Letter to President of Chicago Area Brotherhood regarding the persecution of Fr. Angelo Artemas

George D. Karcazes

George D. Karcazes

July 22, 2014

Rev. Fr. James Greanias, President
Metropolis of Chicago Clergy Syndesmos
c/o St. Iakovos Greek Orthodox Church
602 E. Monroe Street
Valparaiso, Indiana 46383

Fr. Jim,

You are listed as the current leader of the Clergy Brotherhood of our Metropolis.  I have been a steward of the Parish of Saints Peter & Paul for almost 40 years.  Twenty years on the Council, three of them as President.  I served as a delegate to several Diocesan Assemblies and ten Clergy-Laity Congresses.  I stepped off the Council three years ago to make room for others to serve.  I know that our Clergy follow “church news” more than the average parishioner, and you are aware of the double-switch of our priest, Fr. Angelo Artemas for Fr. James Dokos from Milwaukee.  This switch was engineered by Bishop Demetrios, the Chancellor of our Metropolis.  You also know that Fr. Dokos has been charged with felony theft by the District Attorney in Milwaukee.  He was removed from our parish by the Metropolis.  Our Council met with the Chancellor in accordance with the UPR that provides for “consultation” between the Metropolis and the Council with respect to the assignment of a priest as our Proistamenos.  More than 400 of our stewards have signed a petition asking that Fr. Angelo be returned to our parish.  The Chancellor has responded that Fr. Angelo will never be returned to Saints Peter & Paul, and that the Council can suggest the name of any priest in the Archdioceseexcept  Fr. Angelo.  The Chancellor did not explain why he will not return Father to our parish or why he wants to remove him from this Metropolis.  Fr. Angelo wants to return.  The parish wants him to return.

I believe that you and your brother clergy — and everyone who has read The National Herald and followed the story in the press know that the Chancellor received thousands of dollars from Fr. Dokos.  The evidence acquired by the Parish Council in Milwaukee from the bank in Florida was turned over to the authorities while Fr. Angelo was the priest at that Parish.  It is apparent to me that Fr. Angelo has been singled out for retribution by the Metropolis because he failed to prevent the Council from turning over what they found to the authorities.  The Metropolis is treating him as a whistle-blower who must be punished for doing the right thing.  Is there even one among you who believes that Father should have participated in a cover-up for the “good of the Church”?

What is the position of the Clergy Syndesmos?  Is there an outcry over the persecution of Fr. Angelo from you and your brother priests? Effective leaders lead by example; they inspire their followers to follow willingly, even enthusiastically.  Leaders who try to lead by threats and intimidation always fail.  I have informed the Chancellor that the only win-win  solution for the situation that has brought our Parish into such a state of despair is for him to relent and assign Fr. Angelo to our Parish.  He should return the money he received from Fr. Dokos to the Annunciation parish in Milwaukee to which it belongs.  He will win the approval of the overwhelming majority of our stewards. He will prove that he is not punishing Fr. Angelo and his family.  He will begin the process of restoring his tarnished reputation.  Many priests have told me that the laity must speak out because as priests, they cannot.  If individual priests do not speak out because of fear of reprisals from the Metropolis then you should speak as a group.  The beginning of the end  of Archbishop Spyridon’s term as Archbishop was when over 100 priests signed a respectful letter to the Eparchial Synod asking them to act.  As Priests leading Parishes you must show the courage and moral fortitude to speak out with a single voice in support of Fr. Angelo and his family.  You and your brotherhood are facing a moral choice.  A teaching moment for your own children and those in your Church Schools.  How will you answer your children when they ask: “Father, what did you do when Fr. Angelo was being persecuted?”

I know that you and your brother priests are familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident.  He was executed by hanging in a Nazi concentration camp on April 9, 1945 just two weeks before Allied forces liberated the camp and three weeks before Hitler’s suicide.   This Christian martyr is best known for the following quote:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.  Then they came for the Socialists and he Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out.  Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.  And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Please forward this to all of your fellow priests in this Metropolis and through-out this Archdiocese.  I urge you to defend Fr. Angelo and his family.  It is the right thing to do.  It is what your parishioners expect you to do.

Yours in Christ,

George D. Karcazes
Wilmette, Illinois


 

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Comments

  1. Fr. Basil Papanikolaou says:

    I very much doubt that your urging the priests to raise their voices in support of their persecuted fellow “brother” will accomplish anything. Most priests comprise “the silent majority”, falling into the category so aptly described by the German theologian Bonhoeffer.
    If the body of the priests were more vociferous and presented a united front, we would be able, perhaps, to bring about some changes in our rusted Orthodox Church. But we are not. I, personally, had asked the Syndesmos of the retired priests for help on a different issue, and their literal response was, “leave us alone,” grow up and accept things as they are!”

  2. Steve Johnson says:

    Dear Priests and Fellow Leaders,

    The recent episode regarding Fr Artemas seems to illustrate that our cherished Greek Orthodox Church is at a crossroads. Let me explain what I see and what I believe is necessary for God’s Grace not be handicapped. St. Athanasios was a mere deacon yet he shared ideas with Patriarchs and Hierarchs. I am lower than that, but as public figures, I would imagine priests and leaders would like to hear the voice of the people. This note represents more than its writer.

    On the one route our Church might embark on, we will wind up having more accountability, executive leaders that actually have a record of achievement, leadership that has relevance, leadership and ministry that connect with the souls entrusted to them. With this will come growth and its evidence. This is the slim chance route. This is the narrow and difficult route. This is the “wouldn’t-it-be nice-but-don’t-hold-your-breath” route.

    The other route, the easy and more probable route, is for things to continue as they are. This is the superficial route where “form” is more important than “content”. This is the route that allows exploitation by masking it as humility and obedience. It is the type of thinking that allows a deckhand on the USS Titanic to rearrange furniture on the deck instead of sounding the alarm before colliding with the iceberg (or prevents him from helping save lives after colliding with it). It is your choice where we go. You my dearest brother Priests and brother Laymen. It is your choice which route our Church embarks on. Let me share something that might help.

    There are a pair of qualities that need nurturing in the beginning, but then can stand on their own – undaunted in the face of danger: Character and Conviction. Unfortunately these threaten the status quo. Our leaders have been softened. Our communities have been taken for granted as a flock of fools by some leaders. Character and conviction are what’s needed to bring us back on track. One of our brother Priests used these qualities to stand up for truth. You will see this below. The shipwreck of the Chicago Metropolis is taking on water and sinking. Thousands have left the Greek Orthodox Churches here and are going elsewhere. Enough! What can be done? Priests and lay-leaders play a vital role in the direction of our Church. What then do we need more of?

    Grow a pair of qualities, character and conviction, for the sake of truth and bringing our Church back on track. Stop being a lay-down and be a person of conviction. Fr. Artemas was afraid (as his interview documents) but he pressed on to voice the truth anyway. What courage! What character and conviction! Similar Character and Conviction was shown many years ago when scores of the brothers in the Priesthood in the GOA Direct Archdiocesan District (and beyond) all signed a document articulating their concerns during the tenure of the GOA Archbishop Spyridon.

    All of our seasoned priests have seen their brothers suffer injustices. Whether it is in the Chicago Metropolis or Atlanta Metropolis, wherever it might be. It’s about time we become more vocal and hold the perpetrators of injustice accountable. When you see this happen and do nothing, you are the one allowing it to happen again. Every time you look away and say, “What a shame!” and do nothing else, you might be part of the culture that allows injustice.

    For the sake of truth and protecting our Church, grow a pair of qualities that will distinguish you as worthy of your calling: character and conviction.

    If you found this letter uncomfortable, it was meant to be. If you found this letter uncomfortable, you need to toughen up from the thin skinned boyish comfort that has softened you into submission, and grow a pair of qualities – character and conviction – to stand up when the spirit moves you. Stand up! If you don’t dear Leader, then who will? Stand up to make a difference. Stand up. Many will follow. Right now they are leaving because many of us are laying down.

    Thank Fr. Artemas for reminding us of what we should be doing. Let him know he is not alone and his efforts did not go for naught.

    Respectfully,

    Steve Johnson

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