Alitheia-Αλήθεια - July 9, 1997

[ A Letter To the Editor of the "Εθνικός Κήρυξ" ]  *)

To the Editor of the "Εθνικός Κήρυξ"

As a student of our Holy Theological School in Boston, I have been reading Theodore Kalmoukos' articles during the last few months with a great deal of interest. As a former journalist, however, I have also been reading them with a certain level of dismay. Because I am currently a student at the School, and because I was a journalist by profession, therefore, I reserve the right to comment on the content of Mr. Kalmoukos' reports. I also feel that I can offer your readers some valuable insight regarding life at the seminary (the other side of the story from someone who goes to school there and lives there eight months out of the year).

First of all, when Mr. Kalmoukos uses phrases like "ετσιθελική και αναιτιολόγητη απόλυση" (June 28/29 issue), he is creating a very deliberate perception, and a distorted one at that. Mr. Kalmoukos makes it sound as if Archbishop Spyridon makes decisions haphazardly, but while I certainly can not claim to speak for the Archbishop, nothing could be further from the truth. Father Stylianopoulos is a knowledgeable man, to be sure, and he is clearly a scholar, but from a student's point of view, a point of view that is seldom or never taken into consideration by your newspaper, there are other facts that most definitely contradict Mr. Kalmoukos' stellar assertions about Father Stylianopoulos.

Mr. Kalmoukos even contradicts himself. In earlier issues he implied, and even explicitly stated, that Father Stylianopoulos played a direct role in the intrigue that caused problems at the school (see articles dated 12-1-96, 12-12-96 and 12-30-96). But more recently, he speaks of him as a venerable professor and a great teacher (see article dated 6-26-97). This is a clear indication of journalistic duplicity. After taking two courses with Father Stylianopoulos, I can safely report that he communicates his knowledge of the subject matter ineffectively. He also mistreats the students under the guise of upholding high academic standards.

Additionally, your readers should know that the general consensus among the students (too many people seem to forget that the theological students also have a voice) is that the Archbishop has good reasons for having Father Stylianopoulos reassigned. Furthermore, a Greek Orthodox priest is expected to abide by the decisions of his bishop, whatever the reasons. In Orthodox ecclesiastical terms, this is known as obedience.

As to Father Dragas allegedly concealing scandalous information, all I can say is that Mr. Kalmoukos is the one who is creating the scandal with his own myopic bias, and you are allowing him to do so by permitting him to editorialize without presenting all sides of the story. I know editors who would have either reprimanded or even fired Mr. Kalmoukos for editorializing in his reports.

This is awful because such a one-sided story ends up doing far more harm than good. It is libelous, in fact, because it profanes the Church and the School, and it defames the character of individuals which, in turn, casts a shadow that denigrates the entire Greek American community. Such stories thereby alienate the young faithful from the Church. As a former journalist, I would not blame either the Archbishop or Father Dragas for refusing to speak with a reporter who has obviously chosen to favor and focus only on one side of the story.

Incidentally, Mr. Kalmoukos has lost his credibility because he has demonstrated a lack of objectivity. As an editor, sir, you should be concerned. As a reporter, he should be alarmed. Contrary to Mr. Kalmoukos' vindictive accounts, most of my fellow students (particularly those of us with professional experience who chose to enter the seminary later in life) feel that Father Dragas is an excellent priest and professor, especially since he treats the students with courtesy and respect. He clearly loves the Church; he clearly cares about the School and ardently supports the students; and he is clearly a man of decency and integrity. I would and do, and so do most of the mature students, question those who unfairly criticize and oppose Father Dragas, who is fiercely loyal to the Mother Church. Most of us remain silent, however, because we have been too afraid to speak up.

In any event, I would like to know why you allow Mr. Kalmoukos to criticize the Archbishop so harshly so often. First of all, it is not his job as a reporter to do so. Secondly, imbalanced reporting is highly unprofessional and journalistically irresponsible. And third, it should come to no one's tremendous surprise that the Archbishop has his own vision for the Church's future in America (one that is consistent with that of Constantinople), as well as his own plans for implementing that vision. The Archbishop was elected by the Patriarchal Synod because he has the required experience and wisdom to lead the Church in America, and to help us make some necessary changes, not because he is an oppressive dolt, as the newspaper would apparently like us to believe.

People who criticize the Archbishop for not being familiar with the "American Way" fail to remember the American Way themselves. In any American institution, it is quite common for a new administrator to make changes and appoint new people who will help him make those changes. This is the philosophy of progress. If a new administrator simply maintains what was established by his predecessor, it is considered abnormal and regressive in contemporary American society, particularly when an institution is not operating as efficiently and effectively as it ought to be.

When Archbishop Iakovos was first enthroned, he made even more dramatic changes at the beginning of his long tenure than the current Archbishop has chosen to make, so far, and the former Archbishop was criticized rather severely 38 years ago. How soon we forget, but in spite of heavy early criticism, the Church flourished to the extent that the Greek Orthodox faith became a familiar form of Christianity in the Western Hemisphere, largely because of the Archbishop Emeritus' efforts.

Nonetheless, the old agenda, an agenda which was cultivated and ultimately distorted beyond recognition by a handful of demagogues at the Theological School, has run its course. After almost 40 years, I should think change would be most welcome. It is time for change, so we should have the courage to readily embrace the promise of good things to come: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. By faith our forefathers gained approval through martyrdom (Hebrews, 11:1-2)."

Rest assured, I am not talking about change simply for the sake of change. I am talking about change for the better. I firmly believe that the Church has suffered in America because the old agenda is dysfunctional. My fellow students and I have witnessed its inefficiency firsthand, as well as the obstinacy of those who refuse to relinquish its deceptive and twisted purpose. Father Dragas has been trying to reinvigorate the program, and if he is granted the freedom he needs, he can help transform and elevate the School. But time after time, his efforts have been thwarted.

Whether Mr. Kalmoukos cares to acknowledge it or not, the old administration presents the School with a serious problem. Its members have shown a preference for stagnation and do not seem to desire change. Consequently, the students and teachers who really care suffer as a result of a stubborn and unyielding attitude.

I fully expect certain individuals to challenge the authority of the Church with the laws of the state. If my prediction comes true, the faithful will witness the same recalcitrant behavior that the students have observed at close quarters during the past two academic years. Those same individuals will pretend to act in the name of piety, but in the process, they will expose their self-seeking ways, by which many young priests and future priests have been adversely affected in various ways. This has been very bad for the Church in America.

We should give Archbishop Spyridon a chance to reintroduce the timeless message of the Church to the Greek American faithful, a message that, over the years, has been diluted by a false sense of inadequacy. Our new ecclesiastical primate is the archpastoral shepherd of God's flock in this land; moreover, it is in our nature as Greek Orthodox Christians to be patient and to have the faith that the Church hierarchy will act in the best interest of Her faithful.

In the name of journalistic fairness, I am urging you to print this letter as it is. You would not be honoring me. You would be honoring your readers, who have been inundated with a singular, limited and incomplete point of view. Thank you.

Evan C. Lambrou
156 Honness Lane
Ithaca, NY 14850

[ Alitheia-Αλήθεια |  -   July 9, 1997 ]

*)  A letter never published by the "Ethnikos Keryx"