Threefold Problem: Protection of Father Katinas, The Archbishop and the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Author: Theodore Kalmoukos
Date Published: 03/31/2007
Publication: The National Herald
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS Rev. Nick Katinas stands next the koliva which he had just prepared at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas in the March 22, 1998 photo. Father Katinas has been accused sexual misconduct with minors, and was suspended from the priesthood last summer, just a few days after he retired.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS Rev. Nick Katinas stands next the koliva which he had just prepared at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas in the March 22, 1998 photo. Father Katinas has been accused sexual misconduct with minors, and was suspended from the priesthood last summer, just a few days after he retired.

BOSTON – The recent gathering of the Holy Eparchial Synod in New York on March 14-15 manifested a number of things, but it seems that the following three are the most basic:

First, once more, the Synod was totally unprepared for all the issues discussed.

Second, with his entire approach to the highly sensitive matter concerning alleged pedophilia involving Rev. Nicholas Katinas, the former longtime pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, Archbishop Demetrios of America’s last mask of false piety has fallen. His Eminence has appeared to be completely insensitive toward the victims and their families, even putting the entire Church and our Greek American community at risk, with potentially serious consequences.

Third, the Archbishop’s refusal to do what obviously needs to be done – i.e., send Father Katinas to Spiritual Court, as he should have done by now, and proceed to defrock him – leads the Church in America down a dark and dangerous path.

Those members of the Eparchial Synod who were astonished by the Archbishop’s apparent stand to protect Father Katinas were absolutely right when they asked him why there are two sets of standards for wrongdoers, alleged or otherwise.

Perhaps some members of the Synod did not know that the Archbishop himself is closely connected to Father Katinas through longstanding good friendship, and also that Father Katinas is tight with individuals like Rev. Nicholas Triantafilou president of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology; Rev. Dr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, professor of the New Testament Studies at HC/HC; Rev. Dr. Alkiviadis Calivas, professor emeritus of Liturgics and former Dean of Holy Cross; Rev. Thomas Paris, pastor of the Ascension Cathedral in Oakland, California; and Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, director of the Archdiocese’s new Faith Endowment Fund, who presents himself to the community as some kind of “Patriarchal Vicar General,” and who says and does all kinds of things in Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople’s name.

In other words, there is a visible circle of people, which operates as a protective shield for Father Katinas, despite the Archdiocese’s public admission that the former Dallas pastor “engaged in serious moral transgressions” when Assistant Archdiocese Chancellor Rev. Michael Kontogiorgis informed a hushed Dallas congregation of more than 400 on February 21 that their longtime former parish priest of 28 years had allegedly committed sexual abuse with minors, and that Father Katinas’ suspension is permanent.

In addition to this very vocal and chilling disclosure, the Archdiocese’s official announcement two days later was even more revealing and chilling: “After a thorough investigation of allegations of serious misconduct involving minors, Father Katinas was suspended, in accordance with the Archdiocese’s Statement of Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Clergy.”

Despite all these revealing and embarrassing admissions, the Archdiocese leadership, the Archbishop, refuses to what he should have already done, instead invoking the unconvincing excuse that “Father Katinas has admitted his actions; he is 72 years of age; he has repented; and he wants to be buried as a priest when he dies, not as a layman.”

Yes, this is the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America speaking, and to whom Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta extended a helping hand. That made other hierarchs in the Synod very angry, and they reacted sharply to Demetrios and Alexios, in a very strong and scathing manner. In their private discussions, the same hierarchs were saying in their private discussions that Demetrios has lost control of the Archdiocese and its institutions, and most certainly any controlling influence he had on the Eparchial Synod, echoing what some very serious politicians from Athens have been saying about the Archbishop’s administrative incompetence for some time now: “The man can not do any more. This is as far as he can go.”

The Archbishop’s irresponsible approach to clergy pedophilia raises another very serious issue. It also places the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Patriarch Bartholomew, in a very difficult position. We must not forget that the Patriarch is the Archbishop’s ecclesiastical superior. Ultimately, the Church in America is in the Patriarch of Constantinople’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

Demetrios and the other Metropolitans commemorate Bartholomew during arch-hierarchical Divine Liturgies, and the Archbishop is the Patriarch’s exarch to the Church in America.

It seems that Archbishop Demetrios is forgetting that he is not heading an autocephalous or even autonomous Church, and that he is a bishop entrusted with the pastoral responsibility of an Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne. That means he completely depends on the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and that each and every action he takes or decision he makes reflects directly on the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Many among the clergy and the laity of the Archdiocese are asking a very simple question: What is the Ecumenical Patriarchate saying about all these things? Does it accept Archbishop Demetrios’ seeming stance to protect alleged perpetrators of pedophilia simply because the accused cleric is a recently retired older man who prefers to be buried as priest when he dies, and not as a layman who was defrocked?

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is contending with too many problems in the fanatic third world land of Turkey, in which it dwells, and does not need any more problems. It does not need to be apologetic for the ‘unexplained’ protection that its exarch in America provides to a priest, about whom the Archdiocese has officially admitted has committed despicable acts against innocent young kids. What is going to happen if the American and international press begin bombarding the Patriarch with disturbing questions about Demetrios’ “protecting pedophiles?”

Does His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew realize the magnitude of the problem, and what is really at stake here? Given the recent history of the Roman Catholic Church in Boston, and in many other cities in the United States, can the Patriarch not see how sex abuse scandals brought the Catholic Church in America to its knees, or is he so completely under the influence of Father Karloutsos?

The least the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Church in America expect the Patriarch to do is direct his ecclesiastical inferior, Archbishop Demetrios, to do what the canons require, what the Archbishop should have done months ago: to start the process to defrock Father Katinas. If Bartholomew does nothing, then everyone will have every right to interpret the situation the way he or she likes.

On the other hand, those who happen to know Patriarch Bartholomew from past experience, they very well know that he places the Church above everything and everybody else (to include Demetrios), and that is why they believe he will intervene.

It would almost be laughable if the Patriarchate says that this is an internal issue, “and we do not micromanage or get involved with the Archdiocese’s internal affairs,” especially when the story of clergy sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church first broke in the Boston Globe, and the then powerful and very popular Cardinal Bernard Law were hiding behind news releases and “no comment” statements. But when things got ugly, the Vatican called Cardinal Law to Rome to save him, and he ended up leaving in complete disgrace.

We must be very careful. The imminent chaos facing our Church and community is preventable. If the Patriarchate is the last to realize that the Archbishop’s stance on the Father Katinas’ alleged sexual misconduct makes him not only a liability for, but also dangerous to, the Church in America, and consequently for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, then it will be too late.

Finally, another key issue which manifested itself during the Eparchial Synod’s most recent gathering was that, among the many other problems Demetrios is contending with, or creating for the Church and himself, is his chancellor, Bishop Savas of Troas, who spoke contemptuously about other members of the Synod.

Savas should have already received an official reprimand from the President of the Eparchial Synod, the Archbishop. It is not only about the problems Savas faces with parishes, but also that he has created serious problems within the Synod. The Patriarchate should probably also look into the Savas issue and instruct his boss to do something for the good of the Archdiocese. The synodal hierarchs’ recommendation to the Archbishop that Savas be relieved from his chancery duties and assigned to a secondary position with a salary is probably a good suggestion. The Archbishop said he has been considering the possibility for several months now, but he has not acted on it yet – just another typical case of indecisiveness until an issue completely deteriorates and becomes more detrimental to the life of the Church.