Archdiocese Has Spent Millions on Sex Abuse Cases

Author: Theodore Kalmoukos
Date Published: 03/09/2007

Mike Jaharis, Leading Layman of the Church,  Responds to Questions

BOSTON — The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has paid at least $7 million million, and probably more, in settlements, as well as for legal expenses for cases involving sexual abuse committed by clergy, according to Michael Jaharis, vice chairman of the Archdiocesan Council.

But most of those cases are old ones, Mr. Jaharis told the National Herald by telephone during an interview late last week.

Mr. Jaharis, one of the most prominent members of the Greek American community, and one of the wealthiest people in the United States, spoke to the Herald about the recent scandal concerning Rev. Nicholas Katinas, who has been accused of pedophilia.

The Archdiocese confirmed that the former longtime pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, Texas was suspended from clerical duties last July, just days after he retired, due to accusations of engaging in sexual activity with minors, as the Assistant Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Michael Kontogiorgis publicly acknowledged on the evening of February 21, when he informed the Dallas parish community, “There is no doubt that Father Nicholas engaged in serious moral transgressions,” after a Pre-Sanctified Liturgy.

The Archdiocese official announcement was issued on February 23: “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.”

When he was asked whether it is fair to say that the Archdiocese has paid between $5-7 million for cases involving clergy sexual misconduct over the past five years, Mr. Jaharis said, “No. I would say it’s more than that.”

Has the Archdiocese paid close to $10 million over the last five years on such cases, Mr. Jaharis replied, “I would like to tell you that’s correct, but I can”t tell you. I want people to understand that, although we don’t have the revenue or assets of the Roman Catholic Church, we are significantly hit, and unfortunately, these things from the past come back to haunt us in the present, and could easily create a major problem.”

Asked what Archdiocesan Council’s position is concerning Father Katinas’ case, Mr. Jaharis said, “I don’t think we’ve had a meeting since that time, and I’m not sure I can comment specifically on the Council’s reaction.”

But when it was pointed out that the issue has been going on since at least June or July of 2006, the vice chairman of the Council’s Executive Committee said, “We have a sexual misconduct policy, which we’ve had in place for a long time, and that’s what works until such time as we make that information public, but that requires an extensive investigation on the allegations and other factors — when decision is made and the action taken is publicized.”

Mr. Jaharis was hesitant to answer the question concerning when he learned about Father Katinas’ particular case, however: “I don’t want to discuss that. There are legal implications here, you know, and I can’t discuss details of what happened. But everything was done in a timely manner. I can tell you that.”

What was his initial reaction when he first heard the news concerning Father Katinas’ case, he said, “Well, I’m not on the committee or the group that handles this, but I felt sad. It was a sad time for both the individual’s family, and for the family of the priest, as well.”

Asked if he knew why the Orthodox Observer, the Archdiocese’s official newspaper, delayed publishing that Father Katinas was suspended (he was suspended last July, and the Observer did not report it until this past November), Mr. Jaharis replied. “No. I have no idea on dates right now. You give me dates that I can’t relate to. All I can tell you is, we did what’s necessary in terms of advising the individuals involved, the church involved, the administration of the Church — what have you.”

When he was told the Herald learned that, when he got the news, he issued a directive that Father Katinas’ name be published immediately under the Observer’s list of suspended clergy, but that it was not done, because Alice Keurian, the Archbishop’s head secretary, called the Observer’s office and blocked the publication process, and that he became very upset, Mr. Jaharis said, “I can’t comment on anything that pertains to the Katinas matter. You know it may well have legal complications.”

Would he confirm or deny the Herald’s information concerning Mrs. Keurian’s alleged interference, Mr. Jaharis said, “As I told you, our legal recommendation is we do not comment on matters that may involve potential liabilities.”

When asked whether the Archdiocese has insurance to cover cases of sexual misconduct against legal actions, Mr. Jaharis said, “As you know, with the problems that the Catholic Church has had, obtaining insurance is difficult, if not impossible (to obtain). We may have some insurance with respect to these matters — probably related to current matters, not to past situations — but I can’t comment on it right now.”

In the event a lawsuit is filed against the Archdiocese, the Archdiocese would have to pay from its general account, he said: “Nothing is new there. The fact remains that the Archdiocese has been paying for other incidents; nothing current, but for incidents that happened quite a few years ago.”

Mr. Jaharis also said that, while he could not disclose exactly how much money the Archdiocese has paid out for cases involving sexual misconduct by clergy over the past five years, the amount is significant: “As matter of fact, I can’t give you the exact numbers, but I can tell you it involves significant amount, not only in pay off, but also in attorneys fees and the time and effort by people who have been asked to do the investigations internally.”

The Herald persisted about how much money the Archdiocese has paid out on sexual misconduct cases, but Mr. Jaharis said, “I don’t know. As a matter of fact, I’ve been suggesting that perhaps we should take a look at that so that the parishioners can also know,” noting that the Greek Orthodox Church is not experiencing the problem at the level or extent of the Catholic Church.

“We don’t have the same problems as Catholic Church. We have far less revenue and assets to take care of this. We have to pay what we have to, but we have been very careful in all we do, and in making decisions very carefully to determine the best approach for us to take. Again, let me remind you that, with the exception of the latest situation, these cases involved actions by people — for the most part one individual — who did a lot of damage.”

When he was asked to clarify whom or what he was referring to, Mr. Jaharis said, “One former priest who I don’t want to discuss right now.”

When asked if the person is a pedophile, Mr. Jaharis said, “I would say he was not a very nice person, and we continue to have problems with that, even though he is no longer alive.”

Asked whether he was referring to Stanley Adamakis, Mr. Jaharis said, “That’s correct,” but he did not say how much money the Archdiocese has paid out for the Adamakis case: “Again I don’t know, but I do think it’s interesting because sometimes people don’t understand how much money has gone into these cases.”

The late Mr. Adamakis was convicted in 1986 of molesting two adolescent boys in Torrance, California and sentenced to 78 days in jail. While he was still on probation for that offense, he molested two more boys he met through an Episcopal Church youth group in Hermosa Beach, California and pled guilty to those charges in March of 1990. He was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison. When the second set of charges was filed, the late Metropolitan (then Bishop) Anthony of San Francisco said a defrockment action had been pending against Adamakis for more than a year, stemming from repeated, though never substantiated, allegations of “sexual misbehavior.” Mr. Adamakis was murdered at 61 years of age on July 20, 2003 (allegedly by a 24-year old man with whom he had a sexual relationship. Tu Luong Hua of Panorama City was arrested for killing the former priest with an AR-15 assault rifle).

Asked why the Archdiocese Chancery requested that Father Katinas be released from the Metropolis of Denver to the Archdiocesan District last July, Mr. Jaharis said, “I can’t comment on that, except to say that under the Uniform Parish Regulations and the Charter, I think it relates to something that is required.”

In response to questions concerning the current financial condition of the Archdiocese, which is several million dollars in debt, Mr. Jaharis said, “Revenues have increased substantially, and that’s because we have a new approach in doing things. Things are fine.” But when he was asked why the Archdiocese has not yet sent the Hellenic College/Holy Cross the $1.6 million it owes HC/HC in $100,000 monthly allocations, and how that figures into the Archdiocese’s priorities, Mr. Jaharis said, “We do what we can under the revenues we receive from the flock. The people have to realize what our priorities are. We allocate the money as best as we can, and they are paid, and they will continued to be paid.”

But when it was noted that the school has received its monthly allocation from the Archdiocese for almost a year and half, Mr. Jaharis said, “No, no. That’s not correct. We owe, and we have an obligation to pay up as soon as we are able to do that.”

Why do other programs and projects seem to have more priority than the school, Mr. Jaharis was asked? “You may come in and talk to the financial people and listen to their answer. It’s all transparent,” he replied, adding that current revenues are still inadequate.

“We aren’t getting what’s appropriate. You can’t run the Archdiocese with a budget of 13 million dollars. It’s impossible.” When he was reminded that the Archdiocese budget went up to $19 million, Mr. Jaharis said, “It hasn’t gone there. It’s going towards that.”

As to who ultimately makes financial decisions for the Archdiocese (e.g., who sets the bishops’ salaries, or personnel salaries), Mr. Jaharis said, “They are done in conjunction with the Archdiocesan Council and the Finance Committee.”

When asked if there were any moments that he asks himself, “What am I doing here with all these problems,” Mr. Jaharis said, “No. I’ve been with the Archdiocese since the early 1980’s, and I try very hard to be constructive. There are times when that’s difficult to do, but that’s part of the business. I take the same approach with my business affairs, but the point is, I believe in Hellenism and Orthodoxy, and I give whatever efforts I can in this regard.”

Asked if he was concerned whether, at some point, he could be held personally responsible legally and financially, Mr. Jaharis said, “No. That goes with the job. I don’t think about those things. I think more positively that we can do a better job and be constructive in any situation.”