 grand, yes grand for losing her whomp at the age of 12, shame, disgrace. You are not a follower of Jesus, stop your decit. Who are these evil doers Bishop Pat.

  6. 20 years ago Cahal Daly was Archbishop of Armagh - and had been for nearly three years.

    Your arguments will appear more compelling if they are based on facts.

    Also - you are clearly fixated with D&C - there's much more to life and many more important issues that a supposed minister of the Gospel could be focusing on.

    1. As a follower of the blog from Belfast I have to say that I am indeed interested in the D&C stuff! Why? My family and I are paying for it!!!! Our living will have been changed as a result!!

      Fortwilliam Catholic

    2. Send Noel and Co to Bangladesh, I work there for many years FREE as a medic. I have NO house to my name and I am proud of this fact. These people assert option for the poor, but the ordinary baptised LIVE it!

      Maybe he will learn humility there.

    3. It is taking some years for us parishioners to finally awaken to this guy's extravagances? Lisbreen the palace! Noel the Lord! Why are they men dismissed?


    4. Where is Martin Luther when you need him?

      Reviewing my view of History & Theology!!

    5. All should live simply. Aa a priest I know, my Maynooth formation lesson, it taught me; "live simply so that others may simply live". I believe that's what God wants.

      The catholic church needs total truthful transparency.

      Oh dear, oh dear oh dear!!


    6. What do folks expect? They hand over their hard earned money and then pretend that the creep is not gonna spend it? duh…grow up mes petites…sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh…

      If you have any extra change, send me some and I’ll pretend that I’m not gonna spend it to! tee hee…

      I don’t care that the PP writs their letters every Sunday and read it out loud in church…don’t give him any money and he’ll change…can’t say I’ve haven’t offered you expert advice!

      He’s gonna keep making you look like fools…tee hee…

      Don’t come crying to us about it!


      Frank - Belfast

    7. It seems to me that you gotta be a bunch of 'non-thinkers' or just plain stupid to turn over your hard earned cash to a man who lives in a palace, who isn't accountable and who does not care about the ordinary person on the street… no mercy from this one!

      Sorry - Wise Up People.


    8. What is the increased cost for extra Security for Pope Francis living at a hotel instead of the Vatican Apartments which do not need extra security?
      The Pope drives off in a car and puts the lives of the security people at risk.
      The German Bishop does not buy his goods from the dealers who used to get a cut on the money and now we investigate him for extragance. We are dealing with human beings. Give them all a break.


    9. Something in Limburg and Lisbreen smells, and I don’t think it’s their wine & cheese.

      Working-class recovering Catholic!

  7. Is Hugh Kennedy paying for Lisbreen? Any connection on his return in such a public manner and Lisbreen??


  8. Last Sunda the Pope attacked the 'globalised idolisation of money' - really, dear God the brass neck knows NO bounds lol. Lisbreen, have you seen it Frances??

    Anyway, I'd be more inclined to listen to the Pope if the Vatican - with its art treasures - wasn't one of the biggest collections of wealth on the planet. Perhaps the Pope should look to set the church's house in order first. Like Germany & Down & Connor.

    They make me laugh, classic di as I say not as I do, eehhh!!

    Fortwilliam Catholic

  9. Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church"
    By Jason Berry

    AN excellent read - puts Lisbreen into context!

  10. The symbolic value, in euros, of the buildings in Vatican City. The church uses this number to indicate they are priceless and could never be sold. They include: the Apostolic Palace, the pope’s official residence; the Sistine Chapel, best known for murals by Botticelli and Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling and the famous Last Judgment behind the altar; and St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world erected over the supposed burial site of the apostle St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome.

    Lisbreen & Germany is NOTHING!

  11. 716,290 The amount of Church-owned land, in square kilometres, across the globe — an area slightly bigger than Alberta. Properties include Vatican embassies, churches, cathedrals, monasteries, some schools and convents.

  12. 10 Reported investment (in billions of dollars) in foreign companies by the Institute of Religious Works (the Vatican bank) in the 1990s. It has holdings in such industries as banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction and real estate. It only invests in companies that operate according to Catholic morals. For example, it will not invest in a pharmaceutical company that produces birth control.

  13. 86 In millions of dollars, Peter’s Pence in 2011. The Vatican’s most important source of ready cash is made up of donations from parishes across the globe. The money is spent on humanitarian projects, including disaster relief, medical aid, and help to the poor in developing nations, children and refugees.

    22.4 In millions of dollars, the approximate value of almost one metric tonne of gold owned by the Holy See in 2008.

  14. 31 In millions of dollars, the amount seized from the Vatican bank by Italian authorities during an investigation into money laundering.

    2 In billions of dollars, the amount paid out as settlements by the church for sex-abuse allegations in the United States.

  15. But what lesson do you want to teach? That we usurp the assets that others had given to the Church?

    If I donated money to renovate a Church or piece of religious Art, I would want it to be spent for THAT. I wouldn't want YOU or ANYONE else to decide that you can "take that money" and do what YOU want with it.


  16. A lesson on balance, greed and pharisee. Its too bad that you think the Popes golden staff and money used to advertise a religion and fight a holy war is more important than increasing standards of living for people INCLUDING AND BESIDES Catholics. It's too bad you have to be so shallow and only care about your religion. Like every other shallow religious person out there.


  17. If us catholic followers haven't learned in over 2000 years no to give our wealth to these MEN, its not likely to get any better. German and Irish Bishops will always be Lords because WE are paying for it.

    Wake up weak minded people!

    Dr. G

  18. Catholic followers realize that the Church is the sole beacon in the world that is too concerned with the spirit and fads of the times. So yes, I don't think Catholic followers will ever "learn" what you want to teach them. Honestly, why listen to you over listening to the Church?


  19. Tell that to the thousands who have been molested by priests. Priests whose only punishment was a transfer to a new city. You and everyone who supports the catholic church absolutely disgust me. You are what is wrong with the human race.


  20. Well history says I haven't killed over my beliefs, I haven't begged the poor to give me money when I was rich, I don't have sex with children and I don't wear red Gucci loafers....maybe thats enough of a reason to change your belief..unless of course you are no different than the other brainwashing cults. Oh one further point I have no interest in "teaching" the church or its sheep anything. They have no capacity to see evil only to confess it.


    Interesting read!

  22. Due to thievery, murder, scandal, greed,.. and donations, the church has grown over the last 2000 years, YOU RIGHT! But to say that Jesus founded the catholic church is just plain stupid. You poor blind sheep, may you think for yourself one day.

    Let your Bishops sit in their steam rooms!


  23. I use to go to catholic school And it was very costly too. My mom was a single parent couldnt afford but sent me anyway trying to find a good school. Even though she was a teacher she struggled with 4 kids. But they do help with bills St Vincent De Paul is the company name

    Mrs V

  24. PART I

    Just as we are seeing a worldwide collapse of the fictional financial and economic system that has been thrust upon us by an equally fictional political system, so too will we see the collapse of the third angle of the trinity of control, which is the CATHOLIC CHURCH. Anytime an organization has so much money that it needs to hide the numbers, that organization is engaging in criminal activity (i.e. victimizing activity) and will face certain dire repercussions if the source and magnitude of their funds were discovered by their unwitting victims. I have a hard time accepting that the PERSONS involved in the business of CATHOLIC CHURCH even believe in God. And when I say CATHOLIC CHURCH, I mean that corporation and all its entities, which means with few exceptions every other Christian denomination, most Muslim denominations, and the Jew-ish hostile corporation called Israel. The reason I question the faith of these corporate officers is simple. We often see the bumper stickers or signs that say, "what would Jesus do?" We know that according to the Gospel Jesus freaked when he came across the 'money changers' (quick change artists, drug dealers, pimps?) in the temple.

    Catholic Business Leader

  25. PART II

    So how would he react when he sees his entire message, and his name and image (many times graven) are used as a motive for guilt and profit in a pyramid scheme that enriches a very few and 'forgives' the 'sinners'. I quote forgives and sinners because Christ never gave these Church Officers a personal ordainment, a prescription or authority to address anyone in his name in the way that they are. They have promoted his crucifixion in every grotesque way possible as the remedy for the laws of God, when in fact the entire gospel up to that brutal torture and merciless murder teaches the opposite. If these CATHOLIC Officers have read the Gospel even once, and I assume they have, they would know that everything they are doing is a flaunting hypocrisy against it, and that if they truly believed in any of it they would know it would mean the judgment of their souls for all eternity. You cannot serve 2 masters. They serve one over the other, because they despise the other. They do not render unto caesar because they are in league with, and in many cases directly are caesar. If you believe in the Gospel and in Christ, then you must also acknowledge the power of the deceptions of Lucifer. This isn't simply one man deceives another, coveting his donkey. It has come down to a few men have deceived a planet, calling themselves 'of god', 'called and ordained ministers of god', the 'chosen people of god', 'Father', 'Holy', and the list goes on despite the fact that from top to nearly bottom their actions and reactions are the polar opposite of what that requires as taught in the Gospel. Redemption requires repentance. Repentance requires acknowledgement and transparency. Forgiveness requires healing. Healing requires love. I challenge anyone to show me where this exists in the corporate churches of planet Earth. If you want forgiveness and you want to be as close to God as possible in this shell of flesh, then why worship a middle man or men, paying tribute and bowing and praising as if they were Creator of this planet and its inhabitants. Do not honor other men who would dishonor you as they do themselves. Honor yourself, look for God where he is closest, and learn to find redemption, repentance, forgiveness and love where it was in the first place. And ultimately, follow the commandment of Christ: Love thy neighbor as you love thyself.

  26. It disappoints me to read that the bishop who has been asked to handle the aftermath of the sex scandals as well as to implement measures making it impossible to happen it again belongs to the kind of persons who managed to climb the career ladder because of a great talent God gifted them – anticipatory obedience.

    Earmarking 2 million plus for a renovation of a palace, especially when expenditures for youth programmes where the future financiers of the church are won are cut. No wonder that so many people try to leave the church. Instead of behaving like bean counters the high representatives of the church should focus on their real task – taking care of those who need help.

    Sadly I do not think they are up to this task, tragic!


  27. Trier, Germany's oldest diocese, is a good example of the Catholic divide between rich and poor.


  28. Bishop Treanor,

    I am a Mother of 4 kids (single mother), I need helping with food and heating - could you please help me. I reside in Holy Cross Parish.

    Thank You - Bishop Pat has my details, he has helped me on many occasions, without judgement!!