Chicago Parishioner/Writer: Dokos Verdict Means “Pharisees Won”
CHICAGO, IL – When Rev. James Dokos pleaded guilty on February 21 to embezzling more than $100,000 from the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Milwaukee, there were some people who were hoping the sordid affair would now be forgotten. The feelings expressed by people like John Kass, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and also Greek Orthodox, run broad and deep.
In a February 23 Tribune article titled “Handling of Priest’s Theft Did Real Harm to Greek Orthodox Church,” Kass begins by pointing out that if a kid was charged with stealing from a sandwich shop a fraction of the $100,000 that Dokos stole from the Church, it would reasonable be expected that he would go to jail, and yet Dokos won’t even serve one day in prison.
Kass blasts the church hierarchy for their handling of the Dokos matter, describing the priest as having a fondness for a luxurious lifestyle and a powerful ally in the Chicago Greek Orthodox Church, Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos.
As Kass points out, Dokos already paid back the money, and so if he performs 40 hours of community service and otherwise stays out of trouble, the crime will be reduced to a misdemeanor. But the damage Dokos did goes far beyond that, Kass writes, He tore apart two Greek Orthodox parishes: first, Annunciation in Milwaukee, WI, and then Sts. Peter and Paul in Glenview, IL, courtesy of the transfer by Bishop Demetrios.
The bishop, who received $6,000 in checks from Dokos, transferred Dokos from Milwaukee to Glenview, sending to Milwaukee, in turn, Fr. Angelo Artemas, the Glenview pastor Kass describes as beloved. Although both parish councils were upset because of the transfer, Bishop Demetrios admonished them and proceeded to oust the president of the Glenview Parish Council. He told the Milwaukee parish that Dokos did nothing wrong. In fact, a Milwaukee prosecutor warned the bishop against witness tampering and intimidation. The end result? Artemas is now at a church in North Carolina.
He paid the money back as restitution, and if he behaves himself and spends 40 hours doing community service, it’ll all be dropped down to a misdemeanor, authorities said.
But there’s more to it than that, because the Dokos saga leaves two great Greek Orthodox parishes ripped apart, Annunciation in Milwaukee, and Sts. Peter and Paul in Glenview.
Church leaders have been criticized for how the mess was handled. The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, which oversees some 60 parishes throughout the Midwest and hundreds of thousands of church members, was scandalized.
Many laity in the Metropolis believe that spiritual violence was done, not only to these two churches, but to all of us. I believe it. I am Greek Orthodox.
I suppose that I could have left this one alone. But I’ve spent my career calling out corruption among the powerful, among politicians and their gangster helpers.
So for me to ignore what appears to be systemic corruption in my own church is impossible.
‘In Chicago and here, people’s hearts are broken, and broken again because of this, just as we go into the Lenten season,’ said Wendy Staves, a former parish council member at Annunciation. ‘It’s been spiritual violence, it’s the antithesis of what we want in church, and so though I love my faith, but I don’t go to church anymore. I can’t. Not after what happened.’
She stopped talking and over the phone I could hear her weep.
Dokos was put in charge of a seven-figure trust fund to benefit the Annunciation church. Most of the money was given to the church. But more than $100,000 was diverted by Dokos, for restaurant tabs and jewelry for his wife, other fine gifts and credit card bills.
According to a Tribune investigation, Dokos also gave a key ally, Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the No. 2 official in the Metropolis, more than $6,000 in checks.
A spokesman for the bishop told Tribune reporters it was traditional ‘honoraria.’ He said the source of the money was not questioned.
With Dokos being investigated by the law, the bishop transferred him to Sts. Peter and Paul. And the beloved pastor there, the Rev Angelo Artemas, was removed, and sent to the Milwaukee church.
Both parish councils were upset. Demetrios scolded them, asserted his authority, and ousted the president of the parish council in Glenview, Jim Gottreich.
The ousted Gottreich told Kass: “you know the Greek expression, the fish rots from the head? Well, that’s what’s going on here. And the churches know it, and the parishioners know it, and that’s why donations are down all over the Metropolis.”
Kass concludes with a Biblical reference, describing Dokos’ slap-on-the-wrist sentence as the Pharisees having won.