Any House of Cards fan could tell you that politicians are corrupt. We almost expect it—even if certain ones take us by surprise (cough, lookin' at you, CA Sec. of State gunning, illegal arms dealin' Leland Yee). But in the life strata of acceptable badness, there's something extra, unabashedly awful about a "man of God" maneuvering the system to his favor.
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, long time German cleric, was forced to resign last week after his recent, errrr, home improvement costs were brought to light. Having spent an astounding $43 million on renovations for his Limburg home, Tebartz-van Elst was promptly fired and crowned a new name: the Bishop of Bling.
$43 mill on home renovations?? That's, like, beyond J.Lo level extravagance. How does one even do that? So glad you asked. It's actually pretty easy. Cribs-esque expenditures include:
- $475,000 on walk-in closets. Suck it, Carrie Bradshaw.
- $20,000 for a bathtub. Lindsay Bluth diamond cream not included.
- $35,000 conference table. You know, to confer with the other men of God who care about fancy tables.
- $1.1 million for landscaped gardens. Mary Lennox, God would never visit your philistine garden.
Though the Bishop of Bling was suspended last October, it wasn't until last Wednesday that Pope Francis officially accepted the resignation. Pope Francis (who we already love) is a modest mouse by comparison. Socioeconomic disparity is a huge concern of his. (Word on the street is that he even drives a Ford Focus.)
But why do we care? Why crucify that bling-hungry Bishop? We Americans are a bunch of capitalistic Ayn Rand booty kissers—is it hypocritical of us to assume that wealth wouldn't corrupt a man who works for the Catholic church?
We say no. While the cautionary tale of the greedy CEO is basically an American archetype at this point, there are a ton of bigwigs (hello Warren Buffet/Bill Gates Giving Pledge!) who haven't been swayed by greed. Costco CEO Joe Carcello collects a modest income (just over $50,000 per year) to ensure that his employees earn a livable wage and while the movie didn't make him look so hot, Mark Zuckerberg is well loved by his employees, namely for his ongoing generosity to philanthropy. And despite the rampant success of Sriracha, founder David Tran refuses to increase the wholesale price and continues to live modestly as well.
The people I just mentioned are business (wo)men. They create a product that will yes, serve the world—or makes things deliciously spicy!—but they also do it for the money. And you know what? There's no shame in that—especially when countered by profound generosity. You'd think, hope, pray that a bishop might seek to earn himself a similar reputation, but apparently being a celibate conduit to the Lord is philanthropic enough.
Here's the (semi-socialist) thing: no one needs that much money. We don't care how hard you (didn't) work for it. You just don't. So we're extra head-shaking sad to see a bishop succumb to the evils of greed, but hey—it's not one of the seven deadly sins for nothing.
Image: um, pretty sure he bought that tan. Courtesy of, Wikimedia