October 24, 2014

Abp. Demetrios on the way out?

Met. Theoliptos - Ranking hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Met. Theoliptos - Ranking hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate


Metropolitan Theoliptos also wrote “Truly where are we going? Where has our wretched Orthodox Church been led? Where has the Church been led by the conscienceless shepherds? How can we want the faithful to believe us and to follow us when we do not practice what we preach?”

Metropolitan Theoliptos, one of the most prominent hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate also said in his letter that “If he (Archbishop Demetrios) is not in apposition to help two orphan boys ten years old, then it is bad that he remains in his position.”

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The National Herald reported on January 15, 2010 on the plight of two Congolese boys who were not allowed to join St. Basil’s Academy by Abp. Demetrios of the GOA (See: Archbishop Demetrios’ Handling of Request to Help Two Orphans Creates Crisis). The boys, born of a Greek father and Congolese mother, recently lost their father and their mother is dying of cancer. Having no relatives in the Congo, relatives in America approached the Archdiocese to see if the children could live at St. Basil’s. The answer according to the National Herald was no.

It was a no heard round the world, at least in Greek circles, and soon newspapers were buzzing with the alleged cold-heartedness of Abp. Demetrios. New York lost no time at damage control (See: Archdiocese Statement on Case of Orphaned Children):

The two boys who need a home

The two boys who need a home

Saint Basil Academy never refused to accept the children and has been in communication with the family over the past seven months. There was never any question of financial resources in accepting the children. The Academy has been informed by the family that they are currently working toward securing guardianship of the children in order for them to be placed at Saint Basil. Both the Archdiocese and the Academy look forward to receiving Kostakis and Demetris as soon as possible.

[...]

To portray the Archdiocese of America, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, or Saint Basil Academy as being anything but willing and eager to assist this family is irresponsible and reprehensible. It is a shame and shameful that anyone would exploit the tragedy of any child, especially ones orphaned of a parent, through exaggeration, misstatement and accusation.

You would think the problem would be resolved there. Someone made a wrong decision, something fell through cracks, fix it and move on. But there is more here than meets the eye.

Constantinople reacted with (ostensible) outrage. Metropolitan Theoliptos, ranking hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch responded with a personal attack on Abp. Demetrios that directly challenges of Abp. Demetrios’ qualifications to serve. The National Herald reports:

The parent publication of The National Herald – Ethnikos Kirix – broke the story on Friday January 8. Metropolitan Theoliptos of Ikonion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, read the story about the orphans on the line edition of the paper, and the refusal of Archbishop Demetrios to help them. He responded by sending a strong letter to The National Herald expressing his deep disappointment about the Archbishop’s refusal.

Metropolitan Theoliptos wrote that “I confess that in reading the article written by Mr. Theodore Kalmoukos, I was shuddering, I became sorrowful and I am ashamed that I am a hierarch of the Orthodox Church.”

Metropolitan Theoliptos also wrote “Truly where are we going? Where has our wretched Orthodox Church been led? Where has the Church been led by the conscienceless shepherds? How can we want the faithful to believe us and to follow us when we do not practice what we preach?”

Metropolitan Theoliptos, one of the most prominent hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate also said in his letter that “If he (Archbishop Demetrios) is not in apposition to help two orphan boys ten years old, then it is bad that he remains in his position.”

It appears Constantinople is building the framework for removal: escalating a bureaucratic mistake into a question of moral fitness; shaping that question into a hot-button issue that tugs at the heart-strings so that plausibility is fostered; launching a preemptive attack by a figure close to the Ecumenical Patriarch yet shielding the EP at the same time if the attack backfires (plausible deniability); implying as clearly as possible that Abp. Demetrios is not fit to lead.

More ham-fisted decision-making from Constantinople where they chew up their own it appears. Constantinople’s politicians are masters at inter-personal maneuverings*, but congenitally blind to the broader ramifications their decisions might have. Strategic thinking is definitely not one of their strengths.

(*Want to know why the hierarchs get tripped up by flattery (Abp. Demetrios, Pat. Bartholomew)? Because in their world flattery really matters. If you live in a world of interpersonal maneuvering, flattery has meaning. They have no clue how people outside their orbit perceive it.)

Watch closely. This story is not really about two boys needing a home (that problem could have been solved with a couple of phone calls), but about moving Abp. Demetrios into retirement.

Comments

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    John Panos says:

    Is it possible that he is not pushing ‘omogenia’ enough for them?

    I feel dirty just saying that.

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    “You shall know them by their fruits.” The veil is slowly lifting on some of these shepherds, who they really, and whom they serve. What makes this situation even more outrageous, is that Abp. Demetrios would not be spending a penny of his own money to take care of these unfortunate souls. What justification can he possibly give? Really disgusting!

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    This excerpt from the original story says it all:

    Which is our mission in the world? Just to organize dinners and events to celebrate our tenth anniversary on the Throne of the Holy Archdiocese of America, or to speak and preach about loving and helping our suffering fellow man, but not to do anything in reality? The entire Archdiocese of America is not opposed to helping two 10-year-old children. The reasons for their refusal were silly and without substance. They do not have, said the otherwise Holy Brother (Archbishop Demetrios), American citizenship. To whom is he trying to sell these fairytales? Is it possible to want to help and not be able to find some solution? If he is not in a position to help two orphan boys, who are 10 years old, then it is bad that he remains in his position.

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    Douglas says:

    Archdiocese Statement on Case of Orphaned Children

    Jan 12, 2010

    NEW YORK – In recent days, misleading statements distributed in the press on the case of two orphaned children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose relatives in the United States approached the Saint Basil Academy for assistance, require that the Archdiocese of America set forth the following factual information.

    In June of 2009 Saint Basil Academy in Garrison New York, received an inquiry as to whether the institution could be of assistance in bringing these two children to the United States and accept them into the Academy family. The relatives of the two children were advised that under present US immigration law, the Academy, as a residential facility and no longer a school, could not legally sponsor the children to come to the United States. The family was also advised to consider options only available to them that would allow the children to enter the U.S. Under those circumstances, the Academy would be able to provide interim accommodations with a view to a more permanent placement once permanent guardianship status by the U.S. relatives had been established.

    Saint Basil Academy never refused to accept the children and has been in communication with the family over the past seven months. There was never any question of financial resources in accepting the children. The Academy has been informed by the family that they are currently working toward securing guardianship of the children in order for them to be placed at Saint Basil. Both the Archdiocese and the Academy look forward to receiving Kostakis and Demetris as soon as possible.

    To portray the Archdiocese of America, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, or Saint Basil Academy as being anything but willing and eager to assist this family is irresponsible and reprehensible. It is a shame and shameful that anyone would exploit the tragedy of any child, especially ones orphaned of a parent, through exaggeration, misstatement and accusation.

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    Andrew says:

    Two young orphaned boys must suffer because the GOA and the Masters of Universe who run 79th Street constantly put omogenia (race) before Orthodoxy. I think it is once again clear for all to see that if you are not part of the special race then you are a second class citizen and not wanted in the GOA.

    The GOA can find money for private jets, dinners at the Waldorf, and political patronage but it cannot simply help two orphans.

    The Masters of Universe at 79th Street who issued that press release put more value in the “reputation” of the Archbishop than in the lives of the weak and vulnerable. This is a tragedy.

    Tell me how is it that the Archbishop does not have time for the weak but he sure has time to go out and plan the annual 5th Avenue Greek Parade. We “must do all we can” for the parade but not those two orphans.

    Marching towards 2010 Parade
    Angelike Contis
    NEW YORK – “Three months is a long time and we must do all we can so that the 2010 parade is something very, very nice,” said Archbishop Demetrios at festive parade meeting held by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York (FHSGNY) at Astoria’s Stathakion Center on January 14. The annual march down Fifth Avenue by the Greek

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    We don’t know if the allegations against Abp. Demetrios are true. We also don’t know if bringing foreign nationals into America is a problem with its own special circumstances (it might be). We do know that Constantinople took the occasion to launch a vicious personal attack (“conscienceless shepherd”) against Abp. Demetrios.

    Let’s say Constantinople’s version of the events are true. Why hang Abp. Demetrios out to dry? Why not just handle this privately by reversing the decision and chalking it up to a misunderstanding?

    Let’s say Constantinople got the story wrong and the GOA Press Office got it right. Why no phone call to verify the story first? Surely anyone with an ounce of sense would realize that attacking Abp. Demetrios in public would undermine his standing in the American Church.

    The only plausible conclusion to draw here is that the attack is intentional. Constantinople has deliberately undermined the leadership of Abp. Demetrios, hence the conclusion that Constantinople wants to move him out.

    In the end however, we will see that Constantinople, in its arrogance, has once again shot itself in the foot.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Fr, one quibble: +Demetrius was never really a “leader” of the GOA. This is due to the Massacre at Ligonier (at least as far as the GOA is concerned).

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Rather, than rehash the obvious (which is despicable) what is the crux of all this?

    1. This is a public-relations nightmare of the first magnitude.

    2. The plain text of +Theoliptos’ letter is true as far as it goes, at least as far as the GOA in general is concerned (I’ll cut +Demetrius’ some slack here as he’s good but ineffectual. Well, not that much slack, there was a big to-do about his tenth anniversary and all and he is regularly touted as “the Archbishop of America, spiritual leader of 1.5 million Orthodox Christians, so he does bear a share of the blame).

    3. Clearly, his kow-towing to the EP all these years as opposed to leading an actual church is not working. (Possibly, things are spinning out of control, i.e. money is not going where it needs to go).

    4. Ergo: a case is being made for his ouster, probably before the upcoming Episcopal Assembly.

    Why though is the GOA being brought into this? These children belong to the African church which is under the care of Alexandria. Or, since their father was a Greek national, they should be remanded to Greece. In his defense, +Demetrius cannot be held liable. (Please forgive me, they are desperate and they deserve our support.) Ergo: he was set up.

    Having said that, see #1 above: a public relations fiasco.

    To what end?

    6. To replace him with somebody more pliant.

    Unfortunately, the text of the scathing letter sets a very high bar which no GOA bishop or Phanariote can scale. This leads to another question: is this a serious indictment or just a casus belli?

    Ramifications?

    7. It could blow up in the Phanar’s face and precipitate a split w/in several sectors of the GOA as +Demetrius himself has never aggravated anybody since he is a kindly man.

    8. It could also raise alarms in the other jurisdictions: Do they really want to have as chairman of some future assembly an even more pliant toady?

    Unknowns:

    9. Perhaps +Theoliptos (or somebody like him) is this man.

    10. Perhaps he means what he says and all American Orthodox would be pleasantly surprised that he or someone like him would a true Christian shepherd who takes these scalding words to heart.

    11. Also, notice what was said about the other GOA bishops. If NYC had collected $100 a month from each of them (and bear in mind that they pull down a $125K salary), these boys could remain in Africa and live like veritable kings. $1,000 a month for 12 months = $12,000 year. And that’s just from the nine GOA “metropolitans.” Bear in mind that President Obama’s half-brother George Hussein Obama lives in a tin shack in Nairobi on $20 a month.

    The more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that this is not going to end well for the gang that couldn’t shoot straight on 79th St or the Phanar. If the Phanar really wanted this thing to be resolved, a discreet letter or phone call would have been made to NYC to come up with a very inexpensive solution. Instead, +Theoliptos wrote an open letter to the editor of the most widely-read paper in the Greek-American world, full of prophetic indignance.

    We could spend literally months dissecting the ramifications of this letter and the actions (or inactions) of the GOA (and we probably will. Think of this as the sequel to last years hamfisted speech by the Phanar’s “general secretary.) Bottom line: even though there is an ulterior motive behind the Phanar’s letter (notice he is listed as “the ranking hierarch of the EP), the words of +Theoliptos’ letter are unfortunately, true, especially in regards to the GOA. This means the hierarchs, the clergy, and most especially, the laity and their “archons,” for whom glittering soirees with their bejeweled and botoxed wives are more important. Heaven forbid that they would actually run a soup kitchen or open up a free medical clinic. I mean, who do we think these people are? The Knights of Columbus or the Shriners?

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      Greg says:

      Why though is the GOA being brought into this? These children belong to the African church which is under the care of Alexandria. Or, since their father was a Greek national, they should be remanded to Greece. In his defense, +Demetrius cannot be held liable. (Please forgive me, they are desperate and they deserve our support.) Ergo: he was set up.

      Another apt example of why one definition of “Byzantine” is “characterized by elaborate scheming and intrigue, esp. for the gaining of political power or favor.”

      If the The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was a T.V. show, I’d watch.

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        Because the relatives asking for help live in the USA, and because the GOA has St. Basil’s Academy which is equipped to help the boys. This is all very reasonable.

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    John Panos says:

    Personally, I think this is misdirection.

    What do they not want us to see, that may be inevitably coming down the road.

    I’m serious here. None of this is by mistake.

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      Dean Calvert says:

      John,

      I think you are onto something….

      I’ve been wondering for a while now..”Why now?” with regard to the sudden interest in the Preparatory Commission, and the Episcopal Assemblies. This has been in deep freeze since the mid 90’s…suddenly they are moving at warp speed.

      Why?

      I’m wondering if your “misdirection” comment is in some way related to my question (or, more accurately, the answer to it).

      In any case…I wouldn’t be surprised if you are right

      Best Regards,
      dean

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    Wesley J. Smith says:

    Could one of the other jurisdictions offer the boys sanctuary?

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Short of outright adoption, none of the other jurisdictions have the facilities. Most likely there will not be any ecclesiastical impediments put in their way. I don’t know about any governmental ones.

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    I agree with the various posters here. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye at first. Time will tell the real motivations for all those involved.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    what’s sad of course is that in the midst of all this posturing, there are two little Christian boys in Africa who are suffering and our “archpastors” are quibbling over immigration law. Shame on them.

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    Andrew says:

    I would like to point out that if memory serves me correctly the GOA solicited private donors to help settle abuse claims. Are you telling me the GOA will work the phones for donors for hush money but the GOA will not solicit donations to facilitate the placement of these children? Talk about priorities.

    I will go you one further. Politics aside. Why not fly the omogenia-1 gulfstream jet to pick up these kids and at least get them a temporary home somewhere until their guardianship can be settled. Regardless of who is involved the kids are innocent and St. Basil Academy is open for business.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    By the way, I checked the EP’s website at http://www.patriarchate.org/

    I had to laugh when I saw where this metropolitan “ranks” among hierarchs of the ecumenical throne…just below Nicholas, of Detroit.

    …and his See, Iconium, probably hasn’t seen a liturgy in 10 centuries.

    Just gets curiouser and curiouser.

    LOL

    Dean

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Also curious: have any of the parishes in the GOA received info on their bishops applying for Turkish citizenship or that each diocese is to turn over one piece of property to Istanbul? I know of two parishes in the GOA where neither announcement has been made. We should make every concerted effort to find out. I’m sure we have readers in every GOA diocese here in the US.

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    Cal Oren says:

    If this whole story is essentially correct as published, one huge blunder from my perspective would have been the Herald’s failure to exercise good journalistic standards, and solicit comments from the Archdiocese before going to press with the original story, to which Metr. Theoliptos was apparently responding.

    In fairness to the Herald, I have not seen the original story, nor is it quoted elsewhere, so my criticism might not be accurate.

    I bring this up not to minimize the scandal of one hierarch excoriating another in a public forum without having first taken up the matter privately, but just to point out that the laity also need to exercise restraint and withhold immediate judgment until the facts are all known, so that we can serve as role models for our bishops.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Cal, I see your point but when we are dealing with the secular press, the screaming headline is the one that sells the newspapers. And this one is a screaming headline. Personally, I think 79th St handled this as they usually do –ineptly.

    Even if we extend a lot of slack to them, and accepting for the sake of argument the hidden agenda of the Phanar, the plain facts as presented are horrible to the extreme. I don’t want to hash them out again but this point needs to be made: the GOA is a glory-seeking enterprise from head to toe, that’s obvious. For proof, all you got to look at are the splendiferous banquets and press releases they put out and the way they spare no expenses on soirees, press releases, fund-raising, etc. But they’ve forgotten the one needful thing, and that is taking care of hardship cases like this. (Don’t forget how they secretly raised money to pay for the pederasty cases.)

    I promise you this: if the Archons, the GOA, their assorted bureaucrats were actually setting up orphanages and running soup kitchens in America, they would NEVER run out of money. No “eparchy” (I won’t use the word “church” since it’s self-evident what a church does) can get to this point until they do some serious introspection. No foreign-based colonial eparchy can do this. Not the GOA, not the Serbs, Antiochians, nobody. Until recently, thi was true of the OCA as well (at least as long as it was in thrall to its East Coast demographic). Any such entity has to ask themselves: what are we here for? Are we a local church or are we a ethno-nationalist religious cult?

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Just curious, does anybody think that the Archbishop’s statement that the Greek gov’t might have to bail out Holy Cross has anything to do with any of this?

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    Immigration Lawyer says:

    The Archdiocese could have asked DHS and/or the State Department to consider granting humanitarian parole to these children months ago. For example, the Haitian orphans who arrived in Pittsburgh last week entered the U.S. as beneficiaries of humanitarian parole. New York City, where the Archidiocese is located, is the place where the most prominent immigration attorneys in the United States practice. Finding one there is not a challenge. Further, the GOA could have privately and discreetly approached DHS or the State Department to discuss this issue. Humanitarian parole is granted as a matter of discretion; the GOA has many politically connected members (some of whom are Archons) who could have used their influence to make a few phone calls to Washington. I’d like to know if the GOA ever considered this option (parole is faster than waiting for an adoption decree). I’d also like to know if they requested humanitarian parole and were refused (and the reasons for the refusal, if that is what happened).

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Johannes Jacobse analyzes the recent media clash over Archbishop Demetrios’ alleged handling of two orphans: The National Herald reported on [...]

  2. [...] Well, the New York-Constantinople brouhaha seems resolved — sort of (see: Abp. Demetrios on the way out?). You still wonder though why a hierarch wrote of Abp. Demetrios in terms we could charitably call [...]

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