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Dallas Church Responds to Lawsuit

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  • Melanie Jula Sakoda
    Submitted by Melanie Jula Sakoda http://www.thenationalherald.com/ (The complete online text of the article is available only to subscribers.) Dallas Church
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2007
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      Submitted by Melanie Jula Sakoda

      http://www.thenationalherald.com/
      (The complete online text of the article is available only to
      subscribers.)

      Dallas Church Responds to Lawsuit

      By Theodore Kalmoukos
      Special to The National Herald

      BOSTON, Mass. – Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, which is at the center
      of the pedophile scandal allegedly involving Rev. Nicholas Katinas,
      its former pastor of 28 years, has replied to the lawsuit launched by
      two of his alleged victims against the parish; the Greek Orthodox
      Metropolis of Denver and Metropolitan Isaiah; the Greek Orthodox
      Archdiocese of America and Archbishop Demetrios; and Father Katinas
      personally.

      The parish, through its attorneys Douglas D. Fletcher and Richard G.
      Miller, has stated that "Defendant (Holy Trinity Church) denies each
      and every, and all singular, material allegations contained within
      Plaintiffs' pleadings and demand strict proof thereof."

      Holy Trinity's reply also states that "Defendant hereby, in
      accordance with Rule 216 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure,
      demands a trial by jury. Simultaneously with the filing of this
      demand, a jury fee is being paid on behalf of this Defendant."

      The Dallas parish community's reply was filed this past May 22.

      It was not yet determined at press time whether the rest of the
      defendants had also filed similar replies.

      The National Herald left phone messages this past Monday, May 28 with
      the Law Offices of Mr. Fletcher, as well as with Holy Trinity Church
      and its current pastor, Rev. Christopher Constantinides, but those
      calls had not yet been returned by the time this edition of the
      Herald had goner to press.

      Legal experts told the Herald that Holy Trinity's reply is a standard
      legal procedure in order for the Plaintiffs to secure their options
      for a civil trial or out-of-court settlement in a timely manner, but
      that the reply is not binding.

      The allegations against Father Katinas, who has been accused of
      sexual misconduct with minors, and who was considered one of the most
      prominent priests of the Archdiocese, have shaken the Church and the
      Greek American community, and remain the talk of the town. Priests
      and laity throughout the Archdiocese and its parish communities are
      up in arms about it.

      The Archbishop's attempts to shirk responsibility – arguing that this
      incident did not take place during his archiepiscopal tenure – have
      left many members of the Church in America feeling disillusioned,
      indignant and confused.

      The Archbishop has not conceded his failure to resolve the matter
      properly (by convening a spiritual court to defrock Father Katinas)
      when the problem manifested itself, as was the case with similar
      incidents of clergy sexual misconduct against children.

      The story of sex abuse allegations against Father Katinas first broke
      this past February, when Assistant Archdiocese Chancellor Rev.
      Michael Kontogiorgis paid a visit to the Dallas parish and told a
      hushed congregation of about 400, "There is no doubt that Father
      Nicholas engaged in serious moral transgressions," that he had been
      suspended due to accusations of child sex abuse in the "not too
      distant past," and that "the statements we heard were corroborated by
      the accuser's childhood friends who are now well-respected
      professionals in other parts of the country."

      The Herald has learned that the Ecumenical Patriarchate in
      Constantinople is very concerned about the Katinas case, and that
      Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has requested a detailed report from
      the Archbishop.

      According to Michael Jaharis, vice chairman of the Archdiocesan
      Council, the Archdiocese has spent close to $10 million in out of
      court settlements for cases of sexual misconduct and associated legal
      fees (see March 10, 2007 edition, page 1).

      In the 32-page lawsuit filed in Dallas District Court this past April
      27 (cause #0703807), the now adult victims, cited as John Doe I and
      John Doe II, both members of Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, allege
      that the sexual abuse took place were serving as altar boys under
      Father Katinas' guidance and supervision in 1981 or 1982, when Doe I
      was 11 or 12 years of age, and when Doe II was 13 or 14 years of age.

      Tahira Khan Merritt, a well-known Dallas attorney specializing in
      cases of clergy sexual misconduct, filed the lawsuit. She has
      successfully represented victims in a number of clergy sexual abuse
      cases involving priests during the recent pedophilia scandal, which
      rocked the Roman Catholic Church in America.

      "SPIRITUAL MENACE"

      The lawsuit alleges that the parish, the Metropolis of Denver and the
      Archdiocese knew about Father Katinas' alleged proclivities,
      characterizing his alleged depravity in very strong terms (pg.
      10): "Defendants Holy Trinity, Denver Metropolis and GOAA were aware
      or should have been aware that, given the opportunity and protection,
      Katinas would sexually molest minor males, including adolescent boys
      such as Plaintiffs… (The same defendants) knew of the dangerous
      sexual propensities of Katinas and the sexual risk he presented to
      minor boys, yet for almost three decades, they cloaked him with
      authority and reverence as pastor of Holy Trinity, and closeted his
      abhorrent conduct, thereby placing the male children of that church
      at risk for life-long injury. (Defendants) knew or should have known
      that Katinas was psychologically unfit, a physical, moral and
      spiritual menace to young males, and an anathema to his own
      Orthodoxy, committing on boys criminal acts abhorrent to decent
      society and committing adultery against his wife."

      The lawsuit alleges that the "sexual assaults occurred in the church
      itself, near the altar and during confession; they happened in the
      church office and in the church van, as well. The abominations
      described herein involved hundreds of acts of sexual perversion over
      approximately three years, usually every Sunday before or after mass
      (pg. 6)."

      According to the court documents, John Doe I's mother "trusted
      Katinas because of his position as pastor, and was led to believe
      that he was a good and moral man, a role model for any youngster from
      a broken home (pg. 6)," but that Father Katinas began "betraying the
      trust of John Doe I and his family… sexually molesting him in the
      fall of 1983… kissing John Doe I on the mouth and performing other
      perverse and criminal sexual acts upon him… John Doe I was
      traumatized and ashamed by what happened. He believed it was his
      fault, and that he was Katinas' sole victim (pg. 6)."

      The lawsuit also states that John Doe II was mentally challenged from
      birth, "but despite knowing of John Doe II's mental disabilities,
      Katinas did take advantage of him sexually. He violated the
      exceptional trust and faith that Doe II and his mother had in him,
      their revered pastor, and revealed himself to be a hypocritical and
      dangerous sexual predator (pg. 7)."

      The lawsuit also refers to a third victim in Chicago from the
      Assumption Church in Olympia Fields, Illinois (prior to Father
      Katinas' transfer to Dallas), although the alleged victim from
      Illinois is not party to the lawsuit.

      The lawsuit alleges that, around 1970-72, "Katinas sexually abused at
      least one other minor, `DZ,' an altar boy like the plaintiffs herein,
      whose family were parishioners of that church. During the abuses,
      Defendant Katinas told DZ that he likewise `played around' with other
      altar boys (pg. 7)… During a telephone conversation with Katinas in
      1998, DZ confronted him about having abused him as a boy. Katinas
      admitted to the abuse, then asked his victim to pray for him and keep
      silent, repeating that he had also sexually abused other boys, and
      further that he had confessed his criminal sexual misconduct to
      Bishop Gerasimos (of Avydos) at Holy Cross and conferred with a
      psychiatrist in Chicago, as well, both presumably before he was
      transferred to Dallas. Neither Gerasimos nor any other official in
      the knowing GOAA hierarchy had bothered to offer counseling to DZ,
      nor acted to remove Katinas as pastor of Holy Trinity (pg. 8)."

      The lawsuit also alleges a cover-up (pg. 9): "There is no evidence
      that law enforcement officials in Illinois or Texas were ever
      notified of Katinas sex crimes against children, as required by these
      states' reporting laws. Likewise, parishioners in both states have
      been kept in the dark as to the truth behind Father Nick's delayed
      suspension. Indeed, the Greek Orthodox hierarchy waited almost seven
      months after his so-called `retirement' from Holy Trinity to publicly
      admit the real reasons behind his suspension. They are less candid
      and more than cryptic. Their continuing secretive cover-up of
      Katinas' sexual crimes against male children in churches which were
      under his dubious care further imperils his victims' lives and
      postpones their hopes for justice and closure."

      In June 2006, Father Katinas filed his papers for retirement. At the
      same time, the Archdiocese Chancery requested his canonical release
      from Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, and he was transferred to the
      jurisdiction of the Direct Archdiocesan District in New York, which
      is under the pastoral and canonical supervision of Archbishop
      Demetrios.

      Within days of Father Katinas' retirement, the Archdiocese suspended
      him from every liturgical and pastoral function, but it was not
      reported in the Orthodox Observer, the Archdiocese's official
      publication, for another five months. It was finally reported in the
      Observer's November 2006 issue, after members of the Holy Eparchial
      Synod strongly inquired about it during the Eparchial Synod's fall
      gathering last October.

      Meanwhile, the Archbishop is so far refusing to send Father Katinas
      before a spiritual court to defrock him, despite being exhorted by
      several members of the Eparchial Synod to do so.

      Father Katinas is believed to be currently staying with relatives on
      the island of Rhodes.
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