They say that it is best to retire with a golden parachute, but the way that Cardinal Antonio María Rouco has withdrawn from public life has raised many questions among Catholics, and has prompted public outrage.
Rouco, 78, was replaced last August as Madrid archbishop by the Vatican, but since then he has reportedly been living a life of luxury, while deciding on his own terms when and how he will retire.
Recent press reports state that Rouco lives in a €1.7-million apartment in front of Madrid’s Virgen of Almudena Cathedral. His six-room living quarters measure 370 square meters and include four bathrooms and a large balcony. The refurbishment of the apartment cost €370,000.
Pope Francis is reported to have been angered by Rouco’s refusal to step down, as per the Vatican’s mandatory retirement age of 75. In February, reports emerged that the ultra-conservative cardinal had gone to live in the palatial apartment, but only after he failed in his attempts to stay put at the archdiocese official residence – even after Carlos Osoro had been appointed by the Holy See to take over.
Let him challenge these allegations. If they are true, Rouco needs to move from his luxurious apartment”
“The cardinal, unfortunately, is carrying his own cross,” said a source who is close to Rouco, and who asked not to be identified for this article.
Some Catholics have been embarrassed by this situation. “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad,” said Father Carlos F. Barberá, quoting Prometheus in Longfellow’s poem The masque of Pandora. “I can’t come up with any other explanation for Rouco’s latest decisions.”
Redes Cristianas, a platform for Spain’s Catholics, published an editorial on its website entitled “For God’s sake, we need a protest!”
"Those who are committed to a fair and equal Church believe this nonsense deserves the public’s rejection, a prophetic denunciation, and a public protest (an intellectual one, at least),” said Redes Cristianas – which groups more than 200 Catholic organizations – in the article, barely stopping short of calling for a demonstration against Rouco’s actions.
Fe Adulta (Adult Faith), an internet website run by priests and laypeople, came out in even stronger terms against Rouco.
“Let him challenge these allegations. If they are true, Rouco needs to move from his luxurious apartment,” it wrote on its website.
Inmaculada Calvo Torrejón, Fe Adulta’s director, has started a petition drive to demand that the current archbishop and the Papel Nuncio in Spain, Renzo Fratini, “put an end to this scandalous situation.”
By Monday afternoon, more than 815 people had signed the petition on change.org. There are plans for a door-stop protest in front of Rouco’s home on Wednesday.
Four priests who were sharing the apartment were reportedly forced to move out when Rouco moved in
The magazine Vida Nueva and the newspaper Religión Digital have also joined forces in denouncing Rouco’s lifetsyle.
José Lorenzo, the editor of Vida Nueva, brought up the issue in an opinion piece under the headline “This isn’t right for cardinals.”
“Is there not a more discreet place to retire? Why did nobody warn him about the shame and damage he would bring to the entire Church?” Lorenzo asked.
“It is not that a cardinal should have to live under a bridge, but there are other equally worthy alternatives that are more in line with a Church that helps the poor, like Pope Francis says and according to the Gospel.”
“No one can understand why Pope Francis lives in a modest house while a retired cardinal is living in luxury,” wrote Fe Adulta. “This is a bad example that comes at a time when the public is demanding an exemplary figure, and many families have lost their homes or are being forced to live with other family members who have low pensions.”
The apartment belongs to a foundation and was inherited by the Church when the owner died.”
Four priests who were sharing the apartment were reportedly forced to move out so that Rouco could occupy the dwelling with his secretary and two housekeepers.
Neither Rouco nor the Church have denied the allegations, which have been published in many media outlets. But some supporters of the former archbishop have spoken out.
“It not true that the remodeling cost half-a-million euros,” Archbishop Osoro told the SER radio network. “The apartment belongs to a foundation and was inherited by the Church when the owner died. You have to get to know Rouco. I was his student in Salamanca and when you get to know him better you will find that he isn’t that type of person.”
Valladolid Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez, who replaced Rouco as head of the Episcopal Conference, also came to his defense during a Good Friday interview with Radio Nacional de España.
“Rouco needs to live in a home with a certain amount of quality and comfort because he is an important figure for the Church and society,” Blázquez said. “And because of that, he needs to have a type of dwelling where he can invite certain public figures, and have them over like any normal person.”