The GreekAmerican - August 25, 2000
Ahab's obsession with Moby Dick
( A Response to Mr. Popps' Letter to The Greekamerican )
I feel compelled to respond to the recent letter published in your August 18, 2000 issue written by Mr. Dean Popps. You indicated in your response to Mr. Popps, that you welcome comments with varying perspectives on the recent interview that Archbishop Spyridon gave after a year of isolation. I would like to go on record to say that although Mr. Popps speaks as if he represents the entire country on this issue, he most definitely does not. Mr. Popps seems to be unwilling or unable, to accept the fact that Archbishop Spyridon had and still has, many supporters who have been anxiously waiting to hear from him. I believe that in the interview, the Archbishop showed his usual strength of character and candor, answering the questions directly and honestly.
Mr. Popps seems to be so threatened by the re-emergence of Archbishop Spyridon that it is reminiscent of Ahab's obsession with Moby Dick. He is so preoccupied with Archbishop Spyridon that even one newspaper interview sets him into a tailspin. Not only do his statements reveal a lack of Christian humility and piety, but also they reveal an individual who is consumed with ego, anger and hatred, which go beyond the normal and healthy mind. Mr. Popps would do well to explore his own inner motivations and psyche before playing amateur psychologist, theologian, CEO and saint; and certainly before declaring himself the self appointed savior and leader of the Orthodox church. The church doesn't need any more than one savior. The following comments are directed specifically to the issues raised by Mr. Popps to the Greek American.
First, Mr. Popps speaks for a self appointed group who determined that Archbishop Spyridon did not meet the qualifications of an archbishop by the conditions, standards, and scrutiny formulated for, and by itself. He certainly doesn't consider the rest of us with a dissenting opinion who happen to share Spyridon's vision. What happened to the democratic process? Democracy seems to be slanted one way. Perhaps Mr. Popps is not aware of the many priests who were pressured into signing the letter that was politically engineered by a few. Perhaps Mr. Popps is not aware that the hierarchs had their own agenda and a key factor in the relations between the archbishop and the hierarchs was also political; one of centralization Vs decentralization of the archdiocese. The most baffling of all being Archbishop Iakovos who supports self governing Metropolitanates yet spent 35 years building a strong central administration. Mr. Popps should know that an ecclesiastical appointment is not subject to approval nor is it subject to the hiring and firing mentality of the marketplace.
Second, before Mr. Popps criticizes His Eminence's work habits, he should know by now that Archbishop Spyridon was not a ribbon cutter, like his successor. In addition to administering the entire archdiocese, he visited more Greek Orthodox parishes, small and large, throughout the country than any other archbishop in the first three years of ministry. Spyridon was tireless in his efforts to reach his people. I have yet to see Archbishop Demetrios reaching out to his flock in that manner, nor do I expect that he will ever pay a visit to some of the small unassuming parishes that were honored by the presence of Archbishop Spyridon, not once but multiple times. Those of us, who knew the archbishop, know that he made no distinction between poor and wealthy parishes, between poor and wealthy individuals. Perhaps in Mr. Popps' view, His Eminence did not spend enough time with the "right" people or with the inner circles; let's call a spade a spade.
Third, if Mr. Popps is going to write publicly, he should demonstrate more general awareness and knowledge of his subject matter. His reference to Mr. Pangalos as an example of a rejection of the Greek government, reveals his ignorance about Greek political figures. It is common knowledge that Mr. Pangalos has been an international embarrassment to the Greek government, countless numbers of times. He is known for his rude, abrasive and obnoxious behavior, and is always fighting with his colleagues in Greece. Because of the problems he has had, the Greek government obviously saw fit to remove him as Foreign Minister and assign him to the Ministry of Culture. As a self-declared Marxist (atheist?), and with a reputation such as his, Mr. Pangalos is hardly a credible individual to hold up as a critic of any church hierarch.
Mr. Popps is as consistent in his lack of ecclesiastical knowledge as he is in the area of Greek politics. Does he seriously believe that the assignment of an archbishop is subject to approval by himself and others like him? It is grandiose and narcissistic of him to think that he, and others like him, had any impact on the decision to remove Archbishop Spyridon. His group was a simple pawn, used by others in order to achieve an alternate administrative structure.
Mr. Popps should also review the accuracy of his statements before he puts them into print. They frequently reveal an appalling ignorance of the facts, or a deliberate distortion of the truth. To make a statement like Archbishop Demetrios "is not even receiving a salary for himself" only serves to discredit his knowledge of the present conditions of the church. It is a matter of public record that Archbishop Demetrios receives a salary of $100,000 in addition to housing, cars, benefits, etc. etc. etc. (He also forgot to mention that Archbishop Iakovos' pension totaling $400,000 and rising, is the single largest line item expenditure in the budget). As for his suggestion that Archbishop Spyridon doesn't deserve a pension, I suppose Mr. Popps would welcome input from the general public regarding the validity of his pension. I would want to be able to comment on, and to determine what if any, the conditions of his pension should be. Or is it only Archbishop Spyridon who should be subject to such a ridiculous scrutiny?
Then, for the record, let's review the facts regarding the "deficit" of which Mr. Popps speaks. The issue of a deficit has been so deliberately misrepresented by people like Mr. Popps, that the public has been greatly misled and misinformed with blatant lies. The facts: Archbishop Spyridon inherited a 7 million dollar deficit in 1996 from the Iakovos administration. This is a fact and public information. That deficit was subsequently reduced to $200,000. This is a fact, and public information, and was reported by George Chelpon at the June 1999 Diocesan Clergy Laity, just 2 months prior to Spyridon's forced resignation. Had Simos Demos not instituted legal actions against the archdiocese, and people like Mr. Popps not launched a dirty attack on His Eminence, then there would have been a surplus at the end of the three years.
Fourth, I find Mr. Popps' reference to the spirituality of Spyridon's appointees to be offensive, presumptuous, and suggestive of Pharisaic hypocrisy. You may recall the verse from Matthew (7:1); "Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye and you do not notice the log that is in your own eye." By what authority does Mr. Popps judge the spirituality of any other individual?
Fifth, since Mr. Popps brings up the issue of Gestapo tactics, perhaps we should be candid about what has happened since the "loving" ministry of Archbishop Demetrios has filled our archdiocese and our church. It's funny (sad) that the alleged "victims" are now brutally victimizing and bullying others, and no one is stopping it. There are countless incidents of intimidation and reprisal of innocent and good people that are currently taking place; not because they are insubordinate or defy their leaders, but because they supported a man who showed them love and fairness. People who have lost jobs, people who have been "pressured" to leave their jobs, people who have been ostracized from social circles in their communities, whose children have been excluded. All you need to do is look at the layoffs and the forced resignations and the removal of various board and official appointments. Is this not what he accuses Spyridon of doing? What makes it right now, Mr. Popps? Is this the better "vision" that you and your group called for? Or is it OK when your group does it?; we certainly can't point the finger at Spyridon for these Gestapo tactics. Who then should we blame? Who's calling the shots now?
I dare ask, if Mr. Popps had to face figures like St. John the Baptist or even Christ himself, who dared offend the "ruling class" with controversial and nonconformist behavior, would he have spear headed a movement for their demise as well?
Michael N. Pappas
[ The GreekAmerican - August 25, 2000 ]