Housing a Bishop

Bishops in Saginaw, Hartford, Cincinnati, and a few other places have left a high bar for successors to follow. When old-style episcopal houses/mansions are discarded or reused, and a new prelate enters with different expectations for living, what happens?

The Cincinnati archdiocese is providing its new coadjutor archbishop, Dennis Schnurr, a $470K home. The new bishop declined to comment, leaving pr and damage control to diocesan spokesperson Dan Andriacco:

(T)he archbishop intends to use the 3,200-square-foot house for church functions and as a “ministry of hospitality,” which likely would include meetings with seminarians, priests and others.

He said Schnurr also has a large family, including five siblings and 15 nieces and nephews, and wanted a home larger than an apartment so he could accommodate frequent visits. He said Pilarczyk, an only child, didn’t require that kind of space.

“He has some relatives, and that’s something we haven’t had for awhile in the archdiocese,” Andriacco said. “He also needs a place that is suitable for the way he plans to exercise his ministry.”

It’s too bad, in a way, that the climate for bishops has deteriorated to the point where a permanent home is always questioned in situations like these. Unpopular bishops–or new ones–get questioned mercilessly. For a popular bishop, this would be skipped over, don’t you think? Would private donors fronting money be a better way to go? Or should bishops go along with the precedent set by guys who prefer apartments, rectories, or even nursing homes?

Is an example of poverty living important for a bishop? While I appreciate the desire to entertain a large family or a corps of seminarians and priests, I’d say Andriacco is in a tough spot to sell it to Cincinnati Catholics.

What do you say?



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Housing a Bishop

  1. Chase says:

    Interesting question. Being a history buff at heart, I sort of hate to see the grand old episcopal mansions sold off, but I understand the practicality and projected image of such places as well.

    I know that the bishop of Phoenix lives in two rooms of the rectory adjacent to the Cathedral.

    I suppose the answer is somewhere in between, with simplicity and practicality being the primary characteristics. A modest home near the chancery, perhaps?

    In reality, most bishops are rarely at their residences due to countless confirmations, meetings, etc. I don’t think it’s worth the purchase of a huge home because of the desire to host an occasional social event.

  2. Liam says:


    For parishes that are primarily urban/suburban in character, sell off rectories where feasible (where they can be feasibly sectioned off from other parish land) and consolidate the housing of parochial priests at the deanery/vicariate level.

    For the diocese, sell off episcopal mansions where feasible.

    Convert a diocesan property into a secular convent/monastery style dwelling – with ample room for spare accommodations for clerical and lay guests, an ample refectory and chapel, et cet. This could be used to host retreats, et cet. Maybe some hermitages, too? The bishop could maintain a principal residence there, while also being hosted on a regular tour of the deanery/vicariate residences….

    The model for the bishop should be the abbot, not the prince or lord mayor. In fact, I do wish that Vatican II had considered more the office of abbot in developing the ministerial sensibility of bishop. It’s a sensibilty that is quite alive in the Eastern Churches, and needs only to be reinvigorated in the West.

    Anyway, FWIW….

  3. BarbaraKB says:

    Guess I should chime in, Todd. (Hello! I read u still but not commenting much lately.)

    The neighborhood where the archdiocese bought said house is near the seminary. We are told Schnurr cares deeply about new seminarians so, for me, the announcement about a new house was near the seminary was not shocking. Prices for homes there are higher than other places in Cincinnati but it’s better than the old drafty mansion the old Cincinnati Catholics know Archb. Pilarczyk sold in the 80’s.

    Again, a PR snafu of better explanation perhaps but I welcome a new Archbishop from a large family and one who welcomes visitors to his home.

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    I was living in the diocese part of this time:



    Perhaps Bishop Topel will always be remembered as a sort of St. Francis of Assisi of American prelates. He lived in a rather ramshackle old house with no heat, no phone, and little or no food in the icebox. He lived more than the spirit of poverty; he lived it literally, in spirit and in reality. His labors and lifestyle took a heavy toll on his health.

  5. Alexa says:

    It’s ridiculous, unnecessary and contrary to the manner in which Christ told his disciples to go about their ministry.

  6. Nathan Keith says:

    I knew bishop Topel. His example was just what all bishops should strive for. It was nothing about himself, it was about others. If we all could be so Christ like it would be a better world.

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