Letter to the Editor: A Different Kind of Abuse

FILE - The Christmas tree at Holy Cross Church in Whitestone was lit while the children sang the kalanta, the traditional Christmas carols. (Photo by TNH/Eleni Sakellis)

Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church (Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, etc.) would be surprised to know that there exists a spiritual, emotional, and psychological abuse perpetrated by their very own Church, on a select group of its own members, namely, widowed priests! If this sounds unthinkable, please listen to my personal story.

I served my Greek Orthodox Church as a priest, faithfully and devotedly, for 48 years. Shortly before my retirement, my beloved wife, (“Presvytera”) succumbed to cancer, leaving me in a state of utter loneliness and desperation. To ameliorate my predicament and live the rest of my life in an honorable and dignified way, I decided to contract a new marriage and share my remaining days in love and compassion and help with another woman, as has been ordained by our Creator.

And then came my Mother Church to deprive me of my sacred priesthood, by returning me to the “status of layman,” by invoking a so-called “Apostolic Canon” which prohibits second marriage to a widowed priest. The decision was made in Istanbul by the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, without any hearing, or advocacy.

I protested and fervently asked that the decision be revoked for the following reasons:

First and foremost, the “canon” called Apostolic is a heretical, misanthropic, myopic and fake jumble of the 4th century, a real forgery composed by people who infiltrated the true Orthodox Faith with their false ideas and teachings and hijacked our Church into very un-Christian and inhumane territories. Ever since, our Orthodox Church (along with other religious groups) has not been able to arrive at a true understanding of Religion and Sexuality.

Second, we believe priesthood to be an indelible sacrament and the idea of “returning” a priest to the status of layman is a novel one, contrary to the doctrinal teachings of the Church.

Last and most importantly, the deep psychological impact this problematic decision has had on me! My former parishioners, knowing me as Fr. Basil for 48 years, are being instructed by the bishop, through local priests, to not call me “Father” any more or to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. Is this the Church I so lovingly served all my life, committing such a criminal act on me? Is there anybody who could help? My repeated pleas to the patriarch and his synod to rescind this wrongful decision and let me finish my earthly journey as a faithful priest, that I have been, have fallen on deaf ears!

Fr. Basil Papanikolaou

Davenport, IA

3 Comments

  1. Father Basil,

    My heart goes to you…
    A man like myself believes that our “Holy Church” is a living – breathing organism, a life, and our true love completely understands your passion to serve the church.

    I am not surprised that your pleas of being fully restored to the sacred priesthood have fallen on deaf ears. Our Bishops do not have a bit of empathy, compassion or necessary savvy which is why is the church is not being shepherded as a church should be and has fallen into complete disorder. Christ, never intended the church to be a glorified community, service provider, or a collection agency which, unfortunately, is what it has become.

    As for the Patriarch, it’s unfortunate that he did not consider granting you economia. Maybe he should spend a little more time shepherding the church instead of trying to save the planet.

    “Canons are brief prohibitive statements. No background as to why there were issued. Canons were written by myopic and heretical view of human nature.” They are inhumane!! According to the “rudder” every single orthodox christian has a canonical issue.

    Regarding the topic of second marriage in the Orthodox church – whether priest or layman – their is a clear inconsistency. There are dozens of priests and deacons serving our churches with seconds marriages. I met a few while attending the diaconate program at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. In November of 2011, the Holy Synod convened in New York and proclaimed that there will be no ordinations for anyone who is either remarried or divorced. However, the decision taken by the synod is only applicable to Orthodox Christians. It does not include converts who had been married in other faiths (even multiple times) and then were christmated and remarried in the Orthodox church (Greek In particular). I discussed this matter with the archdiocese ( because of my own situation) and was told the Greek Orthodox church does not recognize marriages from the Catholic and protestant churches which is where most of the converts previous marriages ( now serving as clergy) originated from. In actuality, the Greek Orthodox Church is saying the “Holy Spirit” was not present at these previous marriages, so they do not count and are not an impediment to ordination.

    Don’t give up Father, the church is in need of true servants.

    With love in Christ,
    Michael Albano

  2. This is the short-sightedness of the despots who run the church in this country including “Archcriminal Demetrios” and his mob bosses (Metropolitans). Maybe if they followed the truth of our religion their wouldn’t be all these sexual predators in our church that the hierarchy hides in various jurisdictions. If being married is an offence then why do they call it a sacrament. Hypocrites is what they are to deprive a true priest o continue his ministry.

  3. Thank you, Dear Publisher-Editor, for your extreme kindness in displaying my pain and tragic circumstances for more than a week. The lack of more responses (even negative) indicates that readers don’t bother to read letters or, which is worse, there is utter apathy among us!

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