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Laity Speaks Out Against Alleged Clergy Sex Abuse

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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.) Laity Speaks Out
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2007
      Submitted by Melanie Jula Sakoda

      (The complete online text of the article is available only to

      Laity Speaks Out Against Alleged Clergy Sex Abuse

      By Theodore Kalmoukos
      Special to The National Herald

      BOSTON, Mass. – Leading lay members of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
      said they feel "embarrassed" by clergy sex abuse cases, and are
      calling for the immediate defrocking of Rev. Nicholas Katinas, former
      longtime pastor of Holy Trinity parish in Dallas (now retired and
      suspended), who has been accused of child molestation, as confirmed
      by the Archdiocese through an official statement this past February,
      and an announcement by the Archdiocese Assistant Chancellor Rev.
      Michael Kontogiorgis.

      George Behrakis, a member of the Archdiocesan Council's Executive
      Committee and Chairman of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100
      Endowment Fund – a not-for-profit religious corporation which
      supports the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America's ministries and
      programs – openly questioned why Father Katinas has not already been
      removed from the ranks of the clergy, citing Archbishop Demetrios of
      America and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as the
      responsible decision makers.

      "Parents are concerned for their children," Mr. Behrakis stressed,
      adding that Leadership 100's endowment fund, with approximately $58
      million in assets, is safe from legal claims against the Archdiocese
      by Father Katinas' alleged victims.

      "Leadership 100's funds are safe, and no one can touch them. I have
      researched the matter with accountants and attorneys, because the
      victims will come after everyone. Just look at what happened in the
      Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. They've spent around $100
      million (in legal fees)," he said.

      Lay concerns on the issue appear to converge and remain very intense,
      while at the same time, many laypersons lament the current lack of
      decisiveness exhibited by Church leaders.

      Mr. Behrakis, a resident of Lowell, stated that he has been following
      the National Herald's articles on the matter very closely, and called
      the Katinas case "a scar on our Church."

      He went onto say that a special committee ought to be formed to deal
      with clergy sex abuse of minors and other matters which threaten to
      bring millions of dollars in damages upon the Archdiocese and its

      "We have to form a committee and get serious about these matters
      because they're not purely ecclesiastical. They involve society at-
      large, and are investigated by the authorities," he said. "Society is
      different today, and it's a big mistake to believe that we can pass
      this by and act like nothing happened. We have to be careful."

      Asked whether Father Katinas should have been removed from the
      priesthood, Mr. Behrakis said, "I'm surprised he hasn't been
      defrocked yet. We have to move swiftly on such things because delays
      do us harm. I'm speaking as a lay member of the Church, keeping in
      mind the thoughts and feelings of other laypersons who share the same
      outlook. But this isn't my department. The decision belongs to the
      Archbishop and Patriarch, not me."

      Lewis Patsavos, professor of Canon Law at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox
      School of Theology, said that, if the accusations against Father
      Katinas are proven, the Church canons require that he be defrocked.

      "This was a shock because I was not aware of his (Father Katinas')
      past, and naturally, I was saddened because it is not only he that is
      suffering, but his entire family. My thoughts go out to the victims
      as well, of course," Dr. Patsavos said.

      Looking at things through the lens of Canon Law, Dr. Patsavos
      said, "There are views from the Church Fathers and Canon Law scholars
      that say the determination should be based on the evidence provided
      and whether the charges made can be proven. One view states that a
      priest who is found guilty of such charges must be defrocked. Others
      prescribe another penalty in the event that not all the charges can
      be clearly proven. Permanent suspension, which can be imposed with
      conditions – such as forbidding the accused to wear priestly
      vestments, so as not to appear as a clergyman, and revoking all his
      privileges. In the event that he does not adhere to this decision,
      then he is to be removed from the priesthood."

      George Bebis, professor emeritus of Patristics at the Holy Cross
      Greek Orthodox School of Theology, said he felt very dismayed by
      situation: "This is a sad story, and I am very sorry for both the
      priest and the victims; those young children," he said.

      When asked if Father Katinas should be referred to a spiritual court
      for possible removal from the priesthood, as was the case in similar
      instances (e.g., the case involving Emmanuel Koveos), Dr. Bebis
      said, "I leave this matter to Archbishop Demetrios and the Synod. I
      just hope Fr. Katinas repents and is healed."

      Arthur Anton of Boston, a member of the Archdiocesan Council and
      former chairman of Leadership 100, said the Katinas case has
      embarrassed the Church.

      "I don't know the man, but I have read everything that's been
      written, so far, and I think that what happened with Father Katinas
      is an embarrassment," Mr. Anton said.

      In response to questions concerning the pending lawsuit and the
      likelihood that Father Katinas' alleged victims will receive
      compensation, he said he hopes settlements can be reached out of

      "What can you say? Sometimes, it's best for there to be an out-of-
      court settlement, instead of paying millions in legal expenses," Mr.
      Anton said.

      George Vouvoulios of Chicago, also a member of the Archdiocesan
      Council's Executive Committee and chairman of the Council's Finance
      Committee, said he was stunned by the news.

      "This was a big shock. I've known Father Katinas ever since he was at
      the Theological School, and I always thought that he was a good
      priest and a good man. Honestly, I don't know what to believe any
      longer. I feel sorry for his family; for those who have suffered (the
      victims); for him personally; the Church; and everyone else connected
      to this. I don't know what should be done about it," he said.

      Asked whether Father Katinas should be defrocked, Mr. Vouvoulios
      said, "I'm not familiar with the particulars of Canon Law, and I
      don't want to say anything that might cause pain to his family. Just
      the other day, I saw his son (Rev. James Katinas) in Kansas City, but
      if these charges are proven to be true, the Church must take the
      necessary steps."

      Speaking from Walpole, John Katsaros, 2nd vice president of the
      Federation of Hellenic American Societies in New England, said the
      Archdiocese must resolve the matter quickly.

      "The Archdiocese must clear up these matters, and when they see minor
      infractions, they should take immediate action and not allow things
      to develop and reach the point where we have to spend millions," he

      "It's a shame for someone's grandmother to spend her dollar on a
      candle, and for the Archdiocese to take the stewardship payments it
      receives from every community – as you know, every parish pays $30-40
      thousand, which they gather from candles and contributions – and
      spend it on lawyers and compensation for children sexually abused by
      priests," he added.

      In response to whether Father Katinas should be defrocked, Mr.
      Katsaros' replied unequivocally, "Without question. He should have
      been defrocked already."

      Gregory Tsigas of New York said he felt very angry about Father
      Katinas' alleged actions.

      "I want to condemn what Father Katinas did from the depths of my
      soul. I want to ask something that will give us all the answers we
      need. Would he want the things he did to those innocent children at
      his parish to be done to his children by someone? What Katinas did is
      despicable," he said.

      "The Church is not operating as it should, and it is beginning to
      resemble a train that is starting to derail," he added.

      When asked to speculate on why the Archbishop has not yet sent Fr.
      Katinas before a spiritual court to be defrocked, Mr. Tsigas was
      critical of the Archbishop.

      "I don't know. Maybe there's a personal friendship at stake, or maybe
      the Archbishop is under pressure from elsewhere. But I think that the
      Archbishop is exercising his duties very improperly. As good as he
      might appear, and regardless of what people say, I don't think that
      he's fulfilling the duties of his position adequately," he said.

      "Since none of the victims' fathers came forth to break Katinas' legs
      and leave him limping for the rest of his life, I guess he deserves
      the vacation he's on in Rhodes. Good for him. How is it possible for
      our community to be humiliated by a handful of priests? I'd like to
      note, once again, that bishops should be married, and be elected with
      our blessings," he added.

      Panagiotis Agourides of Silver Spring, Maryland also said Father
      Katinas should have been defrocked by now, and expects that the
      Archdiocese will end up paying substantial sums to settle lawsuits,
      calling for greater scrutiny of candidates for the priesthood in the

      "I think he should have been defrocked for what he did. I foresee the
      Archdiocese spending a lot of money on matters like this. Future
      clergymen must undergo a thorough background check, and if something
      suspicious is discovered, they should be rejected before they enter
      the priesthood," Dr. Agourides said.

      Demetrios Matheos of Lowell, recording secretary of the Federation,
      said priests who commit acts of sexual misconduct with minors
      decimate the sanctity of the Church, and called for defrocking Father
      Katinas immediately.

      "It is sad that such a person, who had made his way into the hearts
      and souls of all the people who met him, reached the point of abusing
      young children – especially since he was a priest, or as you say a
      steward of God's sacraments," he said.

      "We have lost every sense of what is sacred and holy because of
      people like him. The people who support the parishes see this as a
      great scandal. Since the Archdiocese itself admits that Father
      Katinas did everything he is accused of, they have to defrock him
      immediately," he said.

      "Many well known members of the Greek American community who are
      following this matter are asking themselves about the direction we
      are headed. The Church has to be careful about who it ordains, and
      who is admitted into the Theological School. If it were not for the
      National Herald informing us that the Archdiocese has paid $10
      million in damages from previous child molestation charges against
      its priests up until now, no one would know anything about what was
      going on in the Church," Mr. Matheos said, adding that the Patriarch
      should intercede.

      "The Patriarch should not delay any longer. Katinas should be
      defrocked immediately. These are serious matters. The Greek American
      community is waiting for the Patriarch to take a position on this
      matter," he said.

      John Zaralides of Lowell, a member of the Boston Metropolis Council
      and former parish council president of the Transfiguration Church in
      Lowell, said he hoped the Archdiocese could avoid closing churches

      "I'm very disheartened, because we were mocking the Roman Catholics
      five years ago, and now I see that we're going to start selling our
      church to pay for damages from sexual molestation cases like Katinas.
      Here in the Lowell area, 15-20 Catholic churches closed down. I hope
      that the Archbishop does something without delay. Katinas has to be
      defrocked at once," he said.

      "My friends and I have discussions. We read the National Herald, and
      say that the Orthodox are exemplary. But now look at where we're
      headed," Mr. Zaralides added.

      Demetris Bitsikas of Boston shared Mr. Behrakis' view that the
      Archdiocese needs to develop a centralized manner to deal with such

      "The Archdiocese has to form a center to handle crises like this one,
      because the matter is serious. All these years, the Catholic Church
      would not admit that there were child molesters among their clergy,
      and look what happened. If all this is true, then the Archdiocese has
      to remove Katinas from the priesthood."

      Gregory Spanos of Jacksonville, Florida said he felt startled that
      Father Katinas, who has been accused of multiple molestations (at
      least three cases), could continue as a priest.

      "I'm sorry about what's happening. Wasn't he not ashamed to go and
      molest young children? And now the Church has to come up with the
      money to pay for these lawsuits," he said. "Where are they going to
      find it?"

      Michael Melexenis of Warren, Ohio said defrocking is the only
      practical way to stop scandalizing the community.

      "These sorts of priests have to be defrocked. There's no other
      choice. Everyone I've spoken to in our city says the same thing. This
      has caused a scandal among the people, and many are saying, `Just
      think. You go to Church and kiss the priest's hand with reverence,
      and he ends up being a homosexual," he said.

      Thanos Koukopoulos of Enfield, Connecticut agreed that a defrocking
      was in order.

      "If Father Katinas has done these things, he has to be defrocked. The
      best punishment is for him to no longer be a priest in the Church,"
      he said.
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