Our Church Should Insist on Disclosure and Transparency

Author: Michael C. and Mary Keller
Date Published: 03/17/2007
Publication: The National Herald

To the Editor:

It is dismaying to read Theodore Kalmoukos’ articles in your March 10 edition concerning allegations of sexual abuse involving a longtime Greek Orthodox priest. What is equally distressing and alarming is to read, in these same articles, how our Archdiocese may have attempted to hide this alleged crime.

If it were not for the courage of the victim’s family to reveal this immoral behavior allegedly inflicted by the accused priest, our Archdiocese may have continued to bury these transgressions.

And if it were not for Michael Jaharis, who serves our Archdiocese at its highest level (as vice chairman of the Archdiocesan Council’s Executive Committee), and who has not hesitated to question and to speak out about the way the Archdiocese has handled this serious allegation, we would obediently continue to follow the decisions and practices of our hierarchical church, and would never question their credibility and fallibility.

The crux of the problem facing our Archdiocese, as National Herald and its publisher, Antonis Diamataris, have brought to light, is that there have undoubtedly been other undisclosed cases of sexual abuse involving Greek Orthodox priests. If it is true that the Archdiocese has spent $10 million in the past five years to resolve or “cover up” these cases, then the fundamental question must be asked: Where is the accountability in our hierarchical church?

While we adhere to the separation of church and state in America, what allows our Archdiocese to think that they are above the laws of this country?

It appears that this alarming predilection to quietly sweep any problem harmful or shameful to our Church under the rug is also happening at the diocesan level.

Saint Nicholas Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois is currently embroiled in a lawsuit filed by their former pastor, Archimandrite Timothy Bakakos, against several longtime parish members who courageously questioned the financial accounts and alleged financial improprieties of this priest and the church. Unfortunately, the only way the Saint Nicholas parishioners may have access to the financial records and bank statements of their church is through a lawsuit of their own.

In her article, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” (Greek Press, www.greekpressonline.com, February 27), Katherine G. Valone accurately discusses the issues of the Saint Nicholas’ parishioners, and the one clearly obvious way to resolve their problem. She concludes her article by asking his Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago to “open the books and bank records to a full and strict audit.”

Indeed, all the moral and financial issues facing the Church can only be resolved through honest and open communication between the hierarchy and the membership. It is unacceptable, unethical and heretical to think that the Greek Orthodox Church is not accountable to the legal system of this country.

We, the faithful members of the Church, and our hierarchical church fathers are all accountable for our words and deeds, and in the final analysis, our dear Lord will judge each of us on his or her merits. One unwavering belief unites the tenets of the Church and the governing laws of our country, however: Ultimately, the truth will prevail.

Michael C. and Mary Keller
Grand Rapids, Michigan