Arlington, MA Parish Devastated Over Priest’s Removal, Boos Methodios

St. Athanasios church was packed on Sunday July 30 at Fr. Nicholas Kastanas final Liturgy "TNH"/Theodore Kalmoukos

ARLINGTON, MA – The St. Athanasius parish in Arlington, MA has fallen into deep crisis due to the sudden dismissal of its popular priest Fr. Nicholas Kastanas by Metropolitan Methodios of Boston.

On July 30, the church congregation booed at Methodios’ name while Fr. Kastanas tried to calm them, saying “it is not nice, it is not fair.” The police presence was visible in front of the church, and there were also law enforcement officers in unmarked cars.

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Methodios, who is vacationing in Greece, told TNH via telephone that “I have no comment other than what is in letter. The decision is aimed for the good of St. Athanasius parish and also Fr. Kastanas.”

Kastanas, Parish Council President Constantinos Ioakimidis and Paul Tsistopoulos also did not comment at the July 30 service. The Metropolis ordered the removal Kastanas’ computer from his office. His keys were taken and the locks were changed.

Margo Moschos raised a signed in the form of the Greek flag proclaiming “Fr. Nick we need you, we love you, we support you”. TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos

The parishioners lined up to receive communion from Kastanas one last time – he was a priest there for the last 28 years. They avoided receiving communion from Assistant Priest Fr. Aaron Walker, who also stood there holding a Holy Chalice.

Kastanas’ removal was announced in a letter on July 27 by Methodios, stating that “for the past few years, the Saint Athanasius Parish has been in a state of turmoil as result of issues involving, in large part, Fr. Kastanas.

Businessman Nicholas Kritikos standing holding a sign that said “Fr. Nick is the best”. Mr. Kritikos cried wile the congregation was applauding him. TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos

The spiritual environment in the Community has been severely damaged by behavior that is wholly contrary to Christian values, which has resulted in, among other things, the distribution of hurtful and destructive communications throughout the Community.

While this turmoil is not totally Fr. Kastanas’ fault, nevertheless, he bears the greatest responsibility. It is the parish priest who is expected to preserve the orderly life and unity of the parish, keeping it faithful to its divine purpose… “After much prayer and reflection, I have arrived at the painful decision to relieve Fr. Kastanas of his pastoral responsibilities at St. Athanasius effective immediately following the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, July 30, 2017. Fr. Kastanas has been notified of this decision.

Parishioners on July 30 openly wept over the impending loss of their beloved priest who, over the decades, blessed their weddings, baptized their children, and buried their loved ones. In his final sermon, Kastanas spoke of peace among members and told them not to speak harshly to one another. “It’s important to be passionate but peaceful.”

One member shouted from the back of the church that “there is no parish without Fr. Nick” while the congregation standing was shouting loudly and rhythmically “Fr. Nick, Fr. Nick.” He received three standing ovations during the sermon.

During Father Nick Kastanas' last service at Arlington's St. Athanasius the Great church, Mathew Gheorghiou stood up to ask why the beloved priest was being removed from office by Boston's Greek Orthodox bishop. Here's his reply.Our story: arlington.wickedlocal.com/news/20170730/no-parish-without-father-nick-st-athanasius-loses-its-long-serving-priest

Posted by Arlington Advocate on Sunday, July 30, 2017

“I am truly blessed to be a part of your family and you to be a part of my family. I thank God for every rich blessing and I want you to please try to come down and be peacemakers, take it easy, and continue to be brothers and sister in the Lord, not be nasty with each other and be gracious and hospitable,” he said.

“When a door closes another one will open,” he continued, “and it is my prayer for all of us to move forward united in our parish because St. Athanasius will always be my parish. I want us to please be united, peaceful and be connected with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and with each other. Work diligently for all of us to sustain that peace that Christ talks about being peacemakers.”

Fr. Kastanas thanked all his co-workers, including those at the Greek School, Sunday School, and the choir, the chanters, the youth, the Philoptochos, the Parish Council, and added “everything will continue and just renew and refresh. This is not a wake or a funeral; this is an opportunity to give glory to God and to rededicate and recommit our efforts.”

The Police presence was visible in front of St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox church in Arlington Massachusetts for the last Divine liturgy of ousted Fr. Nick Kastanas
TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos

Boston’s main newspapers, the Globe and the Herald, as well as numerous television stories provided extensive coverage.

The parish youth spread the story widely on social media, circulated a petition in support of Kastanas that at press time had gathered over 1900 signatures, and have started a GoFundMe account. Some told TNH this is “the beginning of the end” for the parish.

The parish consists by more than 800 families and it was considered one of the best parishes not only of New England but in the entire Archdiocese. The parish moved to its current location in 2005 when an entire hill of buildings including the church was purchased from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. The parish has taken a big loan that it repays every month. A year ago, Fr. Aaron Walker was assigned to the parish as assistant priest.


31 Comments

  1. I wrote a letter to Fr. Ted Barbas and the diocese of Boston on how the arlington issues was poorly handled ! I received a reply that they will not accept any of my e-mails and I am officially of the diocese LISTSERV . It shows you that they are cowards!! All of them should be investigated. The people want to see their accounting.

  2. Usually when a parish doesn’t kick up enough money to the Archdiocese the remove the priest and install a sub par priest as punishment to the parish. We don’t have all the facts in this case. Did the priest give a personal reason why he was terminated?

  3. Let’s not make comments that will rile up rumors or say hurtful words without the facts. I don’t know the facts behind this dismissal. Until then no judgements nor speculations should be made. This is shocking to me too as a practicing Orthodox Christian, however let’s wait and see what the facts are. I am confident this will work itself out for Father Kastanas and the Orthodox community.

  4. Is the church the private property of the “metropolitan-archbishop” or does it belong to the members of the church, the ecclesia? It appears that although the “metropolitan-archbishop” may not have ownership of the church he has certainly full managerial control of it. We have allowed that to happen.

    1. We all theologians know that we cannot do what we want. Once a Priest is ordained, he reports to his Bishop or Metropolitan. This tradition has worked very well in the life of the Orthodox Church years. The Bishop or the Metropolitan is the overseer of a geographical area. In this case Metropolitan Methodios is the overseer of the Metropolis of Boston. St. Cyprian of Carthage emphasizes this ecclesiological truth in the following striking terms: The Bishop is in the Church and the Church in the Bishop; and if one is not in communion with the Bishop, he is not in the Church. I as a theologian, I feel obliged to inform everybody writing comments here that, if you read the Canons of our Church very well you will find instructions of who the Bishop or Metropolitan is within the Church. “Orthodox Tradition has always assigned the Bishop to such a central place in the Church, that it proclaims through the Holy Patriarch of Jerusalem ( 1707) the following great truth: What God is in the heavenly Church of the firstborn, and the sun in the world, such is each Bishop in the local Church.” St. Ignatius writes, “Do nothing without the knowledge of the Bishop.” Can we really treat a Bishop or Metropolitan with disrespect, when, indeed, we take into account that the 25th Apostolic Canon states that, a clergyman who insults a Bishop be deposed, while the 3rd Canon of the Synod at Hagia Sophia anathematizes a layman who dares to strike a Bishop. Even what is written here disrespecting the Bishop is in itself striking the Bishop, and therefore it would require someone to go for confession. Do you think that Orthodox Priests all over the world are able to follow their own pastoral agendas, when the 39th Apostolic Canon states that: Let Presbyters and Deacons not carry out anything without the knowledge of the Bishop. The Orthodox Church is a faith like no other. When you study these things, you appreciate more what we have in our hands. Orthodoxy is life. I would also like to say that, Metropolitan Methodios tries hard to protect his Priests.

      1. Kostas, What do the Canon law profess when the actions of metropolitan and chacellor destroy the reputaion and livelihood of a most humble btother in Christ, a priest for 30+ years? Your last line is your opinion and in no way reflects what many priests have experienced in this Diocese during the past 34 years…Change is coming to the Metropolis of Boston, mark my words..Nτροπή υους!

      2. Please be reminded of the following:
        “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23.)
        If Jesus reprimanded St. Peter, I think we have the right to at least question the behavior of the bishop, unless, of course, the bishop is superior to Jesus Christ. Is he?

      3. Dear theologian, you are asking ” Can we really treat a Bishop or Metropolitan with disrespect” and I am asking you, can we really allow our priest, of the caliper of father Nick to be treated with disrespect? Can we allow any Bishop to become a dictator?
        By expressing our displeasure with the Bishop’s decision, you are suggesting we go for confession?. He allowed his puppets to turn our church up side down. He needs a confession.
        Can we allow the Bishop to disrespect the parishioners by ignoring their wishes? You are saying that a clergyman who insults a Bishop be deposed, but how about a Bishop that insults the clergyman and the entire community? Is there a mechanism to depose a Bishop?
        He removed our priest “electronically” and you are saying that “Metropolitan Methodios tries hard to protect his Priests:? SHAME
        He allowed the police to be present during our last liturgy with Fr. Nick. Whom was he protecting? SHAME
        He confiscated the personal computer of Fr. Nick. He had no right to do that since WE THE PARSHIONERS paid for it. SHAME
        He allowed the locks to the office of our priest be changed. SHAME
        He allowed members of the parish council to treat our spiritual leader like a criminal. SHAME

      4. Kostas:0

        1. “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). The great Orthodox Christian Feodor Dostoyevsky writes: “if I have to choose between Truth and Christ, I will choose Christ.”

        2. “The human will is like a beast between God and Satan. If God sits on it, it wills and goes where God wills it to go…. If Satan sits on it , it wills and goes where Satan wills. Nor does it have the power to choose which rider it will go or seek, but the riders struggle over which of them will have it or rule it.” (St. Augustine).
        Let’s look and see who the rider is.

  5. Methodius fancies himself ecumenical, really ecumenical.
    Most of the times Greeks say that they are off the wall nuts.
    In fact Rome only wants submission, never ecumenism.
    But this guy is totally Age of Aquarius

    1. Thank you for the comments that i have just read. I love your input in this matter. I admire your passion on the issue at hand. First and foremost, let me ask a question to you all. If you needed a heart transplant, whom would you want to do the operation, a plumber or a heart surgeon? That may sound like a dumb question, but we make the same choice everyday. Who do you want to control your life, you or your Creator? Who is better qualified? Of course Christ is. Do what Christ would do in this matter. Stay calm, humble, peaceful and in prayer for God to guide us through the way forward. Yes, Ιωαννα mou. The last line is definitely my own opinion, but again i don’t think you need to go that far. Me and you we are laypeople if you may. We cannot Ordain Deacons or Priests, celebrate the Sacraments or even do the Heirothesia, but where we get a nerve to insult an Arch-priest, i do not know. Mr. Ballas, I thank you so much for quoting the Scriptures. You do take time to read the Bible, and that is exemplary. A little bit of exegesis on the Scripture you quoted. Peter didn’t see the big picture. When Jesus was telling His disciples about what must happen, Peter only heard that Jesus was to be killed. He didn’t want his Master, his best friend to leave him. Peter didn’t realize that if Jesus didn’t do this, then any of them or us could never enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus knew from where Peter received his thoughts and why Peter rebuked Him. Satan had given Peter these thoughts, because Satan knew that he was domed if Jesus died on that cross. Satan knows that when he convinces me and you to use offensive language, and disrespect crucial leaders of the Church, we are going down with him. He wants to take all of us down. Hebrew 13:17. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you”. I used to read the Bible upside down when it came to verse that spoke against life. That has since changed because i saw no spiritual growth in that. Do you realize that all the numbers of these Scriptural verses are Odd numbers? St. Paul the Apostle of Christ by the mercy of God writes in Romans 13:3, ” All of you must obey those who rule over you. There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen. Those who now rule have been chosen by God. So whoever opposes the authorities opposes leaders whom God has appointed. Those who do that will be judged”. I am not saying that anybody did anything wrong here. I do not know, but as St. Paul admonishes us, “Let your conscience be your witness.” I am praying for Fr. Nick,the community and “all your people Oh Lord” and i hope the Lord will strengthen him and all of us in Orthodoxy. With much love to you all.

      1. Steve, I love Dostoevsky as a writer and a journalist, novelist, short story writer and philosopher, but his writings on Christian Theology is lacking. I would quote him in matters of Liberation Theology, if it exists. Otherwise, Dostoevsky is not someone one would use in Christian Theology.

  6. As a member of a parish with some turmoil, I can appreciate some of the comments here. However, these types of actions are not taken lightly, without substance/proof, and without emotion. To correct someone earlier, a priest is NOT removed because their parish does not contribute its fair share stewardship to the Archdiocese. They are given the opportunity to correct these actions over time. Now, if they refuse, then action can be taken.

    Given that we don’t know the truth regarding the issues surrounding Father Nick, don’t speculate. A concern here is why was his computer taken from him. I have only seen this in one type of case and it’s not pretty.

    1. Thank you Steve for your question in regards to the link. If you read the previous article i wrote, you will see that i stated, “We are lay people”. We do not ordain Priests or Deacons……. We are not in the Holy Orders, therefore we obligated to tread carefully in this arena. I think this is a matter of the Holy Synod and the Mother Church. Everything is being done in the Spirit of love and Caring. I did not see anything that came off as being disrespectful .1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.” You doing good, but you can do better. In regards to George A. Whenever we talk about the teachings of the Orthodox Church, we talk about The Scriptures, the Canons, the Liturgical life, the Dogmas, the Ethics and so on. We cannot pick and choose what we will embrace and what we will not. I hope we will choose to live Orthodoxy in its entirety. Orthodoxy is love and continue loving each other. Much love to all.

      1. @kostas “We are lay people” really?
        As the Laity – The Laos, ( the people of the almighty God) we bear the spirit of the Church…we are the church!!!!
        In the eyes of God the clergy and laity are one.
        If we love the faith like all of us claim we do, then we need to be in step with every ministry in our churches…
        Most Holy Theotokos Save Us

      2. OK Kostas:
        You state that Dostoevky is not a good Christian theologian. What is a good christian theologian? I guess Leo Tolstoy was not a good Christian theologian either, and that the Church was right in excommunicating him. It appears the great Tolstoy was wrong when he wrote that ‘the Kingdom of God is within you.” Right?

  7. Stephen – You suggest we not speculate, but your final statement is full of innuendo. I am a retired human resources professional who has seen computers taken away and access denied terminated employees for many different reasons. Each done in consultation with attorneys and with law enforcement present if necessary.

    Perhaps the situation is this: In the absence of human resources or employment law expertise, these actions seem like decisions of people who must control the situation in every way. Further, we do not know if these actions were suggested by the Metropolitan or taken by individual board members.

    A simple search of the internet shows several actions taken by Metropolitan Methodios which are not only examples of poor human resources management, but one was known to displease Patriach Bartholomew (http://orthodoxbeacon.com/nation/outrage-at-a-new-england-parish-over-actions-of-metropolitan-methodios/).

    This decision to remove Father Kastanas, while the Metropolitan’s to make, was executed in an unnecessarily hurtful and underhanded way. Metropolitan Methodios will have to answer to Patriach Bartholomew.

    1. Greetings Michael A, I agree with you. I hope you had taken time to underline the entire sentence. It seems you chose one line and elaborated on that. What does the word ordination mean? It means the action of ordaining or conferring holy orders on someone. Are we lay people? Yes, we are and i can see in your words a candidate for Ordination. In the Old testament you see it clearly a Priest standing in the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. Yes, “the Laos”. One of the Books of the Old testament (Malachi) teaches us that we must strive to offer to God the best we can(the Laos). Not everybody is the same. Each of us has our own package of abilities, intelligence levels, and skills. We have different attitudes about things and circumstances. We have been reared in different kinds of environments, and so our attitudes toward things are not always the same. We have different sins and weaknesses to overcome. Much love to all,

      1. @kostas
        Thank you for your heartfelt response…
        It is inspiring to see so many people expressing their love for our Orthodox faith.
        I understand the point your are making about ordination. However, let us not forget the Great Commission of Christ, ” go and make disciples of all nations” – this is the one thing Christ expects all of us to do with love, compassion, and dikonia – not capitulation which has been the case.
        The great commission is a holy order from Christ himself…He is the Helmsman steering all of us toward salvation.
        He knows what best for the church.
        As for me being a candidate for ordination, well, God only knows

      2. Mr. Ballas, This is what you wrote, “It appears the great Tolstoy was wrong when he wrote that ‘the Kingdom of God is within you.” Right? Mr. Tolstoy must have made a mistake for not writing his footnotes and bibliography. In Luke 17:20-21 we read. ” When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs. Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” That does not sound like Tolstoy does it? May all the Glory be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I hope i answered your question. let me know if something is not clear.

    2. Thank you A. Ballas,
      I love these questions. Thank you for picking my brain. Yes, you are right that Leo Tolstoy was no a good theologian. I applaud the Russian Orthodox Church for excommunicating him. They had to do that, and there was no other way to do it. Leo Tolstoy believed that Jesus was not the “Son of God”, nor did he perform any supernatural miracles. In other words, Jesus Christ never died, He never even resurrected from the dead. Look here my friend, the Church was founded upon the death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthian 15:14 “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith. In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God. For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead, but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.…” Mr. Ballas, you do not have to go that far to Tolstoy. Theodoret of Mopsuestia never became a Saint of the Church because he used allergory to interpret the Gospel. I will tell you that the Orthodox Church has always had Canons and traditions that have worked very well. Thank you for such a beautiful question Mr. Ballas. I appreciate this. If you pick something good from Leo, use it, but it is crucial for you to know that he was never a theologian, if he was, it was his own theology.

  8. I am curious. Was there any dispute resolution involved in the process to remove Father Nick from his position? There are procedures for dispute resolution. See: https://www.goarch.org/-/dispute-resolution-procedures. See, also: https://www.goarch.org/documents/32058/3058354/2007_dispute_resolution_procedures.pdf/a32d4f05-1297-452c-a137-f7962fe3d7c0 Specifically, “Subject to canonical tradition, in the event that the service of a Priest in a Parish is interrupted for any reason and he cannot be or is not reassigned by the respective Hierarch, the Priest shall have the right to request that the matter be heard by the Synodal Committee on Clergy Affairs, which committee shall be convened to hear the case and to seek to mediate a resolution. The Synodal Committee on Clergy Affairs shall be chaired by a Metropolitan (other than the Hierarch involved in the matter) and shall also include five (5) Priests, two (2) of whom shall be chosen by the Hierarch involved in the matter, and three (3) of whom shall be chosen by the Eparchial Synod from among clergy serving in a Metropolis/Archdiocesan District other than the one in which the Priest involved in the matter is located. The Synodal Committee on Clergy Affairs shall meet and review the matter and provide a recommendation to the Synod within sixty (60) days of the date the request is submitted to the committee. In the event of the dismissal of a Priest for canonical reasons, the rules of Spiritual Court shall apply in accordance with canonical tradition, the Charter and these Regulations.”

    1. Very good observation Katherine. I do not know, but this i read.” As these Dispute Resolution Procedures do not displace the Holy Canons and Traditions of the Church, they shall serve as a critical adjunct authority, providing a sole and exclusive remedy for the resolution of Disputes, thereby preserving the peace in the
      Church”

  9. Police and unmarked cars outside a church? The bible says: ‘If possible, as far as it depends on you, be peaceable with all men’ (Romans 12:18) Chants of “Fr. Nick, Fr. Nick.” He received three standing ovations during the sermon. ‘Therefore, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry.’ (1 Corinthians 10:14) Holding up a flag in a place of worship? ‘My Kingdom is no part of this world.’ (John 18:36) When the true word of God, the Bible, is not the followed, people tend to follow people and prefer false doctrine over truth. ‘You skillfully disregard the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.’ (Mark 7:9)

    1. Rudy, I love your quotes. There is a Greek word “ταυτότητα” which means “Identity”. The flag symbolizes the identity of the Nation and the people of God. It is in fact an identity that we must not be ashamed of within the Church circles. Gen. 12:2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

  10. The letter says: “The spiritual environment in the Community has been severely damaged…” Reading this, I was surprised: I wonder what disorder the letter sites as we have witnessed only love and loyalty of the parish to our priest. If there is any discord in the community, it must be between very small minority and very large majority. Also, it is very difficult to believe that a priest who served well for 27 years suddenly cannot “control” his parish. It is quite more likely that the Metropolitan was misinformed by connected few and maybe even manipulated. In any case, people showed their love their priest, and as Christ preaches love more then anything, it seems to me that Christ is with us and Father Nick. I hope Metropolitan reconsiders his decision in light of show of support for fr. Nick.

  11. “The spiritual environment in the Community has been severely damaged…” That is enough for me. I do not want to probe any further. I want to keep the integrity of my Priest intact. I thank whoever is responsible not to elaborate on this. I want to be able to trust again, to love again, to be inspired, to be transformed and continue being an optimist. Simon, please be reminded that it does not matter how many years we have been Orthodox Christians , we are still human beings who are spiritually vulnerable. Again , i wrote here before, we all need to take a deep breath and pray for Our Church and the leaders.

  12. “The spiritual environment in the Community has been severely damaged…” That is enough for me. I do not want to probe any further. I want to keep the integrity of my Priest intact. I thank whoever is responsible not to elaborate on this. I want to be able to trust again, to love again, to be inspired, to be transformed and continue being an optimist. Simon, please be reminded that it does not matter how many years we have been Orthodox Christians , we are still human beings who are spiritually vulnerable. Again , i wrote here before, we all need to take a deep breath and pray for Our Church and the leaders.

  13. Why do we go to Church? I would like my friends that i have found here to write the reasons why they go to Church,and at the end, i will seal the deal. I as one, i would say that i will have the opportunity to worship God while participate in the Liturgy. I believe by the time we are done, everyone will be going to Church next Sunday. God bless you all.

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