To the Editor:
A report of an interview given by Pope Francis to an Italian journalist was recently published in the International Herald Tribune. Although the pope was speaking of the Roman Curia and the Catholic Church, his comments accurately described the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). In the interview the Pope called the church “overly clerical and insular, interested in temporal power”. He pointed out that the “heads of the church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers.” As for the Roman Curia he said: “The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”
In addition to cleaning up scandals the pope, according to the article, intends to “rid the church of careerists, climbers, and those who value clerics more than the laity.” “Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity,” Pope Francis said in the interview. At the end of the interview, he indicated that he was interested in meeting again with the interviewer to discuss “the role of women in the church”, noting that in the Italian language, “the church is feminine.”
Could Mr. Theodore Kalmoukos, your religion reporter, have described the Patriarchal Nuncio in the GOA and the other ecclesiastical bureaucrats at East 79th Street any better? The Orthodox Church, with its rich tradition of informed and active participation in all of its affairs by the Royal Priesthood of laity, has seen an alarming trend towards clericalism over recent years.
Your recent report on clergy salaries raised questions about whether the priesthood in the GOA is a calling or a career move. Priests reportedly currying favor with hierarchs for choice assignments; archimandrites lobbying to become bishops (and even threatening legal actions if not chosen); bishops appealing to Istanbul to become metropolitans; metropolitans jockeying for position to become archbishop; and stories of archbishops using U.S. government channels in order to become patriarch.
Is the long-awaited Great and Holy Council being delayed because there is a competition over which patriarch will become the “Eastern Pope”? For 26 years the Orthodox Christian Laity has been warning against the increasing clericalism in our Church; advocating for the restoration of the proper role of the laity; for transparency and accountability in church governance; and for Orthodox Unity.
While Pope Francis is moving the Roman Catholic Church towards an authentic Orthodox ecclesiology – the clerical “narcissists” in the GOA who are used to being “flattered and thrilled by their courtiers” have been moving the church in the opposite direction. It is time for our Church leadership…both lay and clergy…to pay attention to Pope Francis.
George D. Karcazes