N.J. Catholic diocese sells archbishop’s controversial ‘luxury’ retirement house for $910K

A sprawling retirement house used by former Newark Archbishop John J. Myers — that drew protests from some parishioners for being too lavish for a Catholic priest — has been sold, church officials said.

The Hunterdon County residential house, which included two elevators, indoor and outdoor pools and a three-story addition, sold last month for $910,000 to an undisclosed buyer, the Archdiocese of Newark said in a statement.

The real estate listing called the property a “private luxurious estate on 8+ acres.”

The sale came nine months after Myers died at age 79.

The five-bedroom house located on 8.3 wooded acres in the Pittstown section of Franklin Township had been controversial for years. In 2014, more than 22,000 people signed a petition calling on the Catholic Church to sell the house after The Star-Ledger published a story detailing a planned $500,000 addition to the residence with a library, indoor exercise pool, therapeutic whirlpool hot tub and multiple fireplaces.

Some parishioners said they were withholding donations to their local churches to protest Myers’ “tone deaf” use of the private residence at a time when Pope Francis was preaching about austerity in the church and living in a modest apartment in the Vatican.

Myers was also under scrutiny at the time for his handling of priest sexual abuse cases in the archdiocese.

But the Archdiocese of Newark kept the house and Myers used it as a weekend residence until his 2016 retirement, when he moved in full-time.

The archdiocese announced it would put the house up for sale in January 2020 after Myers moved back to his native Illinois to live near family members as his physical and mental health declined. The house was originally listed for sale for $945,000 in July 2020.

The real estate listing said: “Over 7,300 sq. ft of luxury living space all set on a totally private 8+ acre estate. So many possibilities for this unique custom home. Amenities include 2 elevators, a heated outdoor Gunite pool plus an indoor 14′ endless exercise pool, 4 fireplaces, wide plank wood flooring, new septic system in 2014, exterior sprinkler system, whole house generator, security system, central vacuum and so much more.”

The money from the $910,000 house sale will go back to the Catholic Church, officials said.

“A real estate transaction commission will be deducted from the sale price, and proceeds will return to the Archdiocese of Newark to benefit ongoing ministries, especially those impacted by the pandemic,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

There are no plans to buy another weekend or retirement house for Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the current Archbishop of Newark. Tobin lives in the archbishop’s residence in Newark. Most priests live in church rectories and many live together after they retire in retirement homes run by the Catholic Church.

Myer’s retirement house was the last private residence owned by the Archdiocese of Newark.

“Except for parish-owned properties, this is the only private residential property that is owned by the archdiocese. The archdiocese has no plans to purchase any future residences,” Archdiocese of Newark officials said.

It appears the archdiocese did not make a profit on the house. The house on Lower Kingtown Road was purchased in 2002 for $678,000, the archdiocese said. But the archdiocese spent at least another $500,000 on the property to build a new three-story wing off the original house.

Although the archdiocese is a tax-exempt organization, it paid property tax each year on the residence because the house was not primarily used for religious purposes, an archdiocese spokesman said in 2014. The 2020 taxes were listed at $27,749 a year.

The initial money to buy the property in 2002 came from the archdiocese’s sale of another house — a Jersey Shore beach house once used by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick when he was Archbishop of Newark. McCarrick was later accused of sexual misconduct after he allegedly invited seminarians and other priests to share his bed at various Shore houses owned by the Catholic Church. McCarrick denied any wrongdoing, but has since been laicized and stripped of his duties as a priest.

The money for the $500,000 addition to Myers’ retirement house came partly from donors and the sale of other church-owned properties, including a Connecticut house used by retired Newark Archbishop Peter Gerety, who moved to a residence for retired priests in Rutherford before his death, church officials said.

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