Archbishop Refusing to Have Fr. Katinas Defrocked
BOSTON – Archbishop Demetrios of America is so far refusing to send Rev. Nicholas Katinas, former pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, to Spiritual Court for defrocking, effectively keeping him on suspended status indefinitely.
The Archbishop reportedly told members of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Church in America last week that Father Katinas wishes to avoid being defrocked because he wants to be buried as a priest, not as a layman.
Father Katinas, 72, a well known Greek Orthodox priest in America of 43 years (28 of which he served in Dallas), has been accused of sexual misconduct with minors, which led to his suspension last July, just a few days after he retired (in Orthodox terms, suspension means a priest is not allowed to perform any clerical functions anywhere until the suspension is lifted).
After months of unconfirmed rumors, as well as apparent expectations of lawsuits and a run-up to stories broken by the local media in Dallas, Assistant Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Michael Kontogiorgis traveled to Dallas on February 21 and informed the Holy Trinity parish community, “There is no doubt that Father Nicholas engaged in serious moral transgressions,” and that Father Katinas’ suspension is permanent.
Members of Father Katinas’ family told the National Herald that the former Dallas pastor traveled to Rhodes on February 19.
On February 23, one day after the Dallas Morning News published a story about Father Kontogiorgis’ visit to Dallas and Father Katinas’ suspension, the Archdiocese issued an official news release stating that, “after a thorough investigation of allegations of serious misconduct involving minors, Father Katinas was suspended, in accordance with the Archdiocese’s Statement of Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Clergy.”
At the most recent two-day spring meeting of the Eparchial Synod, convened by the Archbishop at Archdiocesan headquarters in New York on March 14-15, Demetrios disregarded questions and recommendations from other members of the Synod who were asking him to send Father Katinas before the Spiritual Court, as the Church canons stipulate, and as has been done with other similar cases.
The Archbishop’s refusal to defrock Father Katinas has alarmed several members of the Synod, as well as many members of the Greek Orthodox clergy and the laity in America, about possible legal and monetary consequences of unforeseen proportions, and top members of his administration are now questioning the way the Archbishop has chosen to handle this potentially explosive matter.
Experts in the legal profession told the Herald that the pedophilia scandals which have rocked the Roman Catholic Church in America have also caused laws to change in some states, compelling the Roman Catholic hierarchy to report pedophiles among their clergy to the authorities, and to furnish all available data concerning cases of alleged sexual abuse.
In Father Katinas’ case, it seems Archbishop Demetrios is not applying the canonical procedures of the Church, and is possibly flirting with what the law requires, although the Archbishop himself has informed the Synod that lawsuits are imminent in the Katinas case.
At the insistence of the Synod that Father Katinas should appear before the Spiritual Court and be defrocked, the Archbishop reportedly told members of the Synod that the former Dallas priest has demonstrated genuine remorse, and that he does not wish to be buried as a layperson: “Father Katinas has admitted his actions; he is 72 years of age; he has repented; and he wants to be buried as a priest when he dies, and not as a layman,” he said, requesting that his wishes and position be respected.
When one Metropolitan pointed out that a specific archimandrite has been defrocked, but Father Katinas has not, the Archbishop reportedly insisted that “Father Katinas has been placed on permanent suspension. He has been ordered not to appear as priest, and not to liturgize or perform any other Church service in Greece.”
The Archbishop reportedly did not even mention Father Katinas’ alleged victims and their families (the archimandrite to which the Metropolitan referred has been defrocked for pedophilia; is reportedly suffering from AIDS; lives in a Roman Catholic monastery; and one of his victims has already sued the Archdiocese – an out-of-court settlement has reportedly been reached for an unspecified sum).
Members of the Synod told the Archbishop that his stance on Father Katinas’ case sets a bad precedent of inconsistency for the Church because the Archdiocese officially acknowledges that a priest was sexually abusing children on the one hand, while the Primate of the Church refuses to send that priest before Spiritual Court to be defrocked on the other.
Members of the Synod also asked the Archbishop why there are two sets of standards for such cases, but the Archbishop did not offer any answers.
It should be noted that Father Katinas was among the Archdiocese of America’s most prominent and well-connected clergymen. He is close friends with Father Nicholas Triantafilou, President of Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology; Rev. Dr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, professor of New Testament Studies at Holy Cross; Rev. Dr. Alkiviadis Calivas, professor of Liturgics at Holy Cross; Rev. Thomas Paris, Dean of the Ascension Cathedral in Oakland, California; and Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, spiritual advisor of the Order of Saint Andrew (Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) and executive director of the new Archdiocese Faith Endowment; as well as with the Archbishop himself.
Last June, the Archdiocese Chancery requested that Father Katinas be released from the Metropolis of Denver, the jurisdiction under which Holy Trinity Church in Dallas belongs, to the Direct Archdiocesan District in New York, which is under the canonical and administrative jurisdiction of the Archbishop.
During the recent gathering of the Eparchial Synod last week, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta appeared to be the only one advocate for the Archbishop’s position not to defrock Katinas, inviting his fellow hierarchs to “respect the Archbishop’s decision.”
Metropolitans Isaiah of Denver and Methodios of Boston were not present for the Synod’s two-day gathering, due reportedly to minor illnesses which prohibited them from traveling to New York.
A recommendation was also brought before the Synod for Rev. John Theodore to be reinstated. Father Theodore was defrocked some years ago due to sexual misbehavior. Rev. John Katsoulis was also suspended for similar reasons.
BISHOP SAVAS TO BE REMOVED AS ARCHDIOCESE CHANCELLOR?
During the recent Synod, a heated argument arose with the Archdiocese Clergy Sexual Abuse Committee, chaired by Archdiocese Chancellor Bishop Savas of Troas, who was reportedly critical of the Synod to lay members of the Committee.
When members of the Synod suggested that the Synod must be more informed about, and more involved with, cases concerning clergy sex abuse, Savas is said to have reacted forcefully: “It can not be done because members of the Synod leak to the Press (the National Herald, ostensibly),” he said.
In front of the Archbishop, who was sat there speechlessly, Savas reportedly threatened to furnish evidence for his accusations. Certain hierarchs told Savas to go ahead and bring forth his evidence, while others were clearly disappointed with the Chancellor’s behavior.
Members of the Synod recommended that the Archbishop remove Savas from the Chancery and assign him to the Office of Inter-Christian & Inter-Orthodox Relations to replace Bishop Demetrios of Xanthos, who retired this past December and has relocated to Florida. The Archbishop said he has been considering that option for the past three months.
Savas did not reappear for the rest of the gathering (except for the luncheon), and did not disclose any documentation to substantiate his accusations against the Synod.
In other Synodal business, a discussion came up concerning baptismal certificates for children adopted by homosexual couples, and whether or not it is proper for one partner to be designated as the father and the other as the mother on the certificate.
Metropolitan Alexios reportedly said that “all of us are sinners,” while the Archbishop took a more cautious approach, saying that “the thing is not to remain in sin” and use a sinful situation for political purposes.
The various Metropolis camps were also discussed, and it was announced that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is hosting an international youth conference in Constantinople on July 11-15, and that Archdiocese Department of Hellenic Education Director John Efthymiopoulos is traveling to Greece to meet with officials at the Greek Education Ministry.
Almost the entire morning session of the Synod’s second day was reportedly spent discussing the Archbishop’s concerns about leaks to the National Herald.