The GreekAmerican - August 18, 2000
Dean G. Popps Comments on Spyridon Interview
Letter to the Editor
As one of Archbishop Spyridon's most vocal and unrelenting critics, I am compelled to comment on Yannis Fasoula's article, (Former Archbishop Breaks Silence, reprinted from Eleftherotypia, Athens, Greece), which appeared in your July 28, 2000 edition. I am baffled that your newspaper would print the apologia pro sua vita of the man, who so profoundly damaged the church, without bothering to balance the reporting by including the opinions of those whose dissent carried the day and saved the church from schism.
For the record, everyone, initially and without exception, welcomed Spyridon. The Greek Orthodox Church in America was ready and poised to rocket into a new and dynamic post-Iakovan era. Sadly for us, Spyridon was not even remotely qualified for the most important hierarchical post in this hemisphere. However, we had to learn about him the hard way. Interestingly, his inappropriate and unacceptable personal habits and work history, particularly his Italian misadventures, were old news to both the Greek government (ask former Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos) and to the Phanar (ask Patriarch Bartholomew), when the latter elected him to the American position. It's just that neither our "mother country" of Greece nor our "spiritual fathers" of New Rome felt like letting their beloved "Diaspora" in on the dirty, little secret. We "Americanakia" were expected to accept a known flawed leader, pay-up without question, and blindly obey.
Spyridon began his tenure by surrounding himself and empowering a peculiar and undistinguished set of pseudo-canon quoting, pseudo-holy men and courtiers whose chief characteristic was to bully, threaten, and fire anyone who disagreed with them. Together, this new religious Gestapo proceeded to alienate even the most neutral of priests, parishes, and hierarchs with their irascibility, immaturity and poor performance. So much so that, near the end, almost every Greek Orthodox priest and hierarch on this continent condemned Spyridon to the Phanar in writing. Lay leaders on every level did the same.
Not one to skimp on the relaxed European style of living to which he became so well accustomed in Italy, Spyridon treated the sacred coffers of our archdiocese like his own personal checkbook. Simultaneously, he tried to destroy almost every archdiocesan institution as well as the lives and ministries of countless senior married priests. When cornered with the truth, he used the bogus pretexts of "Greekness" and " Protestantism" to divide his flock and avoid the real issues. Later, he spent over $600,000 of our archdiocesan money trying to sue his critics in federal court, only to have the judge rule embarrassingly against him.
He was, and remains, a man devoid of any publicly discernable warmth or priestly code of conduct. Consistent behavior, truth-telling, visionary leadership skills, and pastoral ability were not present in his makeup. He appeared from the beginning, when observed by many professionals who commented on his unbecoming behavior, to be clinically paranoid about his predecessor and anyone who had a relational history with that predecessor. This means, by definition, that he was paranoid about the entire church.
The most distressing manifestation of our new leader's paranoia was the discovery, by those that took over from him, of a crypto-surveillance system. This new techno-spiritual innovation of His Eminence, of which he should be thoroughly and completely ashamed, operated over the Internet using "spy-cams" placed at certain locations within the archdiocese, thus allowing this "man of God" to spy on his subordinates and visitors using his laptop. Voyeuristic high-tech systems, it seems, were a necessity for our self-styled "spiritual father", since, by most accounts, he was rarely at work during normal business hours, preferring to remain at home or in seclusion elsewhere.
His comments to Mr. Fasoula about "centers of power" which conspired against him are yet another example of his paranoia. Archbishop Spyridon figuratively shot himself in the foot and, later, in the head. He has no one to blame but himself for being booted out of his job. He created his own All-American dissent team because of his inappropriate demeanor. Then, as a last resort, he attempted to avoid being held accountable for his multiple transgressions by trying to dupe the Hellenic Republic of Greece, the Church of Greece, many newly emigrated Greeks in America, and the Greek press with false rumors of conspiracies against Hellenism and the Greek language. Let's tell it like it is. He was the wrong man for the job, then and now. We deserved a much better leader.
Lastly, your readers should be made aware that while sunning himself in Portugal, "surfing the net", as Mr. Fasoula reports, and waiting for the ever-forgiving, ever-generous Americans to foot his ill-deserved pension, Spyridon has avoided doing any real work in the Lord's vineyard, just as he did in America. His successor, on the other hand, was left to deal with the "gift" of a reported $5 million deficit by not even taking a salary for himself. After Spyridon hastily departed, we dissenters quietly and quickly disbanded our organization and returned to the work of building our parishes, not to mention an archdiocese left in shambles.
Dean G. Popps
Former Director of Communications GOAL, Inc.
Parishioner Saint Sophia Cathedral Washington, DC
August 9, 2000
[ The GreekAmerican - August 18, 2000 ]