Harry J. Pappas

1 March 2000

His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios
Archbishop of America
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese οf America
10 East 79th Street
New York, NY 10021

Your Eminence:

During the Spring, 1999, duly convened meeting of the Archdiocesan Council, there was considerable discussion by the Council of the importance of expanding the scope, activities and budget of the Office of Print and Digital Media (OPDM). It was decided to liquidate the assets and operations of GO Telecom into the full operating and financial control of the Archdiocese by merging the activities of the same into the OPDM. The Archdiocesan Council discussed and approved a budget including the expanded activities and consolidation.

Unfortunately, at that time, certain clergy and GOAL "spoke ill of their (Archbishop)" (Canon LV) and encouraged and directed that parish financial obligations to the Archdiocese not be paid or paid only partially. This was an indisputable violation of the Canons, the Charter and the Uniform Parish Regulations, thus creating a large part of the present financial problems of the Archdiocese. The Council was deeply concerned about a possible cash shortfall at the Archdiocese. To help address this legitimate concern, I pledged to contribute $250,000 specifically to support the expanded budget of the OPDM. This pledge was made out of love for our Church and in recognition of the need for the reform, improvement and growth in the Ministry represented by OPDM. I made my pledge in good faith.

Upon your appointment as our Archbishop, you, and persons apparently acting under your direction but for whom you were in any event accountable, terminated the leadership and other key persons in OPDM and eviscerated its operation. You canceled the previously scheduled fall meeting of the Archdiocesan Council. You canceled the previously noticed meetings of the Executive Committee. This and numerous other financial and secular decisions were made and implemented without the duly conferred authority or counsel of either the Council or the Executive Committee. Such flagrant disregard of the Charter, Regulations and the decades long tradition of orderly administration of our beloved Church is unbelievable!

Your Eminence, America is a country where the law has supremacy over the mere passions of men. Wise forebears established our Charter and our Uniform Parish Regulations (UPR). Sadly, had you simply followed the process established so clearly therein, you would have learned of the underlying reasons for the Council's decision and of my pledge. You then could have advised us of your views, pro or con, and the Executive Committee or Archdiocesan Council would have made the decision, which it is their right to make with your input, to keep the OPDM or not. You acted unilaterally. My pledge is rendered moot since its "raison d'etre" is extinguished by your action.

Your Eminence, the Charter of our Archdiocese is clear. Section XI states "The Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress... is concerned with all matters, other than doctrinal or canonical, which affect the life of the Church including its unity, uniform administration, education and financial programs." Section XV states "The Archdiocesan Council is convened by the Archbishop and meets as often as necessary but at least semiannually." The Regulations, in Article II, Section 1, state, "The Archdiocesan Council... administers the temporal and financial affairs of the Archdiocese..." and go on to say, in Article II, Section 5, that the Executive Committee, drawn only from the Archdiocesan Council, "shall... between meetings of the Archdiocesan Council... (have) all of its authority, excluding legislative and investment powers...". This Charter and Regulations are those our Ecumenical Patriarchate approved long ago. You and I are bound bound by them as much as we are by the Canons of the Church. Yet after the lapse of a more than sufficient period for you to reflect on your duties and to rectify any wrong decisions mad in haste, you still permit and engage in unauthorized actions. I am even more troubled because you say what every Orthodox Christian deeply wants to hear his Archbishop say, but your actions and those you permit speak differently.

1. Nearly three months after your Enthronement, during our first telephone conversation on Friday, December 10, 1999, you spoke of a "spirit of reconciliation" and "moving forward in a positive manner." I agree with these worthy Christian sentiments. But one cannot ignore the actions of the last five and one half months. Unauthorized persons whom you permitted to undo the thoughtfully considered, properly approved and responsibly executed plans of the Archdiocesan Council wreaked havoc. It is too late to restore the "status quo ante". You have ignored the budget and plans approved by the Clergy-Laity Congress, the Archdiocesan Council and the Executive Committee. But, now you will seek the aid of those whose fiduciary duty and collective judgment you ignored. A mockery has been made of the Council and the Executive Committee. Urgent issues have derived from improper actions over a period of months taken in your name by extra-legal operatives. Those who have demonstrated disloyalty and incompetence are rendering your spirit of reconciliation a nullity. But, Your Eminence, you must know that you are nonetheless responsible for their actions.

2. When you convened an Executive Committee meeting in late December, I was prayerfully anticipating that what had transpired from September to December was behind us. I believed your various representations and statements at that meeting. I even authored a resolution offering all the Executive Committee members' personal guarantees of bank debt up to a total of $3,500,000. Little did I suspect that none of us would be consulted on the terms of the loan, none of us given access to substantive financial data, none asked to approve expenditures, review operations and so on. The above mentioned clergy and individuals now have the unmitigated gall to ask us to personally guarantee an increase in debt from $1,900,000 to $5,000,000! They evidence contempt for our character, intelligence and judgment by asking us to provide them with access to an additional $3,100,000... even though it is clear there will be no real accountability for its expenditure to the Council or Executive Committee. They ask us to sign personal guarantees that will extend beyond the expiration of our term of office.

It is clear no one can be expected to and should not personally guarantee the debt of an organization whose activities are not regulated by a basic concern for financial accountability and a well-reasoned due process in administration.

3. At our one and only meeting with you, you explicitly promised us that within "one month and by our next meeting in January", you would propose to the Executive Committee a "dignified and respectful" process to allow the implementation of the duly approved pension obligation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to our recently retired Archbishop Spyridon. You told me directly by telephone that "we will not allow our retired hierarchs to be left without means of support". For that reason, I tabled my motion, which had been seconded, (and which I am certain would have been approved) to order our Financial Officer to commence the (long overdue) payment of His Eminence' pension. The Executive Committee acceded to your request for "a little time" to solve this matter. I am heartsick on reading reports of your contrary intentions. I was further heartbroken to be telephoned while on vacation with my family by a Metropolitan of our Church and told of threats arising out of a meeting of the Eparchial Synod. I was also told of bogus charges that His Eminence Spyridon is somehow violating canon law by not "reporting as ordered" to Istanbul. The fact is the church that does require such behavior is governed by a Pope in Rome. The Orthodox Christian Church is a synodical church. First, a person is asked if he is willing to accept a post, then he is invested in that post. No one is forced into a position. We do not send our clergy to "Siberia". Nonetheless, I was told by the Metropolitan that you and other hierarchs have decided that one of your own, a retired Archbishop, is to be denied a pension... on bogus grounds. This decision ignores our Archdiocesan Charter and Regulations as to which body has the power to "administer the temporal and financial affairs of the Archdiocese". It ignores the duly and lawfully adopted, legally binding and certainly enforceable decision of the Executive Committee to provide for a pension for Archbishop Spyridon under the same formula applicable to our Bishops and Metropolitans. This is the Executive Committee and Board of the Religious Corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York known as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Try as you and the other hierarchs might, you cannot ignore American law applicable to a non profit religious corporation's obligations to a retired employee.

Under the circumstances one cannot attorn to conduct so unseemly as to bring our Church into disrepute. Who can even believe that we have sunk to so low a state that our hierarchs are disputatious, vengeful, cunning, unkind, unloving and uncharitable? A mere putting on of crowns, robes and enkolpia do not transform a man into a leader, a shepherd... or hierarch of our Holy Orthodox Christian Church. It is after all "by deeds not by words or oaths that we are judged."

4. At our December meeting, virtually all the members of the Executive Committee voiced their concern and dismay over reports that Jerry Dimitriou might be considered for re-employment by the Archdiocese. Substantial, material concern was so evident that you nodded in agreement. Yet, you acted in callous disregard of the considered judgment of the knowledgeable, experienced persons whose character, reputation and accomplishments, coupled with their love of the Church, is well known. Moreover, whether you like it or not, the clearly expressed unanimous view of the Executive Committee required that you not hire Mr. Dimitriou. You compounded the insult by taking this action to hire a clearly unacceptable person for a non-existent post for an unbudgeted sum within 24 hours of our meeting adjournment. Such conduct is wrong. Such conduct is inexcusable. It reflects a haughty disdain for your Christian brethren who gathered only to serve you and our beloved Church. It reflects a lack of candor. It evidences an unwillingness to conform to the Archdiocesan Charter and the Regulations.

Your Eminence, your fellow Metropolitans and Bishops seem possessed of a view that Greek Orthodox Christians in America are to be treated as little more than medieval serfs. They consider the Church somehow solely theirs to own, direct and squeeze. Having come from foreign lands, they ignore that the Greek Orthodox Church in America was built by hardy, faithful immigrants for whom every dollar was a true sacrifice made in love of the Christian faith embodied by our Church. Our parents and grandparents built this Church to glorify our Lord, not to provide temples to the egoism of old men who seek power above sacrifice and who revel in secrecy but fear the bright light of honest reasoned discourse and open dealing.

We cry out for hierarchs who are exemplars of humility. We ask for no more than hierarchs who exemplify by their actions... not mere words... their charity, love and forgiveness... so that we might hold them up as standard bearers to our children.

Your Eminence, the hour has come when good men and women who are genuine, faithful adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church must stand for what is right... for what is simply reasonable, intelligent, honest, accountable Church governance. We must cry out for open financial records, for reasonable controls to prevent... or at least catch... financial impropriety, for fulfillment of parish obligations, for rigorous standards of stewardship of the temporal affairs of our Church. We must insist that the governance of our Archdiocese be truly in the balanced manner envisioned by those wise clergymen and lay men and women who carefully established our Archdiocesan Charter and Regulations.

Harry J. Pappas
Archon Referendarios and
Member of the Executive Committee

cc: Members of the Archdiocesan Council

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[ Orthodox Truth |  March 1, 2000 ]