The headline is a misnomer. What will strike the careful reader are several important points, including:
- Total payments in the GOA since 2000 for sexual abuse related cases total $16 million;
- The GOA pays out $150,000 a month in sexual abuse settlements from one case alone;
- An implied relationship exists between the toleration of homosexuality and child abuse;
- The Greek Government is being asked to fund Hellenic College and Holy Cross Seminary;
- The Ecumenical Patriarch has final administrative authority over the GOA;
- Hellenism (as distinct from and parallel to Orthodox Christianity) remains the conceptual framework through which the evangelistic work of the GOA in America is filtered.
The article, framed in laudatory tones, in fact uncovers very serious problems. It was published in The National Herald (Octobery 24, 2009); interviewer is Theodore Kalmoukos. H/T: Pokrov.org.
The remarkable life of His Eminence includes distinguished work as a scholar of Christian origins, beloved teacher and servant of the Orthodox Church.
His Eminence Discusses His Ten Years of Service in an Exclusive Interview with TNH
BOSTON – It has been ten years since the election and enthronement of Achbishop Demetrios to the Archiepiscopal throne of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
In an exclusive interview with The National Herald, His Eminence touched upon a variety of ecclesiastical issues, and answered the tough questions that must be asked about the challenges, problems and prospects of the ecclesial life of the Archdiocese and the Greek American community.
His Eminence spoke about the telephone call he received from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew offering him the position of Archbishop, the changes in the Archdiocesan charter, the formation of uniform parish regulations, the finances of the Church and the $16 million paid to the victims of the pedophile priests, the School of Theology and much more.
TNH: Your Eminence, 10 years have gone by and it seems like it was yesterday. What were your thoughts then and what are your thoughts today?
ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS: The time went by so fast that it really seems like lightning. On Thursday, August 19 in 1999 I was at my desk at home in New Psychiko in Athens and I was writing something when the phone rang. It was His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch who called and told me that “We are in a Synodal session and I am calling to announce to you that we have taken the decision for you to go to America as Archbishop and I would like to ask you not to postpone or decline.” I told the Patriarch, “I am speechless. It is a calling from God, and although I am mindful of the tremendous difficulties that exist, I have no right to decline at this moment.”
The Patriarch said, “I thank you very much; we will contact the Church of Greece to request your ecclesiastical release.”
Archbishop Christodoulos of blessed memory responded immediately, releasing me [from my duties to the Church of Greece] and the official election took place within an hour. The next day I traveled to The Ecumenical Patriarchate. I appeared before the Holy Synod, and the election was announced to me officially. I accepted it and we then went to the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George and offered the Great Minima – the official pronouncement of the election.
TNH: A few days prior to that, you were invited to the Patriarchate and they offered you to come to America as a Locum Tenens, but you declined.
DEMETRIOS: Yes, my reply was that whoever goes to America should not go as a Locum Tenens, because his situation would be extremely difficult and he wouldn’t be able to do anything.
TNH: What are your thoughts today?
DEMETRIOS: As we had foreseen, there were many difficulties on many levels, but God has helped in an unbelievable way.
TNH: How would you characterize these 10 years?
DEMETRIOS: It was a decade with some very big concerns because there were some problems, but also much joy and satisfaction in such an extraordinary flock. I feel the presence of God in everything that is done. They ask me sometimes, ‘What do you do?’ and I reply, ‘Nothing. God does it all and I simply try not to be an obstacle.’
TNH: Has this decade changed you as a person and as a hierarch?
DEMETRIOS: I often say after the University of Athens and Harvard, where I did my graduate studies, this has been the big university [in my life]. It is a change [stemming from] experiences and knowledge [gained from] situations and human interactions that can only be imagined by those who have lived through them.
TNH: Did you ever imagine when you first came here as a student at Harvard that some day you would become the Archbishop of America?
DEMETRIOS: Not only then but also afterwards, I never conceived of it, and I did not want something like this to happen because I thought I could offer more to theology, to pastorship and to preaching the word of God. The other thing it involves, administration, I was not very enthusiastic about.
TNH: Did you change as a human being?
DEMETRIOS: You cannot remain unchanged when you live for many years in such a complex and multilevel world.
TNH: How did you change? Did you become more pastoral? Tougher? Did the administrative duties toughen you?
DEMETRIOS: I wouldn’t say I changed in the direction of toughness because the Gospel is the power of God, [which is] the power of love, not authority. I wanted a ministry without an authoritative form, but with a sacrificial tone. That is why it does not bother me that I have not taken a vacation in ten years.
TNH: Since Your Eminence mentioned it, why don’t you take any vacation as your fellow bishops and priests do?
DEMETRIOS: No I do not take vacation; ministry for me is my relaxation.
TNH: Is it possible to name some major issues that marked your ministry?
DEMETRIOS: We had the official elevation of the Metropolises and the Metropolitans. The Metropolises belong to the Archdiocese of America.
TNH: How many Eparchies are there in the U.S.?
DEMETRIOS: The Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne is the Archdiocese and I am the Archbishop. Since you brought the issue up, what is happening is that the Archbishop of America is not commemorated by the priests of the Metropolises, even though he is the Archbishop of America and not of [merely] of New York.
The other [landmark] events are the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, the changes of the charter, the Uniform Parish Regulations, the Regulations for the Monasteries, and the Regulations for the Auxiliary Bishop. Thus we have done very important legislative work.
TNH: Do you support the second marriage of a priest who loses his wife to death or in the case of divorce?
DEMETRIOS: It is an open issue that doesn’t concern only us, but is a general issue of Orthodoxy. We have put it forth many times, but a pan-orthodox decision is required for its solution.
TNH: What are your goals for the next ten years?
DEMETRIOS: The issue of the mixed marriages, the issue of the preparation of the clergy, which you have written about many times. We should improve the education and formation of the future priests at the Theological School.
TNH: What mistakes do you think you have made during this first decade of your ministry?
DEMETRIOS: There were omissions and mistakes due to the complexity of the ministry. I must say that no mistakes were made due to desires on the part of the Archbishop to be recognized; the omissions and the mistakes were due to human conditions.
I wish to have visited more parishes, to have had more communication with my priests, to have my doors always open to all. I was not able to do that.
The issue of Education is a big issue and it is three-fold: Hellenic Paideia, Catechetical Paideia and Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology.
TNH: How do you wish to be remembered in the history of the Church and the Greek American Community?
DEMETRIOS: I will not answer you yet on that, as there are other issues of importance.
TNH: Let us talk about finances. What is the financial condition of the Archdiocese?
DEMETRIOS: The Church never had any financial problems. We are poor but we are enriching many. We have nothing, but we have everything. In 2000 we had an annual budget of $11.4 million, and $13.3 million in expenses. In 2009 we have a $20.8 million budget and $19.1 expenses and in recent years we have not had deficits. We have the additional burden of the settlements of the ethical cases.
TNH: How much is the debt today?
DEMETRIOS: The only debt of the Archdiocese is owed to only one bank and it is without interest; it is $1.9 million. The interest is being paid by a donor.
TNH: Who is the donor?
DEMETRIOS: I do not say the name. Allow me not to reveal the name.
TNH: How much was the deficit when you came in 1999?
DEMETRIOS: At some point you had reported it was $12 million. The $1.9 million debt that I spoke about is in a dead issue. From now until June 2010 we have to cover the monthly sum of $150,000 for the settlements of cases of sexual misconduct.
TNH: How much money has the Archdiocese paid thus far for these sexual misconduct cases?
DEMETRIOS: $15 million from the year 2000 until today; with the addition of the $150,000 per month that we pay now until June 2010, it will be about $16 million.
I have to note here that they were not paid from the Archdiocesan budget; a big portion came from donations. There were people who called and said, “Look you have this problem. It is not fair to struggle to try to pay from the budget of the Archdiocese all those amounts.” So, the donations covered a big portion of that.
We also had the great blessing to have a big number of legal professionals headed by our General Legal Advisor Mr. Emmanuel Demos who worked day and night without any compensation.
TNH: From nowhere, from no one?
DEMETRIOS: From no one. We also had others: Demetrios Moschos, Cathy Walsh, Helen Bender, Elenie Huszagh, Mr. Miranis.
TNH: Let’s talk about the $15 million which will become $16 million for the sexual misconduct of the clergy. Who are the donors? How much have they given? How much did the Archdiocese pay from its budget?
DEMETRIOS: There are people who insisted and insist on remaining anonymous and I respect that. I have asked you many times to tell me your sources and you have always refused because you consider confidentiality your journalistic privilege, and I also consider it my duty not to reveal their names. The only thing I can tell is that the offer of these donations is a very positive element that shows where this Church stands regarding things that occurred in the past.
TNH: Some of the misconduct cases occurred during your Archbishopric ministry.
DEMETRIOS: A small portion of them.
TNH: What is going on with the issue of pederasty and such behavior by the priests? How much does it concern your Eminence?
DEMETRIOS: It concerns me. We have very strict regulations, which we apply. Many times there is strong opposition by some who say don’t you have compassion [for the priests]? But I reply that for these issues, compassion does not apply.
TNH: Then why didn’t you defrock Fr. Katinas from the beginning?
DEMETRIOS: Look, the process has many details. It would be an injustice to the truth if I begin to tell this story. The process which we followed was worthy of praise. It was a process which covered all the issues without compromises. I have no doubts about the way it was done. Some things could have been done a little this wasy or the other way, these things happen. When the documents were complete and clear, the decision was clear.
TNH: Do you feel, as a spiritual father of this Church, the duty and the necessity to apologize to the victims of the pedophile priests?
DEMETRIOS: That was done by action was correct and appropriate for the Church and as Archbishop, I would do it that same moment. I am not convinced that I can do something like that, again for reasons of public relations.
TNH: Would you ordain as priest or bishop someone who is a known homosexual?
DEMETRIOS: No, absolutely not. It is clearly against the canons. I have expertise in canon law on the issue of ethics; I cannot play games with the canons. The canons are clear; it is not going to happen in any case. But the other thing is that there should be concrete and documented allegations.
TNH: Would you defrock him?
DEMETRIOS: If there is proof, it should be done, even if it is painful, but I repeat: there should be documentation beyond any doubt.
TNH: Since you said the Archdiocese is doing well financially, then why does the Archdiocese owe the Theological School close to a million dollars; you have not sent money for the last ten months.
DEMETRIOS: They had been taken care of until the end of last year. We had delayed in the past as well due to those unexpected expenses and settlements of the sexual misconduct cases. We had been promised a sizable donation at the beginning of this year. Because of the economic conditions and the $150,000 monthly payments for the sexual misconduct issue of Katinas, we were faced with difficulties.
TNH: How much money did the Archdiocese pay for Katinas’ case?
DEMETRIOS: I can’t tell at this moment, I do not have the numbers, but it is a substantial amount.
TNH: Is it in the millions?
DEMETRIOS: It is in the millions, more than one million dollars. So we have this $150,000 monthly expense from the last settlement, last November. At the same time we did not get the big donation we were hoping to receive, and the result is the delay in the payments to the Theological School.
TNH: Where are our priorities Your Eminence, if they are not in the Theological School?
DEMETRIOS: The School of Theology is the priority, we give and we are going to give until the end of this year, but as I explained, there are those unexpected things that occurred and created this situation with the Theological School.
TNH: Three years ago Fr. Nicholas Triantafillou, in a letter to the priests, said that he had raised $42 million. Where is this money?
DEMETRIOS: All the finances are published every time, thus the School has given a complete accounting as to how much was collected and how much was spent. Ask them to give you a copy.
TNH: We have asked. We are talking about $42 million dollars Your Eminence.
DEMETRIOS: I do not know; there might be ten or fifty.
TNH: As the chairman of the Board of Trustees wouldn’t you know about the $42 million that Fr. Triantafilou claimed to have raised?
DEMETRIOS: Fr. Triantifilou did not collect $42 million in one day. You could have a complete report as to where the last cent has gone, but at this moment I cannot tell you because Fr. Triantafilou did not take $42 million and say, “I deposited that in the bank.” The money was coming in and was used for expenses and for different services.
TNH: The Board of Trustees a few months ago made a recommendation to Your Eminence about Hellenic College, to the point that either it has to be closed or reorganized all together. What are you thinking of doing?
DEMETRIOS: It is an issue. I personally believe that Hellenic College is viable, but it has not been helped generally, the same as with the School of Theology. If every priest during his ministry made an effort to send one student to the school, we would have the solution.
Hellenic College and Holy Cross can be helped if there is substantial financial assistance from the government of Greece. In the past willingness was expressed many times in concrete ways, but for one reason or another, nothing materialized.
TNH: You mean to say that the rich and elevated Greek American Community cannot support Hellenic College and Holy Cross and ask for financial help from Greece?
DEMETRIOS: The rich Greek America Community of America thinks it is a basic duty to appeal to Greece for reasons of ethnic ties and substance. I should say that the Jaharis family has given five million dollars; couldn’t the Greek Government do something? They established the Seferis chair – to do what?
TNH: How was the cooperation of the laity during these past ten years?
DEMETRIOS: It was for me a unique experience, the generous, sacrificial and unconditional support of exceptional people from the lay element of the Church, for whom I am extremely grateful.
The people of the Executive Committee, the officials of the great organizations of the Church, the Philoptochos, the Leadership 100, the Faith endowment, the School of Theology, and St. Basil’s Academy are co-workers that I am proud of and thankful to.
TNH: What is your relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate?
DEMETRIOS: All these ten years I always had the open support of the Patriarch and the Patriarchate. I always had open access. [During visits] the Patriarch insisted many times that I stay longer and go there more frequently.
The Patriarch cares very much for the Church and the Omogeneia here. I enjoyed complete support and complete confidence. When I was asked in some instances, I said that I do not feel any pressure from the Patriarch nor does he restrict me in anything. But on the other hand we work with certain presuppositions. I respect the regulations; we are not an autocephalous Church. In reality we are a very large Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne.
TNH: Were there any moments that you disagreed with the Patriarch on issues of substance?
DEMETRIOS: Not on issues of substance, but I think that a difference of opinion is something healthy. There weren’t differences of opinion which could cast any form of shadow [over our relationship].
TNH: What issues will be discussed at the Clergy Laity Congress in July in Atlanta?
DEMETRIOS: The specific theme hasn’t been formulated yet. It will probably be a continuation of the existing theme, “Gather My People to My Home” but in a different dimension.
TNH: Where do you want the Archdiocese to be ten years from now?
DEMETRIOS: Spiritually or physically?
DEMETRIOS: Physically we would like to have a little more space here at our headquarters. The future will be something better and much nicer.
TNH: Are you concerned with your succession? Have you talked about it with the Patriarch?
DEMETRIOS: Not really. The Church has its course. It is good to prepare, as much as we can, good clergy and good candidates, but it is not right to start expressing preliminary preferences. You have written certain things about the succession. Just as I suddenly became Archbishop of America, God will provide. This is how the Church is. Who could have guessed that Demetrios would have succeeded Patriarch Athenagoras? God has His own way.
TNH: Where is the Hellenic identity of our Church going? Why do you give the impression sometimes that you do not care about it?
DEMETRIOS: It is a wrong impression; I care about Hellenism if nothing else in my academic capacity.
TNH: Do you want the Greek language to be lost?
DEMETRIOS: No way, but at the same time I do not want Hellenism to be lost as a universal idea which has to do with civilizations, writings and art. The Parthenon, the Byzantine icons, all those things are Hellenism.
TNH: Are you concerned about the Monasteries under Fr. Ephraim? How are they connected with the Archdiocese? Where do their assets belong? If a scandal occurs who is going to pay?
DEMETRIOS: The Monasteries are connected with the Archdiocese, based upon the Regulations that we have. They have connections with the local Metropolises; the local Metropolitan supervises. Surely there is a responsibility, but there is also autonomy, and this applies everywhere. That is why we should be very careful with that issue. The same applies regarding their assets.