Translated from the original Greek.
NEW YORK – Ethel Bouzalas, the mistress of Fr. George Passias, who was defrocked on October 13 by the Holy Eparchial Synod for carrying on an affair with her (they are both married), is four months pregnant, Archdiocesan Chancellor Bishop Andonios of Phasiane told TNH, although he is not sure who as to the child’s paternity.
Bishop Andonios first learned about the affair from Bouzalas’ husband, Tom. He said that according to Bouzalas, Passias was pressuring her to abort the child, but Passias denies that. She also said she believed Passias would marry her, but Passias denies that as well.
Furthermore, Andonios said, without mentioning specific names, of financial irregularities at the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Washington Heights (Upper Manhattan), where Passias was priest and Bouzalas was school principal and parish treasurer.
“The whole issue is very sad,” Andonios said. “It was difficult to digest that something like this was going on. It was unbelievable it was going on for eight years, something they both denied many times.” Ultimately, both admitted to the affair.
“It was a very short email,” Andonios said, about the communication Tom Bouzalas sent him. “he wrote, ‘my wife is cheating on me with Fr. George.’ I was in Italy for my niece’s wedding. I think it was Monday, Sept. 7. I replied to him that I am returning tomorrow, please call me and come to the Archdiocese on Thursday to talk, and bring me whatever proof you have, because it is a very serious issue and I must take the proper actions. I didn’t know that the man was in the hospital. On Friday (September 11), I received an e-mail from Fr. George requesting permission to go with his presbytera to see their spiritual father for serious issues.”
Was it the Elder Ephraim? “He didn’t say whom, he simply said ‘our spiritual father.’ This is how I began to suspect something was wrong, having also received Mr. Bouzalas’ email.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
“The following week (Monday, Sept. 21), he came with his presbytera in order to tell me the whole story. He said that he can’t believe what he did, that he was blinded, and he is very sorry for the scandal he has caused to the Church. He also said that he wanted to stop the relationship but Ethel Bouzalas didn’t let him.”
Bishop Andonios says that although he has no proof that Bouzalas is pregnant, “I have no reason not to believe her. She should be about four months pregnant” at this point, he said.
As for Passias, “he told me that he doesn’t know if the child is his, and we left it there,” Andonios said. Passias did not say anything about Bouzalas having relations with other men, though, Andonios added.
Although Bouzalas says Passias pressured her into having an abortion, Andonios says Passias told him “I preached against abortions for so many years; I couldn’t tell her to have an abortion.”
Bouzalas, Andonios says, told him that she was in love with Passias, and that her marriage was not very successful even from the beginning. She got to know Passias when he was at the Holy Cross parish in Brooklyn, and she found him easy to talk to. Both told Andonios, he said, that the actual affair began after they had gone to St. Spyridon.
Andonios says he told Passias that defrockment was a possibility, but it would be up to the Synod. Passias said he preferred not to be defrocked.
After seeing the evidence for himself, Andonios contacted Archbishop Demetrios immediately. “We had gone to Chicago for the Assembly of the canonical Orthodox Bishops and I notified His Eminence there. He was very alarmed. He couldn’t believe it. He felt extremely bad, because he realized that the issue would create a scandal in the Archdiocese and to the faithful.
Andonios says that Passias is back in New York with his wife, and that he didn’t come to see Andonios again upon his return from seeing his spiritual father.
Andonios also explained that the reason he offered to have the Archdiocese pay for Bouzalas’ professional help is because “this is according to our rules. We worried for her condition, and so that she wouldn’t do any harm to herself.”
But why should the Archdiocese have to pay, we asked? “If someone feels they no longer want to exist, should we offer some help? We are not talking about big sums of money. We should help, no matter who she is.”
Andonios says that two years ago, when the New York Post first reported about the affair, Andonios did call Passias in and questioned him, but Passias denied it.
As to St. Spyridon’s finances, “we hired an accountant, and no irregularities were found.
When we reminded him that in a 2012 letter from Timothy Sherman of Cohen Greve & Company, CPA PC indicated there were quite a few irregularities, Andonios said: “I don’t remember, I’ll have to check it. Many times, accountants find something wrong, but they weren’t serious irregularities.”
- SPYRIDON’S FUTURE
What about now? “We will bring in the accountant again to see if there is anything from the time of his last examination. They all know about the money (the $30,000 that Bouzalas took when she left the church) because she revealed it on her own. If she doesn’t return it, we are going to go to the police. She says she lent the money to the parish, but no one from the Parish Council has that same understanding.”
As for Bouzalas’ claim that the $30,000 was just a loan because her husband had given enough over the years in donations, specifically $300,000 to Holy Cross, could the Archdiocese verify that amount? “I will ask,” Andonios said. “If they paid by check, then we can verify. If it was cash, it will be harder.”
Andonios also explained why St. Spyridon borrowed $3.5 million from Alma Bank. It was to correct violations regarding residential apartment buildings the church owns on the same block: “Since Alma Bank assumed management, I know that many things have been corrected and the situation has bettered for the church – and now we have profits.
“We will do an audit of St. Spyridon again. Among the old group, there are people who didn’t do things correctly.”
Will the Archdiocese appoint a new parish council? “At this moment, I don’t see a reason to do so. They all behaved very well. They didn’t do anything wrong. Their only mistake was having complete trust in Fr. George.”
Did Andonios find it peculiar that Passias placed Bouzalas on the Parish Council and made her principal of the St. Spyridon School? “Yes, it was strange,” he acknowledged. “In some parishes, priests have created a mindset that they are in control. But that’s why we have parish councils, for checks and balances.”
So Fr. Passias was defrocked, but why aren’t other clergymen involved in inappropriate conduct defrocked as well?
“You should ask the Synod,” Andonios said. “I am not a member of the Synod. Only they know the answer.”