A LETTER TO THE "HELLENIC CHRONICLE"
To: Editor of the Hellenic Chronicle
Re: Article on Hellenic College/Holy Cross dated September 7,1997
The headline of the above referenced article that
read, "Dismissals at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Theological School put institution
at risk" is grossly misleading to your readers and factually and legally inaccurate.
The "informed source within the Administration" from whom you have obtained your
information is not providing you with the accurate information. I am reasonably sure that
the source of your information was Valerie Karras and her letter to the Attorney General
since it is the only document which contains "allegations" of corporate
improprieties at the Hellenic College/Holy Cross (hereafter "School"). I have
read her letter and your article and can tell you as a student and a lawyer that both are
fraught with inaccuracies and in some cases complete falsehoods. Further, as always, there
are two sides to each story. In the name of journalistic fairness and your moral
responsibility to the Church, I believe that you should print this letter or at least its
contents in another article concerning these events since factually I have just as much
information as Ms. Karras and I also have a greater legal knowledge and understanding in
I have been a theological student at the Holy Cross
(hereafter the "School") for the last two years and am familiar with these
events and many more during that time. Further, as an attorney having practiced law for
ten years before attending the School, I have been consulted by students and professors
for legal advice regarding the actions of the President and these (as well as other)
professors which they have taken against said students and professors during the last two
years. As such, I have what I believe to be a fairly accurate picture of what is going on
at the School.
Fr. Calivas and other professors
To begin with, each of the professors that your
article mentions, (President Calivas and the other three) are first and foremost priests
in the Church. As such, each one of them wears two hats (priest and then professor). Now
they will be the first to tell you that their first obedience, one which is the foundation
of their priestly office, is to the Church and its spiritual leader, Archbishop Spyridon.
That is, it is a prerequisite of their ordination. As such, their first loyalty is to the
Church and the Archbishop - their priestly duties and obedience take precedence over their
teaching careers. Teaching credentials, recognition and experience are not what make an
Orthodox priest at our School. First and foremost is obedience to the Archbishop and the
fulfillment of the priestly obligations as set forth in the Church's Holy Tradition,
canons, etc. Having said this, let me address the specifics of your article.
None of the professors that you referred to as being
"fired" were in fact fired. Fr. Clapsis is being reassigned to a full-time
parish which will not allow him to teach. Further, Fr. Clapsis is a non-tenured professor
whose contract is from year to year. Thus, at the end of each School year, he does not
have a contract with the School. It must be renewed. "Failure to renew" does not
amount to a "firing" for this term carries with it specific legal consequences
whereas the former does not.
Nor has Fr. Stylianopoulos been fired. The
Archbishop has determined that the needs of the Church require that Fr. Stylianopoulos be
reassigned to another community in a full time capacity. Thus, he is in the process of
being reassigned to serve at a full-time parish. This is not unusual in the history of our
Church. It was done by the former Archbishop Iakovos (Archbishop Spyridon's predecessor).
Although he is a tenured professor, his reassignment is not a "firing". As a
result of his priestly vocation, his membership on the faculty is subject to, and
conditioned upon, the fulfillment of his duties and requirements as a priest as determined
by his spiritual superior, Archbishop Spyridon. From a legal standpoint, the fact that he
is tenured does not prevent his reassignment nor give rise to any legal liability to the
School according to a very recent and similar case involving a tenured professor and his
removal from the Catholic theological school (Curran vs. Catholic University of America).
Neither has Fr. Calivas been fired. He is still
employed as a professor at the School but has been asked by the Archbishop to resign as
The investigation of alleged sexual misconduct
The ordering of the end to the "continuing
process regarding the decisions of the School's disciplinary committee in the case of a
sexual assault" is also misleading because it gives the impression that the
Archbishop ordered a halt to a proper continuing investigation. Further, it does not fully
explain to your readers what transpired and how Fr. Calivas and the disciplinary committee
were abusing the investigation process and completely disregarding the appeal process as
set forth in the Student Handbook.
For your information, the incident of
"alleged" sexual misconduct and subsequent cover up which these professors claim
is the basis of their "firings", is completely false. As mentioned above, the
President and the two professors were not fired. Second, there was no "cover up"
involved in the appeal process (i.e. review and decision of the appeal from the accused
student/priest to the former dean, Fr. George Dragas). First, the entire
"investigation" process was deficient. Second, the disciplinary committee's
finding was based upon hearsay evidence - there were no eye witnesses to the event.
Further, members of the disciplinary committee pressured certain students to make these
allegations against the student/priest. Also, pressure was put on Fr. Dragas to prevent
him from conducting an independent review of the case and he was "warned" about
coming up with a decision which did not agree with the disciplinary committee's findings.
When he refused to do so (by conducting an independent investigation as he is required to
do), these professors (excluding Fr. Papademetriou) attempted to manipulate the entire
appeal process which followed despite the fact that the Student Handbook clearly sets out
the required procedure. They "continued" the appeal process by supposedly
"appealing" the final decision of Fr. Dragas. The Student Handbook states that
the decision of Fr. Dragas is final. Fr. Calivas and the disciplinary committee
deliberately ignored the School's required appeal process by trying to reverse Fr. Dragas'
decision. It was this outrageous and illegal conduct of the former President and the
disciplinary committee that the Archbishop put a stop to.
As a lawyer, I was shocked to see such a blatant and
willful disregard of the entire process by four "seasoned professors" who are
"highly respected among their colleagues". However, time and the attorney-client
privilege do not permit me to detail their abuses in this matter. Suffice it to say that
Fr. Dragas did the right thing - he put a stop to their attempt to black ball several
students and priests who were at this gathering. He has exposed these "highly
respected" professors for what they have done (or are attempting to do). The story
which they are giving to the press is factually inaccurate and is merely their attempt to
"cover up" their wrongdoing in this incident as well as to punish Fr. Dragas
(who since his employment with the School has been opposing their misconduct).
The basis of the action of these professors in
sensationalizing this incident and then going public with it is strict retaliatory. They
are reacting to the Greek student/priests involved who had written a letter to the Synod
of Greek Orthodox Bishops which criticized these faculty members for, among other things,
their poor spiritual leadership and watered-down Orthodox teachings. This letter was
somehow leaked out to the Greek press. Although true, this obviously caused embarrassment
to these priests who then set out to find a way to expel these Greek student/priests and
anyone associated with them (all of the students who were given notices of expulsion or
other disciplinary notices are from Greece which shows an open anti-Greek sentiment). A
further motivation for their actions is their open disagreement and opposition with the
Mother Church and Archbishop Spyridon. Thus, this "cover up" story of these
professors is nothing more than their attempt to distract as well as confuse the public
and the Church members who are not aware of, or privy to, the true facts in these matters.
Additionally, I personally spoke to the
student/priest who is being accused of the alleged sexual misconduct as well as several
other students and student/priests who were in attendance at the social gathering. The
accused student/priest has told me nothing to support the allegations against him.
Further, the two individuals involved in the incident have apparently resolved their
differences between themselves.
Dr. Evie Zachariades-Holmberg
Your comments on Dr. Evie Zachariades-Holmberg are
also patently false. First, you give her only the title of a professor in the College and
thus not in the School of Theology. You then state that Fr. Calivas was ordered to
"give (her) ... a full appointment in the School of Theology faculty, despite the
theological faculty's refusal to accept her as a full member because of her lack of
theological credentials and training." Her appointment by Bishop Methodios, despite
the claims of Fr. Calivas and his followers, was recognized by the Trustees and the
faculty since that appointment. Also, the other legal basis of their attack on Dr.
Holmberg is also incorrect. Dr. Holmberg can be a member of the theological faculty
without a theological degree. Finally, contrary to your report, there has been no
"faculty refusal to accept as a full member because of her lack of theological
credentials and training." All accept her on the theological staff except for former
President Calivas and the others who he has convinced to oppose her. Did it ever occur to
you why Frs. Calivas or Stylianopoulos and the others who are now complaining failed to
object to her appointment when it was originally made (1991)? What have these individuals
(who claim to be protecting the integrity of the School from lawsuits and accreditation)
been doing for the last five years when they had knowledge of this "illegal"
occurrence? If it threatened the School's accreditation, why did they not come forward
sooner? Do not four years seem like a long time for these individuals to sit around
and do nothing when such a great "crisis" occurred? Or could it be that they
were aware of it and did not object to it? In reality, this matter has only come about
after Fr. Calivas was made President and was in a position of power to get rid of those
people with whom he and the other professors disliked or were jealous of.
As to your report that Fr. Stylianopoulos had
complaints about attempted abuses in the matters of appointment and promotions by a
"couple of individuals", I can only tell you that this also is a complete
falsehood. In the case of at least one faculty member (one which I have personal knowledge
of), the actions by Fr. Stylianopoulos as the head of the Presidential Committee on
Promotions and Tenure was one of the most bad faith (not to mention unchristian) acts that
I have ever seen. Based upon my legal opinion, his actions in this matter were
discriminatory to such an extend that it has the potential of exposing the School to legal
liability. His crocodile tears about his family and himself being "emotionally on a
cross" (Boston Globe 7/10/97 article) are hypocritical. He and the others knew that
these continued actions against the Church and the Archbishop would result in some action
taken against them. Fr. Stylianopoulos knew this so
well that in the Fall of 1996 he started teaching a class at St. Vladimir's School of
Theology in the event that action was taken against him for his willful disobedience to
Allegations of corporate irregularities
Your report on the alleged corporate irregularities
(which was a synopsis of the Karras' letter to the Massachusetts Attorney General) was
even more inaccurate (as well as disjointed) than the original letter by Karras. To begin
with, that letter which bears Dr. Karras' name was not written by her. As a lawyer, I can
clearly discern that it was written by another lawyer. Also, one need not speculate much
to see that her letter was prepared at the request of Fr. Calivas and the other
complaining professors who cannot go to court to oppose the Archbishop nor could they sign
such a letter. Instead they found someone who is not a priest who was willing to do the
dirty work for them.
The title of your article and the part of it which
deals with alleged corporate irregularities attempts to assert that because of these
alleged corporate irregularities, the accreditation of the School is somehow in jeopardy.
This is clearly the message of the Karras letter and you have adopted it fully. I have
read the Karras letter and based upon my knowledge of the underlying facts of these
matters and my knowledge of the law, I do not believe that the institution is at risk from
a legal or accreditation standpoint.
In order to properly respond to the
"assertions" made of "corporate irregularities", you must first
understand the relationship between the Church and the corporate structures which are a
part of the Church. The ecclesiastical structure of the Greek Orthodox Church is
hierarchical. In this hierarchical system there are superior ecclesiastical tribunals
(i.e. Synod, Archbishop, bishop, etc.) which have the ultimate power of control over the
entire membership of the general Church. All institutions and members of the Church in
America (i.e. churches, corporations, etc.) are subordinate members of the Archdiocese.
That is, all subordinate institutions are required to obey the hierarchical pronouncements
of the Mother Church and the Archdiocese. A review of the charters/articles of
incorporation of the Archdiocese and of Hellenic College, Inc. confirms this required
Further, any institution (church, corporation, or
otherwise) which has by-laws or charters which contradict the Archdiocese's charter (i.e.
do not recognize this ecclesiastical hierarchical structure and obedience to it) are
deemed to be void and ineffective. The reason for this is that in a hierarchical church
prevailing civil law holds that the members who have chosen to join the Church are deemed
to have assented to its system of authority and are accordingly bound by its hierarchy and
its rules and judgments. Thus, whether they like it or not, the Church members must accept
the ecclesiastical hierarchical structure of authority.
When these ecclesiastical tribunals or individuals
invested with such power act, their actions/decisions are given full deference by courts
of law. That is, civil courts must accept the decisions of the Church authority which
has spoken on a certain subject even when a dissenting party claims that the Church has no
jurisdiction to act or has violated its own internal procedures. For example, in the
case of Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese vs. Milivojevich, the United States Supreme Court
stated that a court of law may not examine the claim of a bishop that action taken against
him (removal from his office) violated the constitutional procedures and penal code of the
Serbian Church. In other words, in a hierarchical church, the decisions of its ecclesial
leaders are valid as to its members/institutions even when said decisions are not in
compliance with the Church's own governing rules and regulations (i.e. bylaws, etc.). This
is so because under the First Amendment's exercise of free religion clause, the civil
courts grant full deference to the decisions of the ecclesial hierarchy in a hierarchical
church. The civil courts will not substitute their judgment for that of the ecclesial
leaders. As the civil courts rightly point out, the remedy for those who have complaints
about the Church's decisions is to appeal to the ecclesial hierarchy of the Church because
this is what they have agreed to by becoming members of that Church. Herein lies the great
mistake of the Archbishop's accusers.
Claims of usurpation of power/coercion/violation
of bylaws to the detriment of the Corporation
The claims that the action of the Archbishop are
violating the corporate bylaws and usurping the powers of the President, Board of Trustees
and the Board of Corporate members by "ordering obedience and threatening personnel
through abuse of his ecclesiastical episcopal power" and that this has been done to
the "detriment of the academic and administrative functioning of the
institution" is not only factually incorrect but also legally without merit.
Factually, the School was being run into the ground by Fr. Calivas and his followers. Time
and space do not allow me to detail these abuses but suffice it to say they were
anti-Greek, anti-Archbishop and unorthodox in their administration of, and teaching at,
From a legal standpoint, all of the Archbishop's
actions are within his full powers as Archbishop - the ecclesiastical head of the Greek
Orthodox Churches of North and South America. This power is explicit in the charter and
bylaws of the Archdiocese as well as the canons of our Church. How can it possibly be
alleged that the Archbishop has no authority as the highest ecclesiastical figure in the
Archdiocese to instruct the President what to do and not to do (i.e. who to hire/not
employ, how to conduct certain areas of the School, etc.)? To make such an assertion: (1)
shows a complete refusal to acknowledge the hierarchy of the Church (in this case the
Archbishop) and their spiritual authority over the entire Church in America (members and
institutions alike), (2) exalts the institution and its secular side (i.e. bylaws) over
and above the ecclesial hierarchy of the Church, (3) shows a complete lack of the required
spiritual obedience toward the Archbishop and the rest of the ecclesial hierarchy by these
Neither is the act of the appointment of
Archimandrite Gabriel Karambis as Archiepiscopal Administrator improper or illegal. First,
he has been properly empowered by the Archbishop. Second, the Archimandrite is part of the
hierarchy of the Church and all those below him (priests, deacons, etc.) have sworn to be
obedient to his spiritual authority. To refuse the Archimandrite is to refuse the
Archbishop. Or in other words, to break spiritual communion with the Church!
Failure to call required Annual meetings of the
Board of Trustees and Board of Corporate Members
Although the bylaws state that the Board of
Corporate Members must have an annual meeting, American civil law is clear that mitigating
circumstances allow for the delay and even the failure to hold such annual meetings. Can
any of the Archbishop's accusers substitute their judgment for his in this matter?
Further, the allegation that only this Board is authorized to make the decisions that the
Archbishop has made (or that the Archimandrite has made) is clearly as untenable. As
mentioned above, ecclesial authority of the Archbishop (and the Archimandrite) take
precedence over the institutional structure of the Church. All Church members
(institutional or otherwise) who have chosen to join the Church are deemed to have
assented to its system of authority and are accordingly bound by its ecclesial hierarchy,
their pronouncements and judgments.
The allegation of failure to hold one of the two
annual meetings of the Board of Trustees is also without merit based upon the rule set
forth above regarding mitigating circumstances and the Archbishop's discretion in this
Appointment of members of Board of Trustees
The questioning of the Archbishop's actions in this
area is also without legal merit. Are his accusers saying that the Archbishop is strictly
limited to the corporate bylaws of the School when making a decision in this area and
others? For example, if a list of new candidates for the Board is not offered by the Board
of Trustees or contains members who are clearly unacceptable, are the Archbishop's
accusers saying that he has no superior authority (over the bylaws) in which to act in
this and other matters? Again, this position that his accusers are asserting shows their
complete misunderstanding or disregard of the ecclesial hierarchical structure of
authority in the Church and their lack of spiritual disobedience to the Archbishop.
Archbishop's instructions and negative legal and
Karras' letter points to three specific areas where
the Archbishop's instructions to former President Calivas would create legal, ethical and
accreditation problems. The first area concerned the investigation of the alleged sexual
harassment matter which I have addressed above and have shown has no merit nor possess any
legal liability to the School. Only Fr. Clapsis' release of confidential student
information to the press exposes him personally and the School vicariously to civil
The second area is the case of Dr. Eleni
Perdikoyani, someone who I have personally spoken to on this matter. The allegations of
violations of her student visa if she is given a teaching position and subsequent INS
problems are without merit. Fr. Calivas and Treasurer Leon Zaimes were the ones who
misrepresented to, and later coerced, Dr. Perdikoyani to receive an improper visa when she
came to the School to teach. They later refused to help her change her visa once she
discovered what these individuals had done to her. Thus, she only needs to change her visa
to a working visa - that which she was to have had when she came over in the first place
as an indispensable specialist necessary not only for this School but the BTI consortium.
Further, even under her student visa she could legally teach up to 20 hours a week. The
School's refusal to do so has caused her great emotional stress.
The final area concerns Dr. Evie
Zachariades-Holmberg which I have covered above. Again, suffice it to say that her
appointment does not create any accreditation problems for the School as the ATS
(Association of Theological Schools) has confirmed.
There is a legal axiom that "those who seek
equity must do equity" and "those who seek equitable relief must have clean
hands". If one wants to get technical and talk about the violations of the corporate
bylaws and the Policy and Procedures Manual of the School, one need only look at Fr.
Calivas and his administration. The most egregious violation occurred at the Board of
Trustees meeting in May at the School. The bylaws clearly state that the Archbishop is to
Chair that meeting (Article III, Section G). But Fr. Calivas refused to let him to do so
and chaired the meeting himself. If Fr. Calivas does this in the presence of the
Archbishop need I tell you what he does outside his presence? Then there are the abuses
and disregard of the School's bylaws and procedures in the areas of student loans,
scholarships, faculty appointments, promotions and tenure committee, scholarships to
Greece under the IKY program, etc. Ask Fr. Calivas and his followers why they all refused
to show up at the last regularly scheduled faculty meeting in May. As you can begin to
see, the abuses, (the ones that he initiated as well as encouraged) that occurred during
Fr. Calivas' term as President were great.
Very few students will speak out the way I have
because they are afraid of being black balled by Fr. Calivas and the other professors. As
future candidates for the priesthood, they do not want to jeopardize their livelihood. Nor
do they want to be excluded from the award of financial scholarships, the money of which
for the two years that I was there, was only distributed to those who openly declared
their support for Fr. Calivas and his followers.
I realize that this letter is long but I ask that
you print it in your paper. If you are unable to print it in its entirety, please feel
free to "shorten" it to meet your paper's requirements. If you wish to contact
me for further details, please feel free to contact me at (414) 771-0779.
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