Former Pastor of Dallas Community is Accused of Child Sex Abuse

Author: Theodore Kalmoukos
Date Published: 03/03/2007
Publication: The National Herald
Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, Texas
Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, Texas
Quieter Times: The congregation of the Holy Trinity Church watches His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, lead the Service of Consecration on the morning of December 8, 2001 outside the north Dallas church. The dedication service for the new church edifice, which was founded in 1997, included placing relics from martyred saints in the altar. The service is a once-ina- lifetime event for a church. Rev. Nick Katinas, then pastor of Holy Trinity for 39 years, is shown to the far right. Katinas was suspended from the priesthood last July. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Quieter Times: The congregation of the Holy Trinity Church watches His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, lead the Service of Consecration on the morning of December 8, 2001 outside the north Dallas church. The dedication service for the new church edifice, which was founded in 1997, included placing relics from martyred saints in the altar. The service is a once-ina- lifetime event for a church. Rev. Nick Katinas, then pastor of Holy Trinity for 39 years, is shown to the far right. Katinas was suspended from the priesthood last July. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

Mother of Alleged Victim Says her Son Still Wakes Up at Night and Cries (see story, pg. 4)

BOSTON – Rev. Nicholas Katinas, one of the most prominent priests of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, has been accused of sexual misconduct with minors.

At least two such cases have been alleged, thus far, one in Illinois and the other in Texas.

Father Katinas, 72, retired last July from the Holy Trinity Church in Dallas Texas after what many Greek Orthodox faithful throughout the country have considered a successful 28-year ministry.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America quickly suspended him after he retired, however, and he has been placed under suspension since the summer of 2006 (in Orthodox terms, clerical suspension means prohibition of all liturgical, priestly and church administrative matters and functions).

The story broke in the Dallas local media last week, after Rev. Michael Kontogiorgis, assistant chancellor of the Archdiocese, during an official visit to the Dallas community, told a subdued crowd of about 400, “There is no doubt that Father Nicholas engaged in serious moral transgressions.”

In an interview with Archbishop Demetrios of America last Saturday, February 17 (four days prior to Father Kontogiorgis’ visit to the Dallas parish), the Archbishop initially tried to convince the National Herald not to publish the story. He then stated, “What I am saying is that it is a very sensitive and complex issue, and it thus needs be treated with great caution if it is published or whatever else.”

When he was asked why he requested Father Katinas’ transfer from the Metropolis of Denver to the Archdiocesan District of New York in June of 2006, Demetrios, clearly uncomfortable, said, “I thank you for calling me. I answered you. Our interview stops here.”

In a recent interview with the Herald by telephone this past November 16, Father Katinas denied knowledge of the accusations against him. He also initially denied that he had done anything wrong, but then said, “I can’t tell you. I can’t talk at all about these issues.” The text of the interview follows:

TNH: I have the page from the new Archdiocesan Yearbook right here in front of me, and it says that you have been placed under suspension. Can you tell us why?

KATINAS: They know. I don’t know the reasons. They have assumed the matter. Let them do whatever they want. I’m retired now. I retired some time ago, and I don’t feel well. I don’t know. They know better than I do.

TNH: Tell us the truth. Can you please tell me what’s going on?

KATINAS: I can’t. I’m not in a position to say anything. That’s the problem. They have assumed this issue, and whatever they say, that’s what will be done. I have no problem with them. They know.

TNH: You mean the Archdiocese?

KATINAS: Yes, the Archdiocese.

TNH: Father Nick, you have been accused of pedophilia.

KATINAS: I don’t know who’s accusing me. The Archdiocese has assumed the issue. Let them do whatever they wish.

TNH: Please don’t avoid us. Talk to me.

KATINAS: I can’t tell you anything.

TNH: Have you done something wrong?

KATINAS: No, my son. I can’t tell you. I can’t talk at all on these issues. The Archdiocese has assumed the issue, and I will do whatever they say. I can’t do anything differently.

TNH: What if they defrock you?

KATINAS: Let God be their judge. It’s in their hand to do it. I have served the Church for 43 years. God knows, and I know. I can’t say anything more. I thank you very much for calling. Goodbye.

At the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts last Wednesday evening, February 21, the Dallas Morning News reported that Father Kontogiorgis told the congregation that accusations of child sex abuse were the cause for his suspension.

The complaint that led to the suspension was lodged in the “not too distant past” and arose from another parish, he said. “The statements we heard were corroborated by the accuser’s childhood friends who are now well-respected professionals in other parts of the country,” he added.

In speaking to the congregation about Father Katinas’ conduct, Father Kontogiorgis used the word, “minors,” according to a report published by the Dallas Morning News on February 22.

“(Father Kontogiorgis) would not elaborate afterwards, but did confirm that he meant to use the plural, and told the congregation he is investigating a recent complaint against Father Katinas involving abuse alleged to have occurred at Holy Trinity,” the Dallas Morning News reported.

Parishioners present that evening told the Herald that Father Kontogiorgis also made it clear Father Katinas’ suspension was permanent, and that it would “not be lifted.” They also informed Father Kontogiorgis told them he hopes Father Katinas will seek “residential psychotherapy.”

The Herald left a message with Father Kontogiorgis’ office, but he had not returned the call at press time. Messages to Archdiocese General Counsel Manny Demos also went unanswered.

Neither did Catherine Bouffides-Walsh, Secretary of the Archdiocesan Council’s Executive Committee and a member of its legal committee, return the Herald’s calls.

Tahira Khan Merritt, a Dallas attorney who specializes in cases of sexual misconduct, and who has successfully represented victims of sexual misconduct at the hands of Roman Catholic priests, said she plans to file lawsuits accusing Father Katinas of repeatedly molesting an altar boy at Holy Trinity Church between 1983 and 1985.

In an interview, Ms. Merritt told the Herald she is going to file lawsuits against “Father Katinas, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver and the parish of Holy Trinity here in Dallas.”

Asked how many victims she is representing, Ms. Merrit said, “At this time one, who was abused here in Dallas. He was an altar boy at Holy Trinity, where Father Katinas was the priest. He was 13-15 years of age (at the time the molestations allegedly occurred) Today, he is 37.”

In response to questions concerning her knowledge of any other victims, she said, “I have information about (abuse of) a victim from the Olympia Fields parish in Chicago (Church of the Assumption) that had occurred prior to his abuse of my client.”

She also disclosed that she has yet to receive a response from the Archdiocese: “I sent the Archdiocese a letter before the holidays, but no one has contacted me. No one has responded,” she said.

Rev. Christopher Constantinides, current pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, initially did not return any of the Herald’s calls.

Father Constantinides replaced Father Katinas last summer. He was transferred from Saint George’s Church in Bethesda, Maryland to Holy Trinity, where he served as Father Katinas’ assistant for many years, and was, according to parish sources, one of the accused priest’s closest confidants.

Father Katinas has five children, and grandchildren as well. He reportedly left for Greece on February 19, two days before Father Kontogiorgis’ visit to the Dallas parish. His presvytera (priest’s wife) has remained stateside, as has been verified by his son, Rev. James Katinas, pastor of the Annunciation Church in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I have no comment at this time. I ask for your understanding,” said Father James Katinas who, up until very recently, had also served as director of Admissions and director of Development at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology for several years.

“The time will probably come when I will have a lot to say,” he added.

The Herald has also learned from sources within the Archdiocese that the issue started coming to a head shortly after last Easter, when the Archdiocese received an allegation from an adult man who accused Father Nicholas Katinas of molesting him when he was still a minor while Father Katinas was serving as a priest in his home parish. Prior to his ministry at the Dallas parish, Father Katinas had served in the Chicago and Wisconsin areas.

In June of 2006, Father Katinas filed his retirement papers, to the surprise of both his bishop, Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, and the Holy Trinity community, citing health-related reasons.

At the same time, the Archdiocese Chancery requested his official ecclesiastical release from the Denver Metropolis to the Archdiocesan District, which is under the Archbishop’s direct oversight.

“Father Katinas sent a letter, in which he was saying that he wanted to retire,” Isaiah told the Herald. As far as his release is concerned, Isaiah said, “it was requested by the Archdiocese, but no reasons were given to me,” although the Metropolitan indicated that he was aware of “rumors” since last summer in a pastoral letter he sent to the Holy Trinity community last Thursday, February 22 (see full text of Isaiah’s letter, page 5).

In July of 2006, the Archdiocese suspended Father Katinas from all his clerical duties without notifying the faithful, neither publishing its decision in the Orthodox Observer, its official newspaper, nor on its website (www.goarch.org), as had typically been the case even for minor announcements.

News of Father Katinas’ suspension began to circulate among parish and ecclesiastical circles, but no official confirmation or statement had yet been issued by the Archdiocese.

During the Clergy-Laity Congress in Nashville, Tennessee last July, the subject of Father Katinas was, albeit unofficially, discussed widely among the clergy during breaks from Congress proceedings, but the discussions seemed to be rumors.

By fall, rumors began to spread throughout the Greek American community, but the Archdiocese had maintained silence on the issue.

During the last gathering of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese this past October, members of the Synod asked the Archbishop to clarify what was going on with Father Katinas, and why there seemed to be “double standards.”

The Archbishop was reportedly “visibly bothered” by the questions posed by his fellow hierarchs, and told the Synod abstractly that, “He (Father Katinas) was placed on suspension because of some allegations against him.”

But the Archbishop did not explain why Father Katinas’ name was not published in the Orthodox Observer. At the insistence of his fellow hierarchs that Father Katinas should be defrocked, as was the case with others, the Archbishop reportedly told the Synod that, “Father Katinas has admitted his mistake. He is already retired, and is of advanced age.”

Father Katinas’ name subsequently appeared under the list of suspensions in the November 2006 issue of the Orthodox Observer, without further explanation.

The Dallas parish suddenly found itself in a difficult and confusing situation. Father Kontogiorgis, after eight months of delay, finally informed the Dallas community about its beloved former pastor last week.

Father Katinas was well connected with those in positions of authority within the Church. He served on the Archdiocesan Council, as well as on the Board of Trustees at Hellenic College/Holy Cross, which he visited frequently. He seemed to be beyond reproach, and that is why many are having difficulty believing the current allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

“Father Katinas has been a wonderful priest all his life. He is a dedicated individual to the Church. He has helped people far beyond the Dallas parish. They have a viable parish there now. And he was more concerned about his alma matter than most priests,” HC/HC President Rev. Nicholas Triantafilou told the Herald on February 17.

When asked why Father Katinas was placed on suspension, Father Triantafilou said, “I don’t know. That’s the Chancellor’s and the Archdiocese’s business. I’m not involved with that.”

Father Thomas Paris, dean of the Ascension Cathedral in Oakland, California, who is married to Father Katinas’ sister, told the Herald he understood there were accusations, but said he was unclear about the situation.

‘They have not told us clearly what it is. I think there were some accusations, but I don’t know if they’re true or not. I think the issues have been resolved,” he said.

When asked what sort of accusations he was referring to, Father Paris said, “I don’t know. They haven’t told us. I did ask him about it, but I didn’t as to the particulars. I went to visit him and give him support.”

Father Paris also praised his brother in-law and fellow priest: “He is one of the few, very dedicated and really loved by everyone. He has done outstanding work and basically excelled. He loved our theological school, and he loved his community, which just adored him because of his ability to show true Christian compassion to everyone,” he said.

“All of us make mistakes. I’m sure he has repented, whatever it is he has done. The Church teaches us to demonstrate repentance (remorse and changing one’s behavior), and to forgive,” Father Paris added.

But when the Herald told Father Paris that Father Katinas has been accused of child sex abuse, he said, “I’m not sure of that. I find that hard to believe. In this world, the rational does not rule. If there was inappropriate behavior, I know he has repented. As to what type on inappropriate behavior it was, I’m not aware of anything. I have a hard time accepting that he is a pedophile. It’s unfortunate, because he really is a great man – a loving, caring individual.”

Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, director of the Archdiocesan Faith Endowment Fund, whose brother James is chief administrator of HC/HC, told the Herald, “I am in deep pain. I love him very much. I’ve known him since I was a young priest in Chicago. I can’t talk. I have no other comment.”

When asked if he coordinated Father Katinas’ recent audience with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Father Karloutsos said, “I will not talk. I told you.”