Source: The National Herald
To the Editor:
The article about felony theft charges against the Priest who served in my Parish over the past two years raises questions about ethics taught to seminarians in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The interview given to TNH by Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Metropolis of Chicago, provides a window into his personal ethical compass. While his responses are disappointing to the point of being embarrassing, his defense that “everybody else is doing it” begs the question: “How common are his views among the Clergy and his fellow Bishops?” Are his views indicative of what students are taught at our Seminary? Does the Archdiocese have any policies relating to Priests and Bishops accepting “tips” for performing Sacraments? Does characterizing these payments as “gifts” or “honorariums” make them ethically acceptable?
If Clergy and Bishops must rely on “tips” to make ends meet, the Archdiocese should publish a schedule of what
should be paid to the Priest or Bishop for each service. These “tips” should be recorded and reported as income. If Bishops are paid for their services openly according to a schedule, it would eliminate the embarrassing practice of slipping the payments to a Deacon or other assistant in an envelope (to fakelaki). At what dollar amount does an unreported “gift” to a Hierarch from an iconographer for approving an installation by a Parish pass the “smell test” of
propriety? When does it fail that test? If these practices are excused as “long established customs” — transparency and accountability require that they be discussed at a Clergy-Laity Congress so that they can be openly sanctioned. Or strictly prohibited. Parish Council members are required to report and abstain from “conflicts of interest”.
Are Priests and Bishops held to the same ethical standards? Or, is their conduct governed by the “morals of the marketplace”?
In my opinion a Bishop should never accept “gifts” from Priests who need his permission to travel from his Metropolis to another in order to interview for a new assignment. Or to curry favor in the event that a more lucrative position becomes available. Assignments of Clergy should be made in consultation with Parish Councils, based on the unique needs of individual Parishes, not as “rewards” to Priests who have “paid their dues” or have given “gifts” to their Bishop.
Should a Priest ever profit personally from his spiritual relationship with a Parishioner as Priest/Confessor? In my opinion, there should be a policy that all “gifts” should be disclosed and turned over to the Church. The potential for conflicts of interest and the obvious “appearance of impropriety” are so compelling that the leadership of the Church should be looking beyond the issue of the alleged misappropriation of funds from a private trust in an isolated case,
and address the issue of a Priest accepting a condo and a car from an elderly widow who was his long-time Parishioner. As Servants-in Chief, Bishops should be held to an even higher standard.
In TNH’s interview with Bishop Demetrios, he responded to the question of the gift of the condo [and car]to the Priest by saying: “I don’t see where the problem is. He received the gift. Did he ask for the gift? I don’t know. Did he pressure her? I don’t know. Did she want to give it to him because she loved him? I don’t know. I don’t know the answers to those questions without asking other questions. All I know that document says he is to get the house.” The questions the Bishop doesn’t know the answers to reveal the ethical issues involved. None of these questions would arise if the Archdiocese had a clear policy requiring that all such “gifts” to Priests or Bishops must be disclosed, and turned over to the Parish or the Metropolis or Archdiocese.
George D. Karcazes, Esq.