Greek America in 2010: Scandal, Shame, Defeat, But Charity Too
For Greek Americans and the rest of the Diaspora, from Johannesburg to Melbourne and back, 2010 was the year when they had to sit on the sidelines and watch as their home team, Greece, was trounced 2010-0, routed at every turn, and all they could do was wring their hands, sigh, try to explain to friends not all Greeks are like that. It was almost enough to take their minds off all the troubles at home, especially a series of sexually-tinged scandals in the Church that left the faithful shaking their heads and wondering what was going wrong. The most sensational – and tawdry – tale involved allegations against Metropolitan Paisios, a co-founder of the Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria, N.Y., who resigned hurriedly and went to Greece just before charges by a nun under his charge, and Bishop Vikentios, his associate there for 40 years, that Paisios was running more of a brothel than a House of Worship, a seamy story that allegedly involved sexual affairs with young men and women. The Patriarchate, which had jurisdiction, initially offered ecclesiastical leniency and accepted Paisios’ resignation, but then suspended him and Bishop Vikentios from any further involvement with the Church.
TNH’s intrepid religion reporter Theodore Kalmoukos also uncovered the Church of America’s refusal to take on the case of two 10-year-old twin boys from the Peoples Republic of Congo; the issue of whether or not Archbishop Demetrios, 83, would leave his position and other sexual molestation accusations, in Texas, against Deacon Bithos, as well as the unpopular decision of Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver to divide the Holy Trinity Cathedral parish in Salt Lake City in Utah into two. Detroit’s Annunciation Cathedral celebrated its 100th anniversary in one high note for religion. The Church’s woes continued with the long-running drama of St. Nicholas’ in New York City, destroyed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and which officials promised to help rebuild. Nine years later there’s not even an agreement or a blueprint as both sides charged each other with bad faith, all while Muslims were getting a green light to build a mosque near Ground Zero, not far from where St. Nicholas’ was felled. Even protests and the presence of Archbishop Demetrios in one demonstration on the site didn’t sway New York and New Jersey Port Authority officials to do anything.
It was not a good year for Greek Americans in politics either, with Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe initially voting to extend unemployment benefits for the jobless before changing her mind, and then with the defeat of three hopeful candidates for higher office, including two for U.S. Senate, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias for U.S. President Barack Obama’s old seat in Illinois, and Independent Charlie Crist, the Florida Governor who switched from the Republican party when it became apparent he wouldn’t get the nomination. Harry Wilson, a Wall Street whiz, couldn’t’ parlay that experience into winning the job as New York State Comptroller, and the three defeats were particularly bitter as it seemed Giannoulias and Wilson especially had a strong chance for victory, while Crist hoped he was cresting toward the end of the campaign.
But Greek American businessman George Maragos won the seat of Nassau County Comptroller in New York and Ted Gatsas became New Hampshire’s First Greek American Mayor when he won in the state’s biggest city, Manchester. Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) won a spot in the New York State Senate; Aravella Simotas won his old State Assembly seat, where she was joined by Nicole Malliotakis. George Sava lost to fellow Greek American Dean Skelos in a bid for his NY State Senate Seat and Vermont elected Jim Condos as its Secretary of State.
Thankfully, Greek philanthropy continued, with the Hellenic American School in Lowell, Massachusetts getting a $280,000 grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which also gave a $750,000 grant to the Cathedral School in New York and everyday Greek Americans kept showing they were hard working, decent people dedicated to their Church, families and community, celebrating festivals and life, so even as they were taking shots, they kept giving.