The Demetrios Doctrine: “Let It Burn”

The National Herald Archive

FILE - Archbishop Demetrios with Patriarch Bartholomew in a previous meeting at the Theological School of Halki. (Photo by GOA/Dimitrios Panagos)

If there was ever any doubt that the ecclesiastical leadership we have is at this point unworthy of the Greek community, it was confirmed this past week in a tragic way. He put his selfishness and his interest above the interest of his flock and the people who chose him to lead our church almost 20 years ago.

Unfortunately – and we write this with regret – that is what Archbishop Demetrios has done at least since The National Herald broke the story that the Archdiocese was bankrupt. And he set precedent with his rebellion against the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In essence he said: “let it burn.” Or, if you prefer, Samson’s “Let me die with the Philistines” (Judges 16:30). Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, after a long period of crisis and anxiousness – and, many say, protection of Demetrios – decided it was time to do what he should have done many months ago.

He asked for the archbishop’s resignation. Is there anyone with any connection to reality who would disagree with that request? But to the surprise of the uninformed and unobservant, the archbishop refused to resign . He picked up his own flag. He became a rebel.

And what is his excuse? He wants to accomplish his God-given work. To borrow from Peter to pay Paul.

If the Patriarch’s decision was unfair, if he had not shown great patience, if the damage done was not so great, then one could sympathize and support the archbishop. But the issue is obvious. If there is a surprise in this case – which no doubt will have serious consequences for the Church in America and the Patriarchate now and for years to come – it is the way in which the patriarch reacted. (Recall how decisively he acted in the case of Iakovos?)

Patriarch Bartholomew backed off. He looked for mitigating circumstances. He gave Demetrios time to regroup. It is indeed surprising how the experienced Bartholomew did not immediately force Demetrios’ resignation and usher in the election of a new archbishop of America.

Perhaps the Patriarch with his ecclesiastical status, upbringing, and mindset does not have the full picture of the consequences of his act. But the undeniable reality is that he has made a serious mistake. It sends a very unpleasant message to friends of the Patriarchate as well as to its enemies.

A message of acceptance of rebellion from weakness. Something that if he does not change soon, he and the Patriarchate will pay for dearly.

The few rebels today will multiply tomorrow. Because they smell blood...

Some support the theory that the archbishop should be allowed to end his term with “glory and honor” at the end of the Clergy-Laity Congress, which will be held this year in Boston.

July 4 is not that far away, they say. We do not think there is any objection to leaving with dignity. But with celebrations?

But if he is to retire then the Patriarch should not have asked him to resign now.