The National Herald plays a pivotal role in covering the issues of our Greek Orthodox Church in America.
During TNH’s first 20 years, hundreds of stories have been written about our ecclesial life in the United States. Among those stories are, unfortunately, many scandals that can be categorized in three sectors: financial, sexual, and administrative.
To the question why we publish “the scandals” since we know that in many cases some very powerful clergymen of all ranks are involved, including high-ranking ecclesiastical officials – archbishops, metropolitans, bishops, archimandrites, priests – some of whom thought they were powerful and attempted harm the newspaper in many ways with wicked statements and even with economic harm by asking our advertisers to cut off their support.
The answer is very simple: the faithful members of our Church and our wider Greek-American community have the right to know since they pay with their monetary contributions, the lighting of the candles, the bake sales, the Greek festivals, everything and everyone. Our community has a right to the information because the opposite of information is ignorance and darkness.
A perfect example is the very recent astonishing revelations about the Archdiocese’s tremendous financial crisis. The unacceptable mismanagement and abuse of the resources of the Church donated by its faithful for holy and sacred purposes. It is a fact that no one would know about if the Herald hadn’t revealed the “scandal.” Yes, it is scandalous; the abuse and mismanagement of the Church’s money. Of course, the responsible person per se is Archbishop Demetrios, because he is in charge of the Church in America. Certainly, the Eparchial Synod and the Archdiocesan Council are equally responsible because they neglected their ethical responsibility toward the faithful people of God and also their fiduciary responsibilities under the law.
And the archbishop, instead of publicly expressing his remorse and asking forgiveness from the faithful and resigning, is trying to take cover behind some laypersons and press releases with promises that he will straighten out the situation. But there is an issue here called “trust” that seems to have been lost, and once it is lost it is extremely difficult if not impossible to be regained. Things would be different if the archbishop had the humility and the courage to come clean and explain to the faithful how and why he failed to be guardian of the Church.
The other unacceptable tactic that the archbishop and his fellow hierarchs are doing is that they present themselves as “the Church,” but they aren’t. They are also members of the Church with the special charisma of the holy priesthood charged with the sacred mission to minister the Church, to be its overseers. They falsely use the tactic that “the Church has been attacked” but that is not the case. Their incompetence and hypocrisy is revealed as simple as that. After all, they are the “salaried employees” of the Church, meaning the Lay Body, and they should be accountable.
The pay and pray mindset belongs in the dark ages and cannot stand in America today.
We approach the various scandals of the Church with responsibility, discretion, and in-depth investigation, always focusing on the interest and wellbeing of our Church. We knew, for example, and had the evidence in our hands for three or more weeks prior to the revelation of the sexual scandal of Fr. George Passias with his “spiritual daughter” Ethel Bouzalas, an associate at St. Spyridon’s parish, but because the issue was so grave and sensitive we wanted to verify everything – all the written and electronic evidence – according to our practice and philosophy, and because we were trying to give the opportunity of all those involved to tell their side of the story we delayed its revelations. Passias, who was also a spiritual product of elder Ephraim and his monasteries, was removed from St. Spyridon and defrocked.
Out of respect to our Church and community, we tried to word the article carefully about the scandalous and unholy behavior of Passias who once served as Chancellor of the Archdiocese under former Archbishop Spyridon, because the Herald is read by everyone in the family, including children.The same process was applied for the big scandal of the Patriarch Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou in Astoria and the orgies that were taking place.
Another sad case was also the one of the former priest Anastasios Gounaris of the Archdiocesan Cathedral. After a stormy tenure at the Cathedral, he was transferred to the St. Nicholas parish in TarponSprings, FL. In a year’s time, he sent an email to Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta informing him that he left from the parish, he established an affair with a woman from Canada, and was dividing his time between Crete, where his lover has a summer home, and Canada.
The scandal of pederasty of the former priest Nicholas Katinas particularly shocked the Archdiocese and the Community because Katinas was above every suspicion. He started sexually molesting boys in his parish in Chicago, IL and he continued in Dallas, TX, where he was transferred.We had enough information and evidence on which we worked for many months trying at the same time to convince the Archdiocese to remove him from the Dallas parish, to no avail. Finally, we revealed the sad story and it took a few articles and some strong interviews from laypersons who called for his removal and defrocking.
These and many other issues were revealed by TNH in our attempt to inform our beloved and respected faithful to clean up our Church. And yet, the heads of the Archdiocese continue their unacceptable practices of transferring predators from parish to parish. The very recent case is Fr. Luke Melackrinos, formerly of St. Paul in Hempstead, NY, who was sending electronically his private parts to a female parishioner and now has beenappointed to the Holy Trinity parish in Sioux City, IA, as TNH recently reported. Archbishop Demetrios and his cronies don’t seem to care about the ethos and integrity of the holy priesthood. There is no other explanation.