Letter to the Editor: Opinion of the Church in America

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. (Photo by TNH/Costas Bej)

To the Editor:

The election of Archimandrite Nathanael Symeonides to the hierarchy is very much welcome. By all accounts, he is a very humble, pious, and qualified gentleman and certainly “Axios.” Unfortunately, he stand sin direct contrast to a majority of the hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church of America. This isn’t the opinion of only this writer, but an accepted belief by a vast majority of the faithful and the Greek community at large who believe the hierarchy is a collection of ill-equipped, immoral, and money hungry misfits with few exceptions.

The hierarchy lacks vision for the future, talent, and in some cases, even common decency. A sense of entitlement mixed in with a comical misconception of power is prevalent. Of course, in the real world no one recognizes these people nor do they have any influence in any matter of consequence. Taking pictures of the Archbishop at the White House and plastering them all over the now-defunct Orthodox Observer serves no purpose nor do they fool anyone. For 45 years the Archdiocese has asked for help with religious freedom at the Patriarchate and for intervention in Cyprus. And for 45 years, Washington politicians, whether Democrat or Republican, have generally ignored them, knowing how powerless they are.

Parishioners have been chased away in Massachusetts and Utah, devastating several parishes as a result of ill-advised decisions made by stubborn Metropolitans. Cover-ups of criminal activity have taken place in New York where several church accounts were emptied. In Chicago and to a lesser extent in the Atlanta Metropolis, fundamental Ephramite teachings have decimated dozens of churches. Tollhouses are not supported by dogma or by the canons of the Greek Orthodox religion. In fact, much of what Ephraim teaches, including his supposed elevation from earth, is in direct conflict with our church- yet Metropolitans do little to combat this cancerous growth. Two bishops received money from a church fund from Fr. James Dokos illustrating their sense of entitlement and greed. This theft embarrassed the proud and historic Greek Orthodox community of Chicago, yet the chancellor, Bishop Demetrios, didn’t threaten the thief but the individual who reported the crime. Demetrios was subsequently “recalled.” So where is he now? Some time ago the National Herald reported that Metropolitan Gerasimos and Bishop Apostolos of San Francisco were in conflict due to Apostolos’ insubordination. Clergy accused of unspeakable acts are routinely transferred and in some cases have even been promoted to the hierarchy in other continents.

The franchise type model the Metropolitans utilize to operate the churches is an abject failure, as is the bullying of the parishes and the priests by the hierarchs to hand over money causing bad morale, distrust, and animosity. The idea that Michael Psaros is somehow on the road of transforming the Archdiocese is, of course, ridiculous. The desperate strategy of blaming Jerry Dimitriou for anything and everything is childish and obviously disingenuous. As soon as Psaros stops giving them money, he’ll be discarded as well. Until then, they’ll continue giving him plaques. Archbishop Demetrios is completely unfit remaining in a permanent state of sleep and Bishop Andonios is a laughingstock whose only skill is conducting cover-ups. Most of the clergy and laity know both need to be removed immediately, yet the Patriarchate refuses to take action. Exactly how is Mr. Psaros transforming the Archdiocese with these two individuals still in place?

Why do the faithful say nothing and fund this corruption? The deterioration of the church is not their fault, it is ours. We have given them the authority, the temerity, and fuel their sense of entitlement. We pay them handsomely and treat them as celebrities while they destroy all that has been built by the laity. At the end of the day, the laity’s complacency and failure to act I’m afraid will be the reason for the end of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.

Thomas Bletsas

Brooklyn, NY 

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing an editorial that rings so true.

    And yes, let’s talk about things like the indignities we as parishioners have endured for decades such as having to constantly look at the same pictures of the same cast of clowns and lackeys in the Orthodox Observer who were lorded over us as “the best and the brightest”; I guess that made the rest of us “the worst and the dim witted” even though we were the ones funding the lions share of everything in both our churches and the Archdiocese through our stewardship, fund raising and back breaking work like the annual church festivals, dances, bake sales, etc…

    Remind me again of the names of the people who served in the Archdiocesan Council or its Finance Committee or the St. Nicholas Rebuilding Committee (I’m guessing some of these folks are going to have some ‘splainin to do to the authorities) – Nice Job Guys and Gals!

    Well I for one am going to be entertained to watch “the best and brightest” explain to the Grand Jury that’s just been impaneled how despite their “brightness” both the St. Nicholas Shrine and the Archdiocese bank accounts both are cleaned out despite all the millions of dollars our parishes sent them.

    And yes, if and when Michael Psarros stops writing checks he’ll be discarded like a spoiled carton of milk; however he is a humble servant of the church; we know this because he keeps telling us in all the countless speeches he gives, at all the countless awards ceremonies and dinners honoring him, that he can’t seem to get to fast enough or get enough of.

    Hopefully the next generation will not tolerate what we did, so that they won’t have to deal with what we are dealing with.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with this writer, I couldn’t have described conditions in our Greek-American Orthodox Church better, with one exception, namely, his characterization of archbishop Demetrios as being “unfit.” He may be lacking practical organizational skills for the post, but his personal integrity is beyond reproach; he is simply the victim of an ecclesiastical “swamp” which, unfortunately, tantalizes the Orthodox Church worldwide. To expect the answer to our Orthodox enigma from Istanbul is an illusion!

  3. Until Father Nicholas Kastanas is returned to the Greek Orthodox Church altar, NO MORE MONEY FROM ME!!!

  4. Finally, someone isn’t afraid to address this PR farce. Everyone running to him hoping they too will benefit financially. Hands out, mouths and eyes closed….even when they are fully aware of the terrible tactics being used.

    What they didn’t realize is that comes with a mighty price!! His way or no way!

    Discard, bad mouth, loyal employees that didn’t bow down to him, rewrite the facts and history of the GOA as of it didn’t exist before his arrival, leak misleading information to assist the farce of being transparent and become the self proclaimed Face of the Archdiocese. The price of accepting him to run the Archdiocese and call all the shots is it’s destruction. Hearty price we all shall pay.
    God protect us, give us strength and right these wrongs.

  5. WHAT?

    The Greek Orthodox Church as a criminal enterprise? Is this news?

    Missing monies, sex crimes, money laundering, payoffs, skims, transfers of funds overseas, selling of ecclesiastical offices, collusion with Castro and Erodogon, real estate scams (remember the Long Island building lots in the 90’s?), embezzlement, tampering with witnesses (Chicago and Dokos case), rampant and overt homosexual culture in every synod, enormous payoffs and legal fees for judgments involving pedophiles, drug trafficking in monasteries and elsewhere (Greece), terrorism ( the PLFP which brought you the Black September Munich Olympics massacres of Israeli athletes, financially supported by Jerusalem’s Patriarch and founded by Dr. George Habash, Greek Orthodox).

    Get the picture?

    Oh, and if your looking for the St. Nicholas money, it’s in Greece to avoid the long arm of US creditors and plaintiffs in sex crime cases. Guaranteed.

  6. @Thomas
    Thank you for your courage. Thank you for writing such a powerful editorial.
    And yes, we the laity (current generation) are to blame for the unfortunate circumstances that our beloved Orthodox church finds itself in. We allowed our Bishops, many of our priests, and parish council members to treat us as provata (sheep). When in actuality they should have been treating us as equals – brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. My Grandparents generation never put up with any of this nonsense. And that is why so much was accomplished in our communities…during their watch. In the seventies in Astoria, New York, when parishioners were only dropping dimes and quarters in the baskets – kitchens were installed, day schools were forms, numerous icon projects were completed, and there was diakonia in the community. The Holy Spirit burned brightly.

    The Prophesy of Ezekiel (37:1-14) that will be read on Holy Friday prophesied about the condition of the human soul. Ezekiel experienced visions of dry bones and deadening hearts coming to him after his exile from Jerusalem. These visions not only targeted the people of his own day, but also future generations including us.
    This generation is experiencing a touch of dry bone and a slight numbness in the heart due to the set-backs, disappointments, financial burdens placed on us, and the decline in church ministry. We are missing the fellowship and spiritual edification needed to have healthy communities.

    The laity are the bearers of the holy spirit!

    Kali Anastasi

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