Alitheia-Αλήθεια - July 1997


On November 18, 1996, the Greek newspaper "National Herald" published a fiery article entitled An Accusation that the Theological School of Boston "is in serious trouble". The article was based on a letter written by three Archimandrites and addressed to the Synod of Bishops of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and copied to the Archbishop. The letter was leaked to the newspaper without the permission of the authors. The authors of the letter, all from Greece, were the Registrar, V. Rev. Archimandrite Dr. Cleopas Strongylis, and two student-priests, the V. Rev. Archimandrite Antonios Papathanasiou and the V. Rev. Archimandrite Iakovos Vassiliou. They key paragraph in that letter stressed the following:

The Church in America is going through a resurrection period. The Ecumenical Patriarchate ...and His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch have chosen the most appropriate and eminent man placing him as a Father and Leader of the Greek Orthodox of America and as guardian of the traditions and continuity of the Great Church of Christ, Metropolitan Spyridon from Italy ... No one, of course, expects to see the mistakes of the past being corrected within a period of only a few months. We all, however, expect that those who attempt not only to perpetuate the existing spiritual paralysis, but also to augment it as much as possible, to be found and placed under control. The spine and life-giving power of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is the Sacred Theological School of Holy Cross. Unfortunately, this is the only place which continues to stagger. This is the place which consists of people who are imbued with a partisan spirit and with opposition to the Patriarchal, Episcopal and Hellenic traditions. Their purpose is the creation of a Church cut off from its age long roots and based on personal bigotry and self-projection. We all know and are participants of the existing situation. The only ones responsible are the President of this Sacred Institution of Education as well as those collaborators of his who stand around him.During their long term presence they did not hesitate to sacrifice the sacred purpose, vision and hopes of the founders of the Church to the altar of their personal ambitions, as well as their false image of the mission of the Church. Everybody knows the fruit of the lengthy and laborious education of the students in this sacred place. It is not known, however, for how much longer the ordinary laity will tolerate the deficiencies and insufficient knowledge of our clergymen in matters of liturgy, music,Greek language, tradition, as well as in other areas essential for their service in the Great Church of Christ.

The letter concludes with a passionate plea for a much needed intervention of His Eminence in the affairs of the School, so that it may be re-structured and become adequate for its mission to the Church. The same newspaper went on producing several articles and comments on this issue for some time focusing on the central issue expressed in the statement, that the School is the place which consists of people who are imbued with a partisan spirit and with opposition to Patriarchal, Episcopal and Hellenic traditions.

On November 21, 1996 the Archbishop received the three Archimandrites in the Archdiocese and heard from them their grievances.

On November 25, 1996 the same newspaper published a letter of response from the President of Holy Cross, Fr. Alkiviadis Calivas, who denied the points raised by the Archimandrites, but the controversy intensified between him and the student priests because problems remained unresolved. This dispute was only indicative of a series of huge internal problems involving the administration and various professors and personnel working for the School. These problems affected the faculty and the inner life of the seminarians to the extent that the Archbishop had to interfere.

On November 27, 1996 the Archbishop appointed a synodical committee consisting of His Grace Bishop Maximos of Pittsburgh and His Grace Bishop Philotheos of Meloa who were given the mandate to visit the School on a monthly basis, investigate its inner troubles and report to the Archbishop.

On December 1, 1996 an extensive article in the same newspaper outlined past and present problems of the School and focused on the problematic way President Calivas was appointed and the role which Fr. Stylianopoulos played in this. It ended with a demand for radical changes in persons and structures at the School. The same was argued in an extensive comment in the same newspaper the next day. The central point in that comment was that Fr. Calivas ought to resign from the presidency and that the protest of the three Archimandrites "did not leave any margins for further maneuvers".

The conflict between Fr. Calivas and the three Archimandrites intensified to the point that certain professors (Fr. Stylianopoulos and Dr. Patsavos) attempted to bring this controversy into the Faculty, but the Dean, Fr. George Dragas, refused to do it,
a) because the dispute was a clerical one and had been put to the synod and the Archbishop and
b) because it was not officially communicated to the faculty but was only known from the press.

This led to a stormy Faculty meeting, details of which were leaked to the press and reported in an extensive article on December 12, 1996 bearing the title: "Stormy meeting of the Professors of Theology". The center of this report was Fr. Stylianopoulos who once again "played a decisive role behind the scenes" supporting Fr. Calivas and his policies. The report states, that the existing situation at the School has reached a point beyond control, while the accounts to the press of many students, who ask to remain anonymous, speak of the contrived creation of a climate of polarized discontent against the three Archimandrites and certain professors.

On December 30, 1996, Fr. Stylianopoulos broke the confidentiality of Faculty proceedings and reported to the Greek press details of the executive session of the Faculty meeting of December 10, 1996. The point of controversy was centered on the letter of the three Archimandrites and on the issues which were raised by them, namely the anti-Greek, anti-clerical, anti-celibate and anti-patriarchal stance adopted by the Administration. In his interview Fr. Stylianopoulos exposed the school's procedures and accused the Dean of deliberately avoiding the issue under dispute. The same newspaper also announced the reassignment of the Registrar from the School to a parish in New York (decided by His Eminence in order to ease the situation) and called for a radical solution to the inner problems of the School, namely, the resignation of January 1st of all the professors and employees of the School who would be put under probation until May.

The controversy between the President and his supporters (notably Fr. Stylianopoulos) on the one hand and the Archimandrites on the other, continued to be in force and was reported daily in the Greek press, along with other problems. Since Fr. Stylianopoulos' report, however, the press started to take another line criticizing the priests and alleging that other forces, notably the ex-president of HC/HC, Bishop Methodios, was behind the protests of the Archimandrites!

On January 12, 1997 the newspaper reported on another somewhat 'stormy' meeting of the Faculty with the investigatory Synodical Committee which was focused again on the issue of the protest of the Archimandrites. On that occasion the Dean pointed out the illegality of Fr. Stylianopoulos' reporting of confidential information to the press and presenting it with a slant to suit his view and that of the president. It also became clear at this meeting that Fr. Stylianopoulos did not use the Greek text in his teaching of the New Testament and that the School had failed to practice the Greek in the liturgy as it had been stipulated by the Archdiocese.

In spite of the meeting with the Synodical Bishops the dispute went on. Reports continued to appear in the press daily (e.g. Jan. 14 and 19, Feb. 10, etc.), but the press used this dispute to propagate private points of view, especially by attacking Bp. Methodios as if he should be held responsible for it, and to aggravate the situation to a breaking point. This became apparent in the beginning of March when the Archbishop, while paying an official visit to the Boston Diocese, defended Bishop Methodios and denounced those who attempt to divide the Church during his speech at the banquet. The next day the newspaper started to attack the Archbishop more systematically and vigorously.

This coincided with the appointment of the Disciplinary Committee of the School by the President (March 6, 1997) with the mandate to investigate an incident which had occurred on February 27 in the dormitory room of one of the Archimandrites who had been one of the authors of the letter that led to the dispute described above. The context of the incident was a traditional (pre-Lenten) party of 15 Greek students, including three Archimandrites and two hierodeacons. The incident itself involved a misunderstanding between one of the Archimandrites and another student which resulted in the latter hitting the former and giving him a black eye. Although the two students involved did resolve the dispute between themselves afterwards, the Administration made a concerted effort to investigate this incident by a Disciplinary Committee which was appointed for that purpose.

About a month later the Committee reached a decision which ordered the expulsion from the School of the Archimandrite involved in the incident (Fr. Kallistratos Ikonomou, a Th.M. student) and a letter of rebuke for the other party. In addition it ordered that Fr. Iakovos Vassiliou (one of the three Archimandrites in the earlier dispute) should relocate to an off-campus residence and issued rebukes against all rest of the Greek students who were present on that occasion, who stated categorically that they had not seen the incident. The students were also told that they could appeal these decisions to the President within 48 hours.

The students, following the regulations of the Student Handbook, appealed to the Dean who, apparently had been circumvented by the President and the Disciplinary Committee. When it became apparent that the Dean should be the first court of appeal the President ordered the Disciplinary Committee to submit the records of the Disciplinary Committee to him for his review of the case. At the same time the decisions of the Disciplinary Committee were reported to the press (!) before the appeal had even been heard, and rumors at the School were deliberately spread to discredit the Archimandrites and the other Greek students. There are documents which prove this, including a letter from the Dean of Students (Archdeacon Gerasimos Michaleas) reprimanding those who had been involved in the defamation of the students involved.

The File of the Disciplinary Committee was submitted to the Dean on April 17 but the appeal could not be heard for three weeks, because the first week was Holy Week, the second week the Dean had to visit Constantinople on Patriarchal business and the third week students were not available because they were taking their finals. It was in the second week of May that the Dean started hearing the appeal. He had noticed that the minutes from the original interviews conducted by the Disciplinary Committee had been unsigned and that contradictions were contained in them. Indeed, there was no clear evidence that the alleged crimes were even committed, namely, "sexual harassment", "excessive drinking" and "conspiracy to conceal the truth". The Dean examined the students one by one testing the accounts presented to him from the previous review. He did it alone because the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee (Fr. Clapsis) refused to be present, as other members of the Faculty did.

The hearing of the appeal was interrupted by Commencement on May 17 and was resumed in the beginning of June because the Dean was occupied with Conferences. In his Decision, issued on June 7, 1997, the Dean reduced the penalties imposed by the Disciplinary Committee because he found that the alleged crimes did not occur. He acquitted all students but rebuked those involved in the incident. His hearing established beyond doubt that there was no sexual harassment involved as it had been alleged and no excessive drinking or drunkenness, nor any conspiracy amongst the students.

His decision was disputed first by the President who arbitrarily re-interpreted the regulations of the Student Handbook on the Appeal Process and then by the Disciplinary Committee who issued a repudiation of his decision at the request of the President!

Following this the press went wild on these events creating sensational and distorted claims against the Archimandrites, the Dean and the Archbishop. Unfortunately, the Archbishop's actions in reassigning priests-professors to new posts was linked to these distorted claims of the press and even supported by statements from the reassigned priests-professors themselves.

[ Alitheia-Αλήθεια |  -  July 1997 ]