SAN JOSE, Calif. (CBS SF/AP) — After some public backlash over the Catholic Diocese of San Jose purchasing a five-bedroom, $2.3 million home in Silicon Valley for retiring Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, the bishop himself announced he would not be moving into the house.
McGrath released a statement Monday afternoon saying he would not move into the home.
“I failed to consider adequately the housing crisis in this valley and the struggles of so many families and communities in light of that crisis,” the bishop’s statement read. “I have heard from many on this topic and I have decided I will not move into this house.”
The purchase had been made despite the 640,000-member diocese’s mission of charity and serving the poor.
Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, 73, acknowledged in an interview with the Mercury News of San Jose that the price tag is “a lot of money,” saying “I could understand” it might not sit well with some parishioners.
The nearly 3,300-square-foot (306 square-meter) home’s listing boasts of a “grand-sized chef’s kitchen,” ”soaring ceilings” and “luxurious master ensuite” with a “spa-like marble bathroom” in a “Tuscan estate.”
It was purchased with funds set aside for paying the costs of a bishop’s housing and upkeep after retirement, said diocese communications director Liz Sullivan. She said the diocese was “following the policy set forth by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops” in purchasing the home.
McGrath said the diocese also got the proceeds from selling a condominium where his predecessor, retired Bishop Pierre DuMaine, lived before moving into assisted living.
Still, the purchase appeared to be at odds with the McGrath’s previously expressed concerns about housing inequality in Northern California.
In 2016, McGrath co-authored an article backing a $950 million bond measure for affordable housing in which he wrote “too many children and families are living in cars or tripled up with other families in small homes because they can’t afford the rent on their own.”
“There is no moral or social justification, no justification whatsoever, for the lack of housing,” he wrote.
When KPIX 5 asked some South Bay locals about the home purchase, their reaction was predictable.
“Uh, it’s a little excessive. I mean, have they ran this by their church members?” said Santa Clara resident Vickie Garrison.
“The whole point of taking that route in life is a humble life. And I understand you put in a lot of work, but you’re supposed to be humble. $2.3 million?” said Willow Glen resident David Felix with a laugh.
However, others were a bit more sympathetic.
“It’s not extravagant,” said Willow Glen resident Chris Opiyo. “That’s about the value of houses here.”
“It seems like it’s a lot, but who knows? If you put your whole life into something, maybe that’s the way the “company’ rewards you,” said Santa Clara resident Ivan Garrison.
Many retired clergy choose to live in a retirement community in Mountain View sponsored by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Others live in church rectories, the homes of parish priests. Catholic orders like the Society of Jesus provide accommodations for fellow Jesuits.
The statement that came out late Monday afternoon showed McGrath had reconsidered after some discussion.
The statement indicated that the Diocese would put the home up for sale quickly. If there is any profit to the Diocese from the sale of the home, McGrath said those funds would be donated to Charities Housing, a division of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.
“I assume full responsibility for this decision and I believe that the sale of the house is the appropriate action. I thank those who have advised me,” said McGrath in the statement.
McGrath also said that when he does retire, he now intends to live in a rectory at one of the Diocese parishes.