Source: The National Herald
By Theodoros Kalmoukos
NEW YORK – The economic situation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is much more serious than thought before. The National Herald has learned from within the recent meeting of the Archdiocesan Council that the deficit actually is $12.75 million.
The deficit includes a transfer of $4.75 million made from the restricted accountsof which $2.5 million was from St. Nicholas at Ground Zero rebuilding fund. The transfers were made to the Archdiocese’s general operating accounts, which violates is own regulations and may cause legal problems.
Another $4 million is in deficit since checks have been issued waiting in a box at the Archdiocese to be mailed out for paying bills, but there are no funds in the bank.Also, there is a problem with the pension of the priests, about $3 million.
More than 30 personnel were fired that cost in salaries and benefits more than $6.5 million per year.
The Archdiocesan budget, which was set at $30 million for 2018 will be reduced to $22million. No increase will be asked of the parishes. Many parishes already have reduced their annual allocations to the Archdiocese or intend to stop them altogether until a detailed financial report is published in TNH.
Archdiocesan Council Treasurer Michael Psaros delivered a speech on October 20 at the Council’s open meeting on the finances.He presented concrete and decisive proposals designed to turn the finances around and emphasized the need for total transparency. He said that by its nature and mission, the Archdiocese “must have accountability and transparency.
“I can confirm that we are exceedingly disappointed that Fr. (Soterios) Baroody discovered transfers involving funds in restricted and custodial accounts of approximately $4.75 million. We believe that the funds in these accounts were transferred to fund the GOA’s legacy operating deficit. We are proceeding with an examination of all transfers, and will engage an accounting firm to confirm the specific nature of those transactions. We understand it is imperative that all avenues be explored to restore the proceeds to these accounts as soon as possible. We will pursue all options to do so. In the meantime, we believe that proper internal controls have been established to prevent this practice from occurring again.” (The speech is published in this issue in its entirety).
At the meeting, responsibility was placed on ousted Executive Director of Administration Jerry Dimitriou. It was said that he would hire a limousine to take him from the Archdiocese to the St. Nicholas site and back. He also traveled abroad, specifically to Austria, in order to choose the marbles for St. Nicholas. TNH has learned His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America knew in great detail everything that was going regarding the finances, including St. Nicholas.
It was decided that the next Clergy Laity Congress of the Archdiocese will be held in Boston in July. George Behrakis, a prominent businessman and great benefactor of the Archdiocese, the Metropolis of Boston, the Ecumenical patriarchate, the Greek-American Community and Greece stood up and respectfully requested that the Congress not to be held in Boston since there is not enough time for preparation.Archbishop Demetrios directed that Behrakis chair the Congress, to which the latter replied he would not do so, and reiterated that it ought to not take place as scheduled.
The archbishop replied that it was discussed in the Eparchial Synod with the metropolitans, and Metropolitan Methodios of Boston has agreed. Behrakis insisted that he does not have to accept to chair the Congress and reiterated that it should not take place.
There was discussion about limiting the Congress to only two days due to the dire financial situation, but others said that wouldn’t be enough time as by the time everyone arrived to Boston it would be time to leave.
In the Finance Committee on October 19, a heated discussion took place about the finances. Some from the Chicago area began praising ousted Chairman George Vourvoulias. Also, Boston Metropolis Chancellor Fr. Theodoros Barbas praised Dimitriou, George Vourvoulias, George Papadakos, and also George Matthews, who resigned back in May. It is reminded here that for some reason Barbas also had praised in writing the above mentioned ousted individuals in an email to members of the Finance Committee as TNH reported.
Demetrios made every effort not to allow any discussions of TNH’srevelations about Vourvoulias, who received the sum of $900,000 from the Archdiocese during a ten-year period for travel expenses, even though he considered himself a volunteer. Committee members told TNH that Vourvoulias received $10,000 dollars per month by wire for the past eleven years. The archbishop attempted also not to allow any conversation about the grants of the Leadership 100 or the Registry.
Archdiocesan Council Vice Chairman George Tsandikos, who is also Chairman of Leadership 100, scrambled to defend the archbishop, emphasizing the benefits of the national ministries. He continued to repeat the word “unity.”
Demetrios admitted the existence of the huge deficit incurred on his watch, and said there are many millionaires who can pay it off.
TNH’s reporting was also mentioned. Some brought up that the archbishop initially said the information was false but two weeks later he verified it to be true. The same point was made during the open meeting, with Savas Tsivikos emphasizing that all TNH reported was correct.
An attempt was made to show the corrective efforts are underway, but the climate in the committees and also in the open sessions was dismal and benumbed.
ARCHDIOCESE’S NEWS RELEASE
The Archdiocese issued a news release, titled “Archdiocesan Council Receives Full Report on Financial Situation,” which follows:
The Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Demetrios of America, convened at New York’s Marriott Marquis Hotel for its regularly scheduled fall meeting Oct. 19-20. During the meeting the Archdiocesan Council was updated on the financial situation of the Archdiocese.
The Council reaffirmed its strong commitment to implement appropriate controls and procedures at the Archdiocese; and also reaffirmed its dedication to accountability and transparency.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America in his opening remarks first conveyed the blessing and love of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who, as the Archbishop said, “is very aware of our meeting here and has expressed his love and care.” The Archbishop quickly enumerated some of the important events since the last meeting of the Archdiocesan Council, including the falling asleep in the Lord of Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago and Metropolitan Philotheos of Meloa, the beginning of the work for the new Saint Michael’s Home in Long Island, NY and the convening of the Eighth Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States.
The Archbishop spoke of “the discovery of serious financial issues which have been at the center of our concern and discussion.” His Eminence publicly acknowledged the very hard work for these issues of the Vice President of the Council George Tsandikos, the Secretary Cathy Walsh, the Treasurer Michael Psaros and the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, His Grace Bishop Andonios of Phasiane. “They are very much engaged,” said the Archbishop, “in the very intensive work to establish the means and ways of overcoming this difficulty.” Archbishop Demetrios also said that the Holy Eparchial Synod dealt with these matters in a very sincere and open way. Expressing his resolve for transparency and accountability in all matters relating to the Archdiocese, His Eminence said, “For us there is something more than transparency and accountability. For us the ultimate criterion is a divine criterion, a criterion in the Gospel and from the Gospel and that is the truth. We have to be truthful to ourselves individually and we have to be truthful among ourselves as a community and we have to make truth a central issue in a world of falsehoods, distortion, a world of the post-truth era. The truth is not negotiable.”
Mr. George S. Tsandikos, the Vice President of the Archdiocesan Council in his address to the Council urged unity and truth. “It has been a challenging and trying year for all of us and, most especially, for our beloved Archbishop,” he said, and explained that “we have been confronted with some serious financial issues which have affected the daily functions of our Archdiocese. It has been painful for all of us when we are forced to reduce staff and make necessary budget cuts.” At another point of his remarks Mr. Tsandikos said to the members: “My commitment to you and all the faithful is that with your cooperation, we will leave no stone unturned and we will use our full abilities and resources to continue our path to address both the structure and procedures of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.”
Further, Mr. Tsandikos said that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has stood the tests of time and has had a profound and lasting impact in transforming lives and institutions at all levels of society. “Our accomplishments have been exceptional due to the committed men and women, families and youth who comprise our omogenia. We cannot discount these achievements in the face of financial and administrative issues. In fact, it is during these times that our role becomes ever more relevant and significant. We have the talent, ability, will and spirit, to find creative solutions to address these difficulties, always speaking truth in love, as His Eminence has reminded us.”
Mr. Tsandikos concluded as follows: “… this is a time for unity. Not fragmentation. For the good of the Archdiocese – our National Church – do not let those who wish for weakness lessen our resolve to strengthen the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. We have accomplished so, so much. Let us resolve to unite to continue the good work for the years ahead.”
Mr. Michael Psaros, Treasurer of the Archdiocesan Council, offered a detailed and comprehensive report about the findings to date and pledged that going forward there would be accountability and transparency.
Present at the meeting were Metropolitans Methodios of Boston, Alexios of Atlanta, Nicholas of Detroit, Savas of Pittsburgh, Gerasimos of San Francisco and Evangelos of New Jersey.
Also in attendance were His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Metropolis of Chicago; His Grace Bishop Sevastianos of Zela, Chief Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod and His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia, Chancellor of the Metropolis of San Francisco.
The Council, following the discussion on the finances, heard and deliberated on several presentations of reports from the departments, ministries and organizations of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocesan Council Committees had met the previous day and advanced the work of the Church. These reports included: Stewardship, Outreach and Evangelism, Archons, Administration, Development, Youth &Young Adult Ministries, Ionian Village, Communications, Ecumenical Office, Internet Technologies, Internet Ministries and Center for Family Care.”
I note that the meeting was held at NY Marriott Marquis Hotel. In view of the financial difficulties of the Archdiocese, wouldn’t a less expensive venue for the meeting have been more appropriate?
The Archbishop said that there are plenty of millionaires who can pay this off. So, the Archdiocese can continue to “live it up”.
Therefore, continue to “Pay, Pray and Obey” and ask no questions.
Sadly, the present Patriarch of Constantinople has set the example of behavior followed by our Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America.
I recall hearing about a trip to Paris at the invitation of the Bishop of Paris whereby, His All Holiness Bartholomew, accompanied with 4 or 5 of his Metropolitans, stayed in suites at the Ritz Hotel. While there, we were told that they purchased Rolex watches plus other personal items.
When it was time to leave for Greece, the hotel presented them with a statement for their stay along with the personal items purchased.
Their response was that they were there as guests of the Bishop of Paris and thus, the Bishop would be paying.
The Ritz contacted the Bishop of Paris, who responded that Greece would be reimbursing the hotel.
Net, net: they had to call Greece for help. Greece paid and then told them that the monies would come out of the money allocated to the Patriarchate’s annual fund.
The recent and on-going Greek archdiocese financial crisis could have been prevented if the hierarchy followed the 30 year advice and counsel of OCL for more honesty, clarity, responsibility, accountability and transparency. Too bad that the controls, oversight and management recommendations OCL has promoted for decades were never applied.
What a disgrace! Remember the Greek saying: “The fish smells from the head down!!” No truer statement is more applicable when it comes to the present Ecumenical Patriarch, his Holy Synod of “yes” men, the GOA, which includes the Hierarchy, along with the Archdiocesan Council. Where has the council been during all this time? They seem to have been clueless. All they seem to be is a rubber stamp for the Hierarchy!
If It wasn’t for Mr. Kalmoukos’ reporting, would we have known the facts at hand that continue to unravel before us? I highly tend to doubt it.
Yes, I totally agree with all which has been said above. The meeting could and should have been held at a church, rather than at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel. Even if it meant losing the deposit.
What are we to think when it has been reported, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, allegedly is hoping for some big donors to come forward once again, and pay off the Archdiocesan fiancial mismanagement? Just so they can continue to do as they have done in the past. Where have the checks and balances been, if not from the Hierarchy, certainly from the appointed Archdiocesan Council. How can anyone in their right mind believe the situation will get any better? With each passing day, it seems to be getting worse! Then we hear, Mr. Jerry Dimitriou, allegedly used a limousine to go visit the Saint Nicholas Ground Zero sight in lower Manhattan.
I am sorry but I cannot believe anything that comes from the GOA and rightfully so. And if anyone thinks His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios’ successor will be better, is sadly mistaken. His successor will be hand picked by the Ecumenical Patriarch. If I recall, the Ecumenical Patriarch allegedly wanted to send then Metropolitan Demetrios, only as a temporary replacement to His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon. So as to somehow quell the uproar which was then at hand.
Let us not forget who the Ecumenical Patriarch’s Godmother is. She is the sister of His Eminence of blessed memory, Archbishop Iakovos.
When the Ecumenical Patriarch felt threatened from the now infamous Ligonier meeting back in 1994, he requestec His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos tender his resignation.
It’s the old adage: “Divide and Conquer” at its very best. So, if he did this to one of his very own spiritual family members, should we expect anything less from him concerning others? Sadly, not!
Congratulations to Mr. George Behrakis for having the guts to stand up and voice his dissatisfaction in having a Clergy-Laity Congress next year. As well as allegedly not accepting to be chair of said Congress. At a time when the Archdiocese is once again experiencing these financial problems, the last thing needed is more money spent unnecessarily.
What I also find rather sad is the fact His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios allegedly seemed to make every effort to stop any conversation relating to Mr. George Vourvoulias, and the $900,000 he supposedly received in travel expenses over the past 10 or so years. Plus, any discussion pertaining to grants from Leadership 100 and the registry.
I guess the most recent press release about the financial situation of the GOA and how it will be transparent was just more double talk. Lies, deceipt, scandal, corruption, cover ups, lack of leadership, accountability, transparency, mismanagement, malfeasance, irresponsibility and the list goes on, is still a trademark of the GOA.
The GOA is in financial straits, yet still holds its lavish meetings at such ultra-expensive venues as the Marriott Marquis. This shows the parishes that they don’t care about us and all they care about is our stewardship fees. It’s truly a disgrace. If the GOA really cares about our contributions, maybe it should look to the “gifts” bestowed on Bishop D and Metropolitan N during the Dokos scandal and get them back to the struggling Milwaukee Church. Latest issue of the Orthodox Observer also lists Fr. Dokos now as “retired”. No explanation for all the missing money, just an announced retirement.
Yes Dokos retired in a $1.3 million dollar home in the Chicago suburbs, while he collects a nice pension funded by stewards:
You can see his address on the bottom of page 2 from the Archdiocese announcement as proof:
Using funds from the faithful to support lavish lifestyles in the ranks, is still business as usual for the GOA. Even bankruptcy doesn’t change their mindset.
Lying about clergy and even fellow Orthodox is your theme. I have knowledge that Father Dokos does not own his home as you state. It was provided as long as there was a need. A Christian act. Shame on sinful untruths. It’s time to uplift our Orthodox. We all can be spoken about and untruths abound. Pray and forgiven yourselves.
What was not true Mr. Leokis? This home was bought for $1.3 million dollars and Fr. Dokos lives there. Those are proven facts. Please enlighten us on what sinful untruths you reference. How wonderful that clergy in “need” are given a $1.3 million dollar home. Clearly it pays to be a priest in the Greek church who pays off bishops and buys jewelry with money that belonged to the church, without an ounce of contrition.
Mr. Leokis, we are still waiting for evidence of the “sinful untruths” in this scandal? Facts are crystal clear . Maybe Fr. Dokos can have an Open House now and invite all the folks and clergy that benefitted from the misplaced funds?
Let me be fair in stating the truth as it really is. I will admit there are exceptions, but for the most part, this seems to be the norm. The Greek Orthodox Church, especially in and around the major cities of the US, is a cultural and social Greek club with a cross put above the building. There seems to be more interest placed in the Greek school, Greek dance troupes, Greek festivals, Greek this and Greek that, rather than where the main emphasis should be. That is, in our own Orthodox Christian faith.
How many of us will honestly admit, we truly know so little about our faith. We seem to know more about all the other facets of our parish, than the most important one. Our religion!
Many of us go through the motions following the lead of our parents and grand parents. When asked why we do something pertaining to our faith, our response is, “I do it because my parents and grand parents did.” Shame on us. Is that what we want to pass on to our future generations? I should hope not! Let us try our best to be better examples to our children and guide them in the importance of our faith, rather than the cultural and social aspects of our parish.
I am struck by the comment attributed to His Eminence that there are many millionaires who can pay off the debt of the Archdiocese. I am sure that this is true.
It is also true that many millionaires, and even some billionaires, have been supplementing the monies received from parishes to cover the expenses of the Archdiocese for years.
The sad reality is that those donors neither requested nor were provided the transparency and accountability that their substantial financial support deserved. In a previous comment, Fr. Steven Vlahos referred to OCL’s 30 year-old educational and advocacy ministry calling for the type of transparency and accountability in governance that might have prevented this current financial crisis.
The current crisis provides the parishes and major donors who love the Church the opportunity to make the systemic and notional changes that will not only resolve the financial problems of today, but form a solid foundation for the growth of Orthodoxy in the US far into the future. What are those systemic changes?
1. The current Charter of the Archdiocese and the Regulations issued under that Charter must be revised to provide the Archdiocese with full autonomy in governing the Church in the US. The selection of the Archbishop, Metropolitans, and Bishops of the Archdiocese must be made by the Eparchial Synod, with meaningful input from the clergy and laity and simply ratified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
2. The Regulations of the Archdiocese governing the Metropolises and Parishes and the Dispute Resolution Policy must be revised to restore a meaningful voice to the clergy and laity in the agendas and deliberations of the Metropolis Assemblies and Clergy-Laity Congress and in the election of all of the members of Metropolis and the Archdiocesan Councils.
3. The clergy and laity serving on Councils should understand that they are “reason-endowed” members of the Church, free from fear of intimidation and reprisals for performing their responsibilities honestly and fairly.
4. The faithful of the Church in the US should understand that words have consequences, and the precise meaning of words must be universally understood. “The Church is Hierarchical” does not mean that Bishops can be arbitrary, capricious and even vindictive in administrative matters, and that they are entitled to “blind obedience” in those matters. Bishops do occupy a position of authority in matters of dogma and teaching “the Word of His truth”. The notion that an administrative issue is not subject to clergy and laity input because “it is canonical” requires explanation. It is not a device to close off discussion.
What is the solution?
The Archdiocesan Council is the highest legislative body of the Archdiocese between Clergy-Laity Congresses in all matters other than those of dogma. This is not the time for the Council to be paralyzed by the current crisis. Before the next Congress convenes, the Archdiocesan Council should make changes to the UPR that will enable parishes to directly submit agenda items for the Congress to consider without requiring Parish Assembly and Metropolis Assembly approvals. Ample time should be provided for this process, and ample time should be provided to parish clergy and lay delegates to receive and review all proposed agenda items and all financial and budget documents well in advance of the next Congress.
If proper arrangements cannot be made with adequate time for review and study by parish delegates, the date of the Congress should be delayed from the traditional 4th of July week-end. Finally, the Congress should be held in a Conference center (perhaps on a college campus) rather than at an expensive hotel. All extraneous matters such as political speeches by government officials (US, Greek and Cypriot) should be eliminated. All banquets and social events should be eliminated. There should be no Exhibit Hall for vendors or other agencies. All committees and activities other than administration and finance can be done at Metropolis Assemblies.
The only items on the agenda should be the administration and finance committees. Those committees should not meet simultaneously. Each delegate should participate fully in the work of each committee.
Prayer is important. All meetings should begin and end in prayer.
If the parishes and the millionaires and billionaires bail the Archdiocese out of this crisis without insisting upon the systemic and notional changes that will insure not only the survival, but the growth of the Church in the US, it will be “money down the drain”. The data is there for everyone to see. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is losing members at an alarming rate. At the last Congress, the discussions centered on who gets the assets when parishes close? The Metropolitan’s want it! The Archdiocese needs it! Let’s send it to the Shrine at Ground Zero!
We have an opportunity to bring Orthodoxy to America, and our leaders are arguing about the “perisevmata” (left-overs).
This is an “existential” crisis. How we respond will determine whether the Churches our immigrant grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers, fathers and uncles and aunts built in this country will survive for our children and grandchildren.