NO DISCUSSION ON CHARTER
11 August 2003
We are offering again to our surfers this other article, by Katherine G. Valone, about the problems risen, in the Greek Orthodox Church in the USA, with the granting of a CHARTER by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the American Archdiocese.
To many of the Orthodox Faithful it has appeared as 'unfriendly takeover” by the Phanar which will take away our past and our future, sack our treasury, and remake our archdiocese in the image and likeness of the “Ottoman-like” Patriarchate.' It is interesting the use of such appellative in this quotation, it reminds us, also, that the Patriarchate remains under political pressures of its own survival. It would not be unwise to have this in mind, when the Church looks to its future temporal administration following its own Canonical Holy Tradition.
In a previous EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION to another K.G. Valone's article on this matter, I have called attention to the problematic approach that the Patriarchate of Moscow, on this subject, has meant in the history of the Orthodoxy. All come to the point of just maintaining the political influence of the worldly masters. It brings to my memory of the passage of the "investitures" in the history of the Latin Church; which, in fact, were not get rid of, totally, until the beginning of the XX century, when the rights of Spain to influence the Conclave for a Papal Election were abolished.
Also interesting is the descriptive fraise of the author when she writes about some of our hierarchs as "they were really fighting to keep their positions, titles, and pensions. Many of them were ambitious men." This is a very frequent event.
So, the time has come to make questions, look at History and Holy Tradition, and in brotherly, humble and in orderly fashion discuss and find good answers.
5 June 2003
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Reprinted from the Greek Press, May 26, 2002
“The Archbishop is at the crossroads of his life. It is for this moment that God has put him in the right place at the right time.”
The people clamored for reason to prevail. The Patriarch had chosen a person who developed his own devious agenda to the hidden agenda of the Phanar in Constantinople. Troubles were increasing and only when the priests and laity cried “enough” and the call for autocephaly arose did the Patriarch pay attention. Add to this the fact that the metropolitans were joining the clamor because the Archbishop was ignoring his own synod and gravitating to the men who had the money and power. But soon, the metropolitans too joined the bandwagon calling for change, again for the wrong reasons. We thought they were concerned for the charter which Constantinople unilaterally rewrote to suit their purposes and which was to take away many of the rights of the laity. It would do away with the biennial clergy-laity congress except when it suited their purposes.
Finally, the Patriarch sent a man of peace to untangle the mess. Things did quiet down because everyone liked Archbishop Demetrios, who was our new spiritual leader and our only hope for damage control. Here was a humble man who soon would be caught up in the crossfire between the metropolitans and the Phanar. The Patriarch did not forget his agenda which was to bring about a pliable and subservient clergy and laity and that he would control and exploit the archdiocese by changing its type of administration to favor the Mother Church at the expense, welfare and progress of the GOA.
We should not be surprised. After all, the Phanar had learned many lessons under centuries of Ottoman rule. Such things as the elimination of the human rights of the individual, ruling with an iron hand that demanded unquestioned obedience, and using the Church for its own purposes (although they rationalized that it was for the “good of the Church”). Absolute power; the divine right of the hierarchs; the disdain that they held for the “sheep” who they considered unlearned; and the idea that every despot has to do what is best for the people who do not know what is good for them.
Add to this the not-so-secret ambitions of the Patriarchate, which longs for the splendor and wonder of the past “POLI” and the great Byzantine Empire which they longed to bring back! Who had time to think about the souls of the Orthodox in the United States? This ambition turned the eyes of the Patriarchate in the direction of the “fatted calf” whose wealth would cure all their obstacles in the way of power and grandeur. The sin of pride and ambition filled their heart. Pride cometh before a great fall. And all this in the name of the Church.
The question then became how to channel that wealth into their coffers in Constantinople. Again, the laity was their answer. “Let us use their love for Orthodoxy and their ability to make more wealth, and their respect and honor for the Holy City, Constantinople, to our advantage. First they must get the metropolitans on their side. While we thought the metropolitans were shuttling back and forth and fighting for the life of a good charter, they were really fighting to keep their positions, titles, and pensions. Many of them were ambitious men. The Phanar knew that. But some metropolitans are as despotic as the Ottomans. When there were assured of their titles they did not care how the Patriarch would carve the heart out of the charter. Do I sound cynical…the truth hurts. But that is the ugly deception in which we find ourselves engrossed today.
During Holy Week, when all but two metropolitans and more than 50 of the world’s hierarchs and clergy left their churches to go to Constantinople to prepare the Holy Myrrh or Chrisma, a great panoply of vestments and miters surrounded Patriarch Bartholomew who saw his little “papacy” in full array, while the faithful back home celebrated the great feast of PASCHA without their shepherds in their midst. Except for two, our metropolitans each took with them a sum of money from the faithful which resemble the conquered peoples bringing their tribute to their conquerors.
Meanwhile, back home, he have been reading about the financial crisis facing our Archdiocese again. You who care and read these articles in all the Greek press cannot help but weep. The dioceses have not received their portion of the budget and therefore cannot pay their bills. The archdiocese cannot pay many of their bills that were incurred by Archbishop Spyridon who still receives an 80 thousand dollar pension (?) from the GOA. More than one and a half million dollars debt caused the Archbishop to borrow one hundred thousand dollars from the bank in New York.
We cannot help repeating what we have read in the National Herald. Our archbishop was called before the Holy Synod to be chastised for four hours for sending copies of the proposed charter to all the parishes in the U.S., so that the parish councils and general assemblies would read and discuss the contents! This infuriated the Patriarchate. They accused him of “splitting” the church in America. We know all too well who is splitting the GOA. They have already broken the unity of our archdiocese into independent metropolises.
The Holy Synod told him that he must not allow the charter to come before the Clergy-Laity Congress for debate. Such hubris, such arrogance shows them for what they are. The Phanar obviously believes that the proposed charter is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. This shows us how things will be if we do accept the charter they have tailor-made to favor their kind of administration for the Church in America.
The delegates should walk out if either the charter is off the agenda, or if it is rammed down our throat. Then the flow of money should stop. But Archbishop Demetrios, who has lived in the United States for years and knows how the people here think and act, could show his leadership and let the discussion and debate start and flow with all the vigor of freedom of speech to its natural and logical conclusion: A good leader, when faced with a dilemma must choose. Archbishop Demetrios will have to choose to do what is best for our archdiocese or to obey an order which will if not immediately, in short time, truly split the church because our clergy and people will never settle for such despotism. Nor should we. It would mean the extinction of the Church as we know her.
We can and should encourage our lay representatives and our priests going to the Congress not to let the biennial clergy-laity congress be our last one, nor should we allow our charter to rendered ineffective and meaningless or a worthless piece of paper stripping us of our democratic process. We must continue running our affairs according to the rule of law. Otherwise, we are letting our GOA become a victim of an “unfriendly takeover” by the Phanar which will take away our past and our future, sack our treasury, and remake our archdiocese in the image and likeness of the “Ottoman-like” Patriarchate.
Finally, I would suggest that everyone immediately write a letter to His Eminence that we will support him when he goes out on a limb to allow the proposed charter to be examined, debated, and decided upon. We support him when his is chastised and bullied by hierarchs of the Holy Synod who have no idea what the Greek Orthodox faithful in America are like. We will support him when he stands up for his people and will not be manipulated by a few self seeking metropolitans many of whom are corrupt and are drunk with power and ambition and think only of themselves and how thy can keep the laity and priests in line. We will support him when he courageously fosters the true conscience of the Church regardless of his future. The Archbishop is at the crossroads of his life. It is for this moment that God has put him in the right place at the right time. It is his time to take up his cross, deny himself, and follow Christ, the true Head of the Church for Whom He shed his blood.
If Demetrios can do this, then he will be a saint for his time just as St. Mark of Ephesus who stood alone for Orthodoxy in 1437 when the other Hierarchs and Patriarch Joseph capitulated to the Pope of Rome. St. Mark said, “Better the fez of the Turk than the miter of the pope.” Constantinople did not receive the help of Rome and fell in 1453 but Orthodoxy never fell even after more than 368 years of slavery. That’s the strength we need to fight the modern Ottomans who will bring on a new and corrupt lesser brand of Orthodoxy. This I fear most of all.
By permission from and thanks to:
Orthodox Christian Laity www.ocl.org
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