Patriarchate defrocks priest in VT sexual molestation case

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Date Published: 01/05/2000

Hellenic Chronicle: Correction on Koveos story
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January 12, 2000

Emmanuel Koveos, who was defrocked by the Patriarchate last month, has never served as a chanter for the Transfiguration Church in Lowell. He had been chanting for a separate parish that has been using Transfiguration on a temporary basis until it is ready to move into a new church building.
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Diocese informs Koveos he has been “returned to status of lay person”

The Diocese of Boston has formally notified (Rev.) Emmanuel Koveos that he has been “returned to the status of a lay person” following three years of legal and theological activity surrounding his conviction for sexual molestation of a minor.

A letter was sent by Metropolitan Methodios to Koveos transmitting the official decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to defrock him.

Koveos was found guilty of sexually molesting a young girl while giving her a Greek language lesson at the Dormition of the Mother of God Church in Burlington, Vermont on January 22, 1997.

In February of 1998, following a week-long court trial, he was convicted of this sex crime and sent to prison to serve a six month sentence. Since his release, he has been serving a four and a half year probation, while receiving court ordered sex offender treatment.

Koveos, a third generation priest, currently resides in the Lowell area. He came to America in 1970, serving long stints in parishes in Pennsylvania and in Concord, NH and shorter ones in Texas and in both Lowell and Quincy.

Immediately after his arrest, a woman from the Concord, NH parish called police and accused Koveos of sexually attacking her in 1988, while she was attending marriage counseling at their Church. Koveos’ attorneys were successful in blocking her testimony during trial.

In November 1972, after only a year and a half at the St. Catherine’s Church in Quincy, according to The Patriot Ledger, the parish council cut Koveos’ salary in half and changed the locks on the doors of the church.

Upon hearing of Koveos’ arrest, Metropolitan Methodios immediately suspended him from all Church duties and visited Vermont within a few days to personally assess the situation, meeting with the parish council and visiting the victim and her family.

The girl’s parents, Catherine and Evan Metropoulos of Charlotte, Vermont, were raised in the Taxiarchae parish in Watertown and were married by Fr. Emmanuel Metaxas.

After moving to Vermont in 1981, they immediately joined and became active members of the Burlington parish, Evan serving on the parish council for many terms and Catherine holding the office of secretary and treasurer as an active member of the Philoptochos. Prior to the birth of their third child in 1989, she had coordinated the Sunday School and had started a community newsletter.

“We were shocked and stunned that something like this could ever happen to us. Koveos was like a grandfather to our children,” Catherine Metropoulos said.

When the police first contacted Koveos, he admitted to improperly touching the young girl and wrote her a letter of apology. After his arrest, however, he vehemently denied any wrongdoing, calling the victim a “liar,” a “problem child,” and claiming that she was possessed by the devil.

Testimony in court indicated Koveos fondled the girl in the main hall of the church, which ironically is named for her maternal grandmother, while giving a Greek lesson and later in his private office where the lesson continued. The groping was interrupted when the victim’s mother walked in.

“I cannot begin to tell you how heart-rendingly difficult it was for me to watch and listen as my young daughter nervously demonstrated and explained exactly what had been sexually done to her. I am extremely proud of her strength and maturity and commend her courage,” Mrs. Metropoulos said.

During the court process, the Diocese of Boston ordered Koveos and his family to vacate the house next door to the church, but he refused, creating a tremendous financial strain on a tiny parish of only 100 families. Alternative places to live offered by the Diocese were rejected by the Koveos family.

For many months, the parish paid hotel, travel and living expenses for visiting priests. In July 1997, Fr. Robert Athas and his family were sent to minister to the parish now divided over this scandal. For a year, the parish endured the cost of a parish home and an apartment for Fr. Athas’ family. It was not until June of 1998, a year and a half later, that the Koveos family finally moved out.

Following his release from prison six months later, Koveos faced a spiritual court in the Diocese of Boston. The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America would later consider the incident and Koveos’ future, sending a confidential recommendation for action to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Frustration within the family over the delay in dealing with the situation was borne out in many letters and phone calls to the Diocese, the Archdiocese and the Patriarchate. The victim’s parents had also written of their frustration in letters to this newspaper.

Finally, the decision to defrock Koveos, or to “return him to the status of a lay person” was made at the Phanar in mid-December and was conveyed to the Archdiocese and then the Diocese of Boston.

Metropolitan Methodios informed Koveos by letter last week that he was no longer permitted to perform any of the duties of a priest.

In November, Metropolitan Methodios learned that Koveos was serving as a chanter at the Transfiguration Church in Lowell. The Diocese ordered Koveos to cease any activity related to parish life.

“Our spiritual and lay leaders must recognize and acknowledge the fact that sex crimes, especially those against children, are very serious offenses. Appropriate actions must be taken. These crimes cannot be ignored, squelched, accepted or tolerated within our Churches,” Mrs. Metropoulos said.