"THE MEMORY OF JESUS IS BOTH SACRED AND SUBVERSIVE"
Wednesday, 15 April 2015
ANOTHER BISHOP LUXURY PAD
The Irish Times
Cardinal Antonio Rouco recently resigned as the Archbishop of Madrid but just months later, though, he is as controversial a figure as ever, drawing fierce criticism from many Catholics for his behaviour since retiring and in particular for leading what they say is a ludicrously lavish lifestyle. The outrage has focused on the luxury apartment in central Madrid into which Rouco moved in February.
According to media reports, it is worth ¤1.7 million, has six bedrooms and four bathrooms and is situated next to the Almudena cathedral and the royal palace.
“Isn’t there somewhere more discreet for him to retire to?” wrote José Lorenzo in Vida Nueva, the influential religious weekly magazine he edits. “Why did nobody warn him of the embarrassment this would cause him and the damage it would inflict on the church’s image?”
Paid for by church
The flat in question is paid for by the Spanish church, which annually receives about ¤250 million directly from government income tax revenues and much more from other state sources.
Others have been more vocal in their criticism. Fe Adulta, a website run for and by the clergy, is gathering signatures in a campaign to move Rouco out of his new home.
By yesterday, the petition had about 1,500 signatures, reportedly all belonging to church members. The site has also called for supporters to stage an escrache – a noisy protest normally aimed at vilified politicians – outside the apartment today.
After becoming archbishop of Madrid in 1994, Rouco (78) became one of the most powerful religious figures in recent Spanish history, presiding over the national episcopal conference for 12 years.
His conservative views and outspokenness made him a divisive political figure. He has repeatedly warned that Spain’s Catholic Church is persecuted by leftist secularism; he has also railed against gay marriage, abortion and onlychild families. Of the country’s economic problems, he has said: “We won’t get out of this crisis if we don’t convert and turn our lives towards God.”
Although Rouco was past the 75-year age limit commonly imposed on archbishops when he retired, many observers believe he wanted to continue in the post much longer and he refused to move out of his official residence for several months after stepping down. His replacement as archbishop of Madrid – the moderate Carlos Osoro – is seen as evidence of a poor relationship with the Vatican.
“Rouco is among the cardinals who are most opposed to Pope Francis’s so-called ‘spring’,” says José Manuel Vidal, biographer of Rouco and editor of the Catholic publication Religión Digital.
Vidal says Rouco’s resistance to his retirement and the Madrid apartment furore have angered the Vatican and hindered its attempts to win over Spaniards.
“The Spanish church is trying to change its image, it’s trying to get in step with Pope Francis,” he told The Irish Times, “but gestures like Rouco’s remind society of that old cliché that the church isn’t on the side of the poor, it’s on the side of the rich, that it’s powerful and has privileges.”
About three-quarters of Spaniards describe themselves as Catholics, although of those, two-thirds say they rarely or never go to Mass.
Amid the storm of opprobrium, though, some of the former archbishop’s allies have come out to defend him.
“Rouco needs a house with certain qualities and comforts,” said the Valladolid archbishop Ricardo Blázquez. “He is a figure of huge significance in the church and in society and who, therefore, has to host certain people and have the infrastructure with which to receive them in a normal way.”