Harry J. Pappas Warns Archbishop Demetrios and Bishops

Harry J. Pappas

23 June 2000

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios,
Metropolitans and Bishops of the Eparchial Synod

Your Eminences and Graces:

Although it grieves me deeply to write this letter to you, at this point, I have no other recourse.

As you all know, the duly authorized Resolution of June 15, 1999, unanimously adopted at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Executive Committee  - acting in its lawful capacity as the Board of Trustees of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America -  that vested our former Archbishop, His Eminence Spyridon, in the Bishops' Supplemental Pension Program has been under a systematic assault by numerous persons intended to nullify its implementation. This deliberate program of nullification appears to render His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios ineffectual or even prohibited from bringing about the just implementation and conclusion of this matter.

His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony informed me in late January of the fact that the Members of the Eparchial Synod formally directed that His Eminence Spyridon be deprived of any financial support as of April 1, 2000. The Eparchial Synod has neither the legal right to override the prerogative of the Executive Committee in this regard nor the moral standing to seek to harm another person in this way.

And, now we have witnessed the contempt of certain employees of the Archdiocese who refuse to carry out the legal, proper and duly authorized decisions of this duly constituted Executive Committee.

Let us review some recent history. When our former Archbishop Iakovos was granted a very generous retirement package by an Executive Committee action under the lay leadership of Vice-Chairman Demetri Moschos, no employee of the Archdiocese, no Bishop, much less any Trustee, or the Phanar, ever called this decision into question. Nor did His Eminence Spyridon or any successor Executive Committee seek to alter the terms of the arrangement. Not just because of His Eminence Iakovos' 37 years of service, but significantly, because the action that created the Iakovos retirement package was legal and duly authorized. There was no carping about the fact that no provision was made by that Executive Committee to separately fund the Iakovos retirement program. It has and is costing the Archdiocese nearly $400,000 per annum, and will cost several millions of dollars yet in the years to come. Thus, the Iakovos retirement costs now represent one of the largest single line items in our Archdiocese budget and are paid out of the general operating funds of the Archdiocese.

In contrast, His Eminence Spyridon was not granted such a generous retirement package, instead we legally and duly vested him in the pension plan. He is entitled to receive about one fourth of the Iakovos' benefit package: $112,000 per annum. Moreover, thanks to the enormous generosity of a great benefactor of our Church, Mr. Michael Cantonis, provision has been made to fund the pension for His Eminence Spyridon through the duly constituted and legal instruments established for the same. By this means, this Executive Committee avoided any continuing drain on the Archdiocese operating budget. If the funding has been provided, funding which will continue to benefit the Church and the Bishops' and Metropolitans' Supplemental Retirement Fund in perpetuity, then why has the legal, duly authorized and irrevocable action of the Executive Committee not been implemented? Why has our decision been deliberately ignored?

Your Eminence and Members of the Synod, I am tired, disillusioned and broken-hearted. I am tired of mean-spirited politics initiated by hierarchs and clergy which divide our Church. I am disillusioned by the malicious, petty and untrue objections about "years of service" and "not enough money" and a host of other objections meant to further confuse and divide the laity of our Church and harm a decent human being. I am appalled by the reports leaked to the Greek press which contain deliberate distortions, half-truths and obfuscation. Each of you knows that a decision to retire or withdraw from active service is yours and yours alone to make. The Patriarch or the Patriarchal Synod cannot order someone to serve involuntarily. Our Church does not seek to enslave its clergy. And I am broken-hearted because of the shameful behavior of certain super wealthy individuals who act as if this beloved Archdiocese exists to serve their personal whims and vain agendas. Now that they have been successful at engineering the ouster of an Archbishop by means unmentionable at the present, they take delight in causing him pain and suffering. All this in the Church of Christ ...

His Eminence Spyridon served the Ecumenical Patriarchate for over thirty years. And, you all know that our Archdiocese is an eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Thus, his service in America was a continuum of service to the Patriarchate. He might have served this Archdiocese for many good years but for the greed, ambition and duplicitous behavior of a few. Thirty years of service is more than enough. His Eminence Spyridon earned his pension and deserves the quiet enjoyment of peace and retirement from his labors.

Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, although you seem to be a good and spiritual man, you have been unable (although I believe you are willing) to implement the Resolution of your own Executive Committee. It seems you are like a prisoner in your own house, prevented from implementing what your Christian heart and soul knows is right and just.

It is indisputable that the Executive Committee, the duly constituted Board of Trustees of this Archdiocese, is legally empowered and morally compelled to see to it that its legally binding decisions are implemented. Yet, one business day after our June 9, 2000 Board Meeting, Jerry Dimitriou, the so-called "Executive Director for Administration," issued the attached memo to the Finance Director, blatantly usurping not only the Executive Committee's authority, but even that of Your Eminence. No legally constituted non-profit church organization can tolerate or endure a rump takeover by an unlawful conspiracy.

The members of the Executive Committee recall vividly that every one spoke clearly in our December 1999 Board Meeting, advising His Eminence Demetrios that Jerry Dimitriou was neither suitable nor qualified to be re-employed by the Archdiocese. Imagine our surprise when less than 48 hours later we read in the Press that he had been hired for an unbudgeted, non-existent position  - a position never approved at a Clergy Laity Congress or by the Archdiocesan Council or by the Executive Committee. While we might be personally embarrassed that we are treated with contempt, nevertheless, as men who have spent a lifetime operating with high standards of integrity and lawful purpose, how can we be expected to stand idly by and allow this Church that belongs to the millions of Greek Orthodox Christians in America to be taken over unlawfully?

I say "taken over," because a handful of super wealthy individuals, in conspiratorial league with certain members of the clergy, have engineered what amounts to a coup d'état, defined as the sudden overthrow of a government, in this case a Church government, by a usually small group of persons in or previously in positions of authority.

What therefore is to be done?

Your Eminence and Members of the Eparchial Synod, I am well aware that at the conclusion of the Clergy-Laity Congress, my term and that of most of the Archdiocesan Council expires. I do not expect nor will I accept reappointment. The Executive Committee was hoping that this matter could be resolved peaceably before the Congress. We all want His Eminence Demetrios to be able to get on with dealing with the serious challenges facing our Church. We all want to move on. And, we want His Eminence Spyridon to get the pension he was promised, the pension he deserves and the peaceful retirement he has earned.

It is better if but one of us becomes the lightning rod and if but one is pilloried for daring to present the truth. My fellow members of the Executive Committee have done much, tried their best and been most honorable and fair. They deserve their peace.

Therefore, with respect and profound sadness: Unless the duly authorized Resolutions of June 15, 1999 and August 1999, reaffirmed and supplemented by the Resolution of June 9, 2000 are fully implemented and all past due payments made by wire transfer of immediately available funds to the account of His Eminence Spyridon by 3 PM Eastern Standard Time on June 27, 2000, I shall have no other option but to file suit to compel the lawful action of the Archdiocese to implement the Resolutions and to prevent certain parties from frustrating and otherwise unlawfully interfering with the lawful, fiduciary acts of its Trustees, their duly adopted and binding Resolutions of June, 1999, August, 1999 and June 2000.

It will be necessary to include in this lawsuit not only members of the Eparchial Synod, but members of the Patriarchal Synod who, upon information and belief, have interfered in the operation of this Archdiocese by seeking to subvert the duly authorized directives of the Board of Trustees. This interference undoubtedly adversely impacts the tax-exempt standing of the Archdiocese.

The Clergy-Laity Congress needs to get the Archdiocesan financial house in order by, among other things, ordering the restitution of all Archdiocesan monies expended by the unauthorized persons who seized control of the Archdiocese and its Treasury without the sanction or approval of the 1998 Clergy-Laity Congress, the current Archdiocesan Council and the current Executive Committee.

Furthermore, a monumental financial issue is the matter of restoration of funds to the Archdiocese of over $40,000,000 (the Leadership 100 fund) which was transferred to an organization the Executive Committee was fraudulently induced to believe would be a "supporting organization" of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Support indeed! Instead, when the formal Resolution of the Executive Committee on May 2, 2000 asking for $3,000,000 to be transferred to the Archdiocese to retire bank debt and pay other obligations was presented to those persons responsible for these funds, they recklessly relied on the direction of a crony and intentionally ignored this vital request from the Archdiocese. The law's requirements that all acts of this organization meet strict "four corners tests" by its fiduciaries have been ignored. Naturally, any person responsible for governance is personally liable for any conduct found to have been unlawful or for any failure to protect the non-profit status of funds taken from the Archdiocese itself. Since this "support organization" of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America willfully disregarded the urgent formal request of the Executive Committee for funds needed by the Archdiocese, it is clear that this organization must be dissolved and the funds returned to the Archdiocese from which they came. If the Archdiocese fails to resolve these issues internally, it will have effectively abdicated its role  - a role which ultimately will be assumed by a secular Court. Among the likely remedies to be implemented by a Court is placing the assets of Leadership 100 in the hands of an impartial, professional receiver or trustee.

In addition to the serious financial irregularities, certain members of the Archdiocesan staff and other unauthorized persons have serious exposure for breach of contract and fiduciary obligations, tortious interference with the due, orderly and proper administration of the secular and financial affairs of the Archdiocese, violations of the civil rights of Archdiocesan employees, unlawful termination of Archdiocesan employees, slander and defamation of character.

I am hopeful that this letter will be the impetus to effect a resolution not only of the pension due His Eminence Spyridon but that all the other issues will be intelligently addressed and honorably and responsibly resolved at the forthcoming Clergy-Laity Congress. It would be unfortunate if a secular Court were required to adjudicate these issues as well.

His Eminence Spyridon was criticized harshly and unfairly as a person who ignored proper process. Where is propriety and due process now? Where is the respect for our Archdiocesan Charter, the Special Regulations, Canons of our Church, policy and procedures? Where is the milk of human kindness? Where are Christ's teachings evidenced in this callous disregard for the rights of a solitary man?

Your Eminence, I am not happy at the prospect of a lawsuit. I sincerely hope that it will prove not to be necessary. But when I met with you in your office the morning of May 2, 2000, I got on my knees and begged you to do the right thing. You promised me you would see to it that the pension was paid, but you have not. You cannot doubt my fortitude, my willingness or my ability to bring and maintain a suit and win it. This can only be avoided if you and others immediately fulfill your Christian, moral, ethical and legal responsibilities.

The lay Members of the Executive Committee have tried to bring this matter to a proper end, each of us in our own way. I have not sought their approval or participation in this suit in any way. They are good men who have done their best, but who deserve their peace, too.

Prosecuting a lawsuit does not mean that I do not love the Church, quite the opposite. We all love our Church. And, as an Archon, I took a Holy Oath to defend and protect our Church. None of us wants to hurt the Church. But perhaps a catharsis (and all that will be discovered through it) is what is needed to enable the Church to go forward with its Holy Mission. Some may not yet understand the present necessity of my methods, but I believe most can agree with the following: we love and respect our new Archbishop, His Eminence Demetrios. We have tried to work with him and supply him with every advantage to carry out his sacred task to lead our national Church. The Executive Committee is comprised of honorable, decent, Christian men who have offered their very best to the Church. However, as the substance of this letter demonstrates, His Eminence Demetrios is not the free and unfettered Shepherd of his Orthodox Christian Faithful that he ought to be.

I say to all of you, enough of the shadow governance of our Church. I pray that real Christian leadership, love, charity and stewardship will prevail and that the course of our Church will be re-directed to the right path.

Harry J. Pappas
Member of the Executive Committee

cc: His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I
Members of the Executive Committee
Members of the Archdiocesan Council

[ Orthodox Truth |  -  June 23, 2000 ]