Archdiocese Settles Jacksonville Lawsuit Involving Archimandrite
BOSTON- The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America reached an out-of-court settlement in a legal case involving the former presiding priest of the Church of St. John the Theologian of Jacksonville, Fl. The Very Rev. Nicholas Graff, 52, who had served as pastor at the Saint John the Divine Church for 17 years, had been accused of pedophilia.
On May 6, an Archdiocesan news release stated “The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America announced today that the lawsuit brought by Jacksonville, Fl. plaintiffs in September 2007 has been settled.”
The trial was scheduled to begin on Monday, June 8. The Archdiocese was accused in the lawsuit, which alleges that, “At all times, the Archdiocese was aware of defendant Graff’s misconduct and sexual propensities.” However, there has been no finding of fault or liability against the Archdiocese.
Prior to the September 2007 lawsuit, based upon allegations of inappropriate behavior, Fr. Nicholas Graff was placed on suspension on June 13, 2007.
The suspension remains in force and prohibits him from acting in any liturgical, pastoral, administrative or other official capacity within the Orthodox Church.”
Archimandrite Nicholas Graff resigned from the Jacksonville parish in June 2007. The Archimandrite was a candidate to become a Bishop, and he was even placed on the three-person ballot at least twice thus far.
On January 23, an out of court settlement was reached between the alleged victim and the St. John the Theologian Greek Orthodox parish for an undisclosed amount.
According to the text of a lawsuit Father Graff met a boy, named in the lawsuit as “John Doe,” some 14 years ago. The boy was only 10 years of age at the time, “was born on September 18, 1985, and was a parishioner at defendant Orthodox Church.”
The lawsuit alleges that when the boy was a teenager, Father Graff began exhibiting “undue, obsessive and inappropriate interest in him, including but not limited to, taking the plaintiff to and from school every day; purchasing an automobile for the plaintiff; purchasing clothing for the plaintiff; giving the plaintiff $500 per week over a six-year period; paying travel expenses, phone bills and tuition for the plaintiff; and inducing the plaintiff to move into the defendant’s residence.
According to court documents, “when Doe was 16 years old, Defendant Graff’s obsessive and inappropriate behavior towards Plaintiff Doe escalated into sexual misconduct. All instances of sexual misconduct by Defendant Graff were unprovoked, without consent, and were harmful and offensive to Plaintiff Doe.” The lawsuit also stated, “in August 2005, defendant Graff sexually assaulted plaintiff Doe” and “sought to formally adopt plaintiff Doe,” but the mother refused.
The alleged victim is 24 years old today, and is a Greek Orthodox Christian, according to members of the GOA hierarchy. Priests who spoke to TNH on the condition of anonymity said, “The issue was somewhat known in Florida.” The lawsuit stated that Father Graff’s alleged victim “required hospitalization, therapy and counseling, and will be required in the future to seek medical care and counseling, and incur future costs and expenses.”
Father Graff was also accused of using “funds and accounts of the Orthodox Church to purchase items and provide monetary inducement to Plaintiff Doe,” and that “in the summer of 2003, Defendant Graff offered the boy’s mother $300,000 in exchange for surrendering parental rights to Plaintiff Doe.”
In a telephone call made by TNH to the office of Archbishop Demetrios at the Archdiocese, one of the secretaries said “the Archbishop is in Canada”. TNH learned that Archbishop Demetrios had gone to Canada, invited by Metropolitan Soterios of Toronto and All Canada to be keynote speaker at the Graduation ceremonies of the Theological Academy of the Metropolis of Canada on Friday, May 8.
Archdiocesan Press Officer and spokesman Mr. Stavros Papagermanos told TNH that, “I do not know anything more other than what is stated in the news release which was issued by the lawyers.” To the question of whether and how much money was paid from the Archdiocese, Mr. Papagermanos said “honestly I have no idea” and he added that “the directives that I have are whatever the News Release says, we have nothing more”.
At press time, Archbishop Demetrios of America had not returned TNH’s call; neither did Father Graff answer the phone at his residence, and telephone messages to Saint John the Divine Church went unanswered.
Metropolitan Alexios, to whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction Father Nicholas Graff belongs, had said in June of 2007 that, “I have nothing to tell you, except that he has been placed on suspension. The rest is up to the Spiritual Court.”
Asked whether Father Graff was, in fact, sent before Spiritual Court, Alexios said, “of course,” but when asked to disclose the Court’s decision, he declined comment: “I can not tell you many things.” Asked whether or not the Spiritual Court has decided to defrock Father Graff, Alexios said, “We do not know yet. He has been placed on suspension.”
When TNH noted that Alexios appointed Father Graff Vicar General of the Atlanta Metropolis, the Metropolitan of Atlanta said, “Are you questioning me now? You are neither a court, nor my spiritual father”.
When he was asked from what time had he known that Father Graff was living with an underage boy, Alexios said, “I do not want to discuss anything. You are a smart man, and you know that we can not discuss something which has been referred to the court.”
According to official biographical data that was posted until 2007 at Saint John the Divine’s parish site in Jacksonville, Father Graff, is a native of Baltimore, Md., born on March 4, 1957. He graduated from Hellenic College in 1979 and from Holy Cross in 1982. He pursued graduate studies at Catholic University in Washington.
He was appointed a permanent member of the Board of Trustees of Saint Photos Shrine, and became its Executive Director. He was also a member of the Archdiocesan Council, a member of the Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology Board of Trustees, as well as the Metropolis of Atlanta’s Metropolitan Council. Metropolitan Alexios had also appointed him Dean of Vicars, as well as Vicar of Northern Florida.