I have written several times about The Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology Boston. My revisit today is prompted by the revealing article in last week’s edition, regarding two of the six teachers who were dismissed – for financial reasons, as its administration maintains – Dr. Evie Zachariades-Holmberg and Father Emmanuel Clapsis, who are suing the School.
Certainly the mistakes and pathologies of the past should not be repeated in the School from now on. The School, under a new Archbishop, Elpidophoros, who is also an academic, a professor at the University of Thessaloniki, can and should become a renowned school of the Faith and the Genos, with a broad mission.
The School as a nursery and incubator of priests, hierarchs, and theologians is the backbone of our Church in America, and has a direct impact on the organization of our Community and the life of our Omogenia in general. I do not think there is any intelligent person who disagrees that the ecclesiastical communities (parishes) are the basic and essential building block of the Omogenia in America, not only institutionally, but also in terms of buildings, if you prefer, and certainly, educationally and culturally.
I do not intend to denigrate the federations, associations and unions of our Omogenia in any way, but it would be voluntary blindness if I did not notice their current level and scope. It is clear that they have completed their cycle, while the course of their decline seems to be irreversible precisely because action was not taken in time for continuation and reconstruction, so that the new generations could take over.
Let me also say that the same has begun to happen with the ecclesiastical communities, which are beginning to have the look and feel of aging bodies. One glance at the permanent members of their parish councils is enough to realize the magnitude of the decline. Elpidophoros has a titanic struggle ahead of him, being of a young age, to inspire and attract young people and bring new blood to the communities. Otherwise famine is coming, because there will be an expiration date in the communities, as is the case today with the organizations.
The reality is bitter but I dare to say it is true, that we should not expect anything from Greece, because no government, including the current one, has dealt substantially and seriously with the Omogenia, except temporarily and occasionally. The only glimmer and substantial contribution was the securing of the donation of two million euros, which was adopted on the initiative of Antonis Diamataris when he was Deputy Foreign Minister for Greeks Abroad. Just that.
Understandably, most problems in the communities start with the School of Theology, due to the troubled, semi-educated, and ignorant clergy who have been graduating in recent years. There are, of course, some brilliant exceptions that still enable it to preserve its status and prestige. The School, like all institutions, walks through time and history through the steps of actual individuals. When people fall short, institutions also fall short. In other words, it is the people who populate and sustain institutions, but the institutions in turn are a reflection of those people. This is exactly what the wise statement about school administrators – “the principal reveals the man” – means.
Elpidophoros, being a professor himself, knows very well that the School should be staffed with the best minds, with people of stature, and that he should discharge the longstanding ‘exceptional mediocrities’, who neither offer anything or provide anything to the School or the Church.
Here is a malaise: It is inconceivable to grant permanent tenure to priest-professors who, when fired, drag the School and consequently the Church and consequently the Archbishop – since he is institutionally the Chairman of the Board – to court. Really, what is more essential for a clergyman, the priesthood or the teaching profession?
The School must also make a more strict selection and sorting of incoming students. To choose the best in everything and exclude whoever is problematic, former drug addicts, former alcoholics, twisted individuals, just to show numbers – because then the quality reaches rock bottom.
The new administration of the School must look for students from our Omogenia, which has children who are truly pearls, instead of picking just anybody, as was done until now. No one should graduate unless he is fluent in both languages, Greek and English. No professors should be appointed if he or she does not know the Greek language fluently. They should only appoint people with substance, character, and ethics to offices. Cassocks and long beards to the knees are not qualifications, but are rather a negative image especially to the new generations of Greek-Americans – they are Taliban-like forms and figures.
The School should be the pride of the Archdiocese and the Omogenia in America, and not its shame, with the image that has emerged in these days of appeals to the courts with documentation in the form of a letter from a hierarch of the Church. Shame! The following question has come to me from many corners of the Community since the publication of last week’s article: why should the Omogenia support such an unhealthy situation? Really, what answer can be given? I am just contemplating the turmoil in which Elpidophoros found himself, which we must admit that he is fighting, and we must trust him because he has dared and will dare to make changes in structures and personnel, because what is important to him is the Church and the Omogenia.