Laity Speaks Out Against Alleged Clergy Sex Abuse
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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.
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.
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
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
"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
"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
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,"