Orphangate reopened?

Orthodox Beacon

H/T: Orthodox Beacon

The Orthodox Beacon quotes the National Herald:

BOSTON  — The Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, in a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew dated January 15, demanded that the Patriarch reprimand Metropolitan Theoleptos of Iconium for his letter castigating Archbishop Demetrios for his refusal to help the Sporidis brothers, the 10-year-old twin orphans from Congo. The story was broken by The National Herald based on Archbishop Demetrios’ letter dated December 21, 2009.

Read the full article (requires paid subscription): www.thenationalherald.com/article/42978

We’ll post the full story once it becomes available. Notice how they demand an apology from Met. Theoleptos, a call first made on the AOI blog. Will Constantinople respond? They just might have to given that the demand comes from the Archdiocesan Council of the GOA. Constantinople shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds it, especially when a rogue Metropolitan does the biting.

Here’s the letter:

January 15, 2010

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

And the Most Reverend Members of the Holy and Sacred Synod


Your All Holiness,

We, the undersigned members of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council, on behalf of all the members of the Archdiocesan Council of the largest Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, convey to Your All Holiness and the Holy and Sacred Synod our profound distress and disgust over the recent embarrassing letter of Metropolitan Theoleptos of Iconium to the newspaper, The National Herald. It is unconscionable that any Hierarch would attack the good name and reputation of another Hierarch in the press, but when the Metropolitan of Iconium, without any regard to the record or to facts, calls into question the integrity and indeed humanity of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the insult goes well beyond the person of the Archbishop and the Metropolitans of the local Eparchial Synod. The insult goes to the heart of every Greek Orthodox Christian of this Archdiocese, clergy and laity alike.

Your All Holiness, if the Metropolitan of Iconium was so concerned over the two orphaned children, why did he not call the Archbishop and learn what the facts were?

Clearly, his intent was both malicious and premeditated. How is this Metropolitan allowed to write such a letter directly to a newspaper? Who authorized him to do so?

Who urged him to do so? He, or others who prompted him, found an occasion to attack our Archbishop, and in doing so, he has attacked us all. Your All Holiness, with all due respect, we must ask if the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself can tolerate such a violation of the good order of the Church?

Given the history of the peaceful and prosperous ministry of Archbishop Demetrios, and indeed your recognition of his accomplishments during your recent visit to America, a visit in part to honor the tenth anniversary of his enthronement, it is not possible that this vilification of the Archbishop can go without severe consequences.

As those entrusted with representing the interests of the lay leadership of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, we are compelled to request from Your All Holiness that this Metropolitan must be disciplined in a substantive way and must apologize in public to the Archbishop.

We do not make this request as an invasive demand on the Mother Church, but to assist the Mother Church in turning back a rising tide of negative feeling among both the clergy and the laity that has resulted directly from this outrageous and scandalous letter.

Therefore, as responsible and devoted leaders of this Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the United States, we respectfully ask that Your All Holiness move with all due speed to put an end to this disgraceful situation. We are confident that you will do so, and thereby demonstrate to the clergy and faithful, who are appalled by this violation of ecclesiastical custom and decorum, that their devotion to their Archbishop is valued and held in honor by the Church and by the world.

With deepest respects,

Michael Jaharis, Vice Chairman


  1. George Michalopulos :

    Well, this is getting interesting. I believe this is the first time that a public demonstration of the GOA laity’s power over the Phanar has been demonstrated. It appears that there’s an escalation in tensions. The EP did not think this through as it’s a total lose-lose-lose:

    1. He’s going to have to back down (again, but this time publicly),

    2. He will have to throw +Theoliptus under the bus (and by extension the Holy Synod in Istanbul), and

    3. He will look even weaker to +Kirill.

    Further thoughts: was +Theoliptus a “rogue metropolitan”? or was he put up to it by the Phanar? If either, then

    1. +Bartholomew has no control over the bishops of the Holy Synod, or

    2. He used him in a cowardly fashion (probably to get rid of +Demetrius), therefore,

    3. the Phanar operates in a disorderly fashion.


    1. Look for more back-stabbing from the Holy Synod towards the EP. Nobody likes getting thrown under the bus, no matter how well deserved.

    • Michael Bauman :

      Could this be a situation that pushes the GOA into working more closely with the other folks here in the U.S. to establish a unified Orthdox Church?

      • George Michalopulos :

        Michael: I doubt it. The only way the GOA will work more closely with the other jurisdictions is when the laity (that means the bigwigs esp.) want to work with the other Orthodox. This won’t happen unless at least two things transpire:

        1. genuine repentance for always wanting to be the big dog,

        2. more bufoonish actions from Istanbul, and

        3. further erosion of GOA parishes. At this point, the bigwigs within the GOA won’t be able to economically sustain the GOA hierarchy at its present level. They’ve already been burned in the past with +Spyridon’s antics and now the pedophile scandal, eventually that well will run dry. (I don’t know how much they coughed up for the Riverboat extravaganza. I think Soros funded that one, lock, stock, and barrel.)

        Although there will be more maladroit actions from the Phanar (as they’re institutionally incapable of acting like thinking adults), the reality is that the see of Istanbul will just atrophy so that one day, there will be no more Greek bishops. What will the GOA do then? Without the cover of imperial glory (no matter how faded)?

        I dunno. If the Russian presence grows and siezes control, then the GOA will have to reasses its place in the American sun. I can easily envision a Russian EP telling the GOA to play right, whether the GOA does it depends on point no. 1 above. The attitude of the dhimmi churches reminds me of the aged has-been actress who spent hours caking on make-up, after which she said: “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille.”

        • Lets also consider the role of economics in all of this. It may not be relevant to this particular situation but the issue looms large nonetheless. The government of Greece supports the EP financially however if you watch the news it is evident that Greece is an economic disaster. What will happen if Greece goes off the euro or if the value of Greek currency is greatly devalued? A million euros is not the same as a million dracmas.

          If this happens the real value of economic support to the Phanar will be decimated. Likewise, if the Obama adminstration continues its war on success, business and the wealthy then all those wealthy GOA patriots are going to have alot less disposable income to give. It will be very hard to keep the lights on at the Phanar. It well be impossible to sustain the welfare state that is 79th Street.

          One wonders how the EP expects to lead the Orthodox world when he will have to worry how to pay his day to day bills.

          In the long term the financial behavior of the GOA is unsustainable. Bloated budgets, large salaries for do nothing jobs, and a taste for luxury cannot go on forever. The lack of fiscal restaint and management is stunning. You can only delay the inevitable so much. Wealthy donors can only bail you out so many times.

          I believe that economics will ultimately play a key role in defining how American Orthodoxy evolves and which Mother Church will lead the Orthodox world in the 21st century.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Good points, Andrew. Barring a more canonical restructuring and reordering of fiscal priorities, the present economic regime is sustained by a 15% allotment from each parish. The key of course is for there to be more parishes. This is a catch-22 however: new parishes would be formed left and right if evangelism was the focus and not ecclesiological colonialism.

            In my opinion, the particulars of the recent orphan scandal are less important than the message conveyed to honest seekers (as well as established GOA laymen), which is: we can afford soiress at the Waldorf-Astoria but can’t do anything for two orphans in Africa? And Old World bishops can dress down an “American primate” like a stepchild? This is the same type of self-imposed idiocy that +Philip brought down on his own head beginning with his singular demotion of his ordinaries to auxiliaries. Nobody is going to want to organize parishes under these schemes. As long as the long shadow of Bulbania/Ruritania/Levantia is cast over American eparchies, the message of the Gospel will by necessity be subsumed.

      • Lets all remember the GOA tax base is shrinking. You can only tax parishes and individuals so much before they give up. This is also why you hear such rumblings about the Greek Government coming in to bail out Holy Cross and the EP wanting to annex properties in the USA.

        The GOA can ramble on and on about certain aspects of theology, omogenia and Canon 28 but it cannot escape the laws of simple economics. The more you tax a local parish to enable your reckless spending the less money a parish has to support itself. Every parish and parishoner has their limits.

        I have always felt that once there is enough anger in the GOA pews about the excessess of the EP and 79th street then more and more Greek Orthodox in America will support American Orthodox Unity. It will be a matter of simple economic survival.

        We saw a little bit of that anger when the EP wanted to shakedown the USA for real estate. I hope there is more of that out there.

  2. Anybody wonder why the Metropolitans of the Archdiocese are NOT rushing to defend the Archbishop? You would think this would make sense. My brother bishop is unfairly under attack so I will support him and show unity. I may be wrong but, As far as I know every metropolis from San Francisco to Atlanta has been quiet. The silence is indeed interesting and leads to all types of speculation. Wouldn’t a letter from the Eparchial synod carry more weight than one from the Executive committee?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Because the EP is their boss. He runs the show. If the Mets were to voice public displeasure with the move, they would confirm a rift between the US Church and Constantinople.

      That’s what makes the attack on +Demetrios, and the tepid response from Constantinople, so interesting. The EP’s lackluster explanation (he was forced to apologize), the Synod’s lack of support, and no consequences for the Met that penned the letter points to one thing: they are moving against +Demetrios. The letter from the Archdiocese Council is telling them to back off.

      What this indicates is there is a lot more conflict between the GOA and Constantinople than anyone is letting on.

      I wonder how much the failure of the Green Patriarch initiative contributed to this. That must have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and taken hundreds of hours to organize. The entire administrative structure of the GOA was called into service. Not everyone could have been on board with that even before Climategate. Now it’s proving to be a massive waste of money and resources. (Heads should roll over this too.)

      • Once again the point is illustrated…there is a reason that “locally elected bishops sitting in synod” is the Orthodox tradition – because it confers legitimacy on the local hierarchs, legitimacy which can be critical at times like these.

        Would anyone have taken St. Nicholas seriously if he had been a hand picked Constantinople appointee? Or St. Mark of Ephesus?

        The GOA is paying a terrible, horrendous price for allowing this practice of “not electing it’s own hierarchs” to continue…it is only now becoming apparent.

        Imagine what the response might have been from the Eparchial Synod if each of them were secure in their See, having been locally elected and confident of their positions. They would be raising hell.

        Instead, they sit by and watch events…including one of their own being led to the gash chamber…not unlike guards at Auschwitz.

        Reminds me of an old saying, “You’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution,”

        I’d say I was disappointed, if I could manage to be surprised.

        Disappointment aside, this (in conjunction with the recent actions of Met. Philip) should be an unmistakable lesson to the other jurisdictions in many many ways. Trust the local election process…trust the ancient Orthodox traditions of governance…all else is saklamares/hackee/lapsha na ouha/nonsense

        Best Regards

        • George Michalopulos :

          When all else fails, do what is right. Clearly, the ethnic jurisdictions have done precious little right. Beginning with the election of local bishops, bishops sitting in a real synod, a church being defined by the boundaries of the nation, etc. The older I get, the more I dislike the “bishop as CEO/temporary admninistrator.” All that is is fancy word for a hireling. And apropos of your comment about the GOA bishops not standing up for +Demetrius, what do we expect? The Lord Himself said that “hirelings scatter when they see the wolf, being hirelings, they care not for the sheep.” (Paraphrase.)

    • Re: Wouldn’t a letter from the Eparchial synod carry more weight than one from the Executive committee?


      From my point of view, they had EXACTLY the right guy sign that letter.

      Go back and take a look at the amount of money Jaharis has donated to the GOA over the years.

      When this man talks, they ALL sit up and take notice…kind of like the unofficial chairman of the board.

      Believe me when I tell you I’m sure this letter sent shudders thru the Phanar like no other letter could have.

      They are acting like a “live” church…good for them.

      Best Regards,

      • George Michalopulos :

        Dean, you know way more about the ins and outs of the GOA at its top levels. I applaud Jaharis for doing so. That he was a layman takes nothing away from authority of the Church as I believe that laymen have both standing and authority within the Church to act in such fashion should the need arise. Having said that, given that within the ministry of the episcopate is the tuty to protect brothers who are sinned against unjustly (i.e. other bishops, priests, deacons), it speaks ill of the GOA’s bishops that they laid low while a layman rose to the challenge. My previous indictment –that they acted as hirelings–therefore stands. (You know, I’m really gonna have to repent before Great Lent starts. The list of names is ever-growing to the detriment of my salvation.)

  3. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, excellent point. One that I certainly overlooked. This adds another wrinkle. I’ve often heard that some bishops (i.e. Methodius of Boston) want to be the next GOA primate. Maybe he and others saw this as an opening. If they did, it backfired. But you’re right: a letter from the eparchial synod would have carried more weight.

    What follows from this? The wealthy laity within the GOA will increase their dismissive attitude to the other bishops as well. After all, one reason they came to +Demetrius’ defense (besides the fact that they like him) is because he’s not that effective. He’s merely a figurehead, not like +Iakovos or even +Spyridon. If the EP backs down to their demands, then their power over the other “metropolitans” in America will increase commensurately. (BTW, I think it’s regrettable that the eparchial synod did not come to +Demetrius’ defense. For this reason I give the laity credit, they did.)

  4. Scott Pennington :

    Just speculating, but I wonder if this little tempest might have to do with GOARCH remaining silent regarding the EP’s request for property. In my parish, there was no announcement and there seems to be no effort that I can see to satisfy this request. But what if another American metropolitan were to assure the Phanar that he would move forward on this? That might explain the present machinations.

  5. George Michalopulos :

    Scott, I think the reason that no mention was made of the real estate grab (or earlier the Turkish citizenship request) was because the GOA metropolitans feared what the reactions of the people in the pews would be. The Phanar has absolutely no inkling of how living, viable parishes operate. They’re just a shrinking mutual admiration society that sits in an echo chamber telling each other that the Byzantine Empire still exists. When some Phanariote comes to the USA, they usually get enabled in their delusions of grandeur (shame on us). Exceptions happen, Lambrianides got his hat handed to him by the faculty at HC after last year’s unfortunate harangue, but you get my drift.

    Personally, I think that the drive to oust +Demetrius was due to the fact that the real estate deal was round-filed by the GOA. I wouldn’t be surprised if he told the mets to not push the issue.

  6. Scott Pennington :

    “Lambrianides got his hat handed to him by the faculty at HC after last year’s unfortunate harangue, but you get my drift.”

    This rebuke is something of which I was unaware. All I recall was that the faculty of Holy Cross wrote a letter (unsigned) in support of the Phanar’s assertions regarding its prerogatives.

  7. George Michalopulos :

    Scott, let’s just say that this incident was conveyed to me personally by a faculty member who was in attendance. Also, the unsigned letter which the faculty “wrote” kind of fell into the dustbin of history. Nobody since has made reference to it and it was unreferenced at IV Chambesy as well. Actually, I dare anybody from the GOA bringing it up again, especially after what +Kirill stated regarding the protocols of the upcoming Episcopal Assemblies.


  1. […] Clearly, his intent was both malicious and premeditated. How is this Metropolitan allowed to write such a letter directly to a newspaper? Who authorized him to do so? (Source: http://www.aoiusa.org/blog/2010/02/orphangate-reopened/) […]

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