Archbishop calls meeting to discuss mansion

Fulfilling a pledge he made to parishioners earlier this week, Archbishop Wilton Gregory has called for a special meeting of the Catholic clergy and laypeople to discuss the future of his new home, a $2.2 million mansion in Buckhead built with money from a parishioner’s will.

The meeting is scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s business office in Smyrna.

In scheduling the meeting, Gregory is keeping a vow he made Monday in the Georgia Bulletin, an archdiocesan newspaper. In a column to parishioners, Gregory apologized for building the 6,196-square-foot house, located on Habersham Road, and said he would heed the advice of three councils about what to do with it.

Building the two-story structure, he wrote, contradicted the example set by Pope Francis to “live more simply, more humbly and more like Jesus Christ who challenges us to be in the world and not of the world.”

Gregory, who was not available for comment Thursday, sent out emailed invitations to three panels — the Archdiocesan Council of Priests, Archdiocesan Finance Council and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. The meeting’s purpose, according to the email, is to “discuss the situation regarding the new residence and to seek guidance on how to move forward.”

The timing suggests an accelerated decision on what to do with Gregory’s residence. In his column Monday, Gregory proposed two meetings — one involving the priests in April and a session with the pastoral council that would not be held until May.

The meeting is in response to harsh criticism directed at Gregory, as well as Monsignor Rev. Frank McNamee, rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Buckhead, who Gregory said first proposed the plan for him to sell his old residence near Christ the King.

Gregory moved out of that house on West Wesley Road, for decades the home of the archdiocese’s bishops, and into a structure built with money from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, a nephew of “Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell who died in 2011. Mitchell bequeathed $15 million to the archdiocese and Christ the King, where he was a parishioner. Mitchell also left his Habersham Road home to the archdiocese.

The archdiocese razed that house. A four-bedroom mansion, with a three-car garage and two dining rooms, took its place on the 1.8-acre lot. An Atlanta Realtor told the AJC it’s worth at least $3 million.

McNamee wants to leave the rectory, located on the campus of Christ the King, and move to Gregory’s old home. It’s a few blocks away from the cathedral on Peachtree Road in Buckhead. McNamee also proposes taking six priests with him, leaving Christ the King free to demolish the rectory to make room for the growing parish.

That proposal is unpopular with some parishioners, who want the priests to remain on campus. Some residents living near the West Wesley home also oppose it, saying they don’t want a “boarding house” in their neighborhood.