I will disagree with the title “Omogeneia and Phanar turned upside-down, following Valiotis statement” in the website hellasjournal.com of my good colleague Michalis Ignatiou. Even if some were provoked by Valiotis’ criticism for Phanar and his references to autocephaly, what really turned things “upside-down” were the reactions to the Valiotis speech and the attempt through these reactions to deal a “final blow” to Archbishop Demetrios, and if possible during the upcoming meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, next week in Phanar.
With most of the controversial statements of Stathis Valiotis, I disagree.
- An autocephalous archdiocese of America will be the final blow to the defenses against assimilation of the Greek Orthodox Church and Hellenism in America.
- Moving of the Ecumenical Patriarchate voluntarily away from Constantinople will signal the beginning of messy and turbulent times in Orthodoxy around the world and could culminate to the loss of the leadership role the Patriarchate enjoys among the Orthodox, which will be captured by mighty Moscow.
- The question as to what position will Phanar take should there be a Greek-Turkish conflict is rather demeaning for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as many heads of patriarchs and hierarchs of the Ecumenical throne have rolled by the turkish sword.
All these references would have minimal appeal among the Greek-Orthodox in America, who do not share such views. But, following the verbally violent reactions, beginning with the one from the Archons, the issue was blown up with the obvious target being Archbishop Demetrios (mainly) and secondarily Metropolitan Methodios of Boston.
We read in the announcement of the Archons, who have as their spiritual advisor Fr. Alexander Karloutsos: “All of the Hierarchy, clergy, and laity of the Holy Archdiocese owe their allegiance to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and we, the Archons, express our deep concern that while one spoke against the Mother Church, no one seems to have spoken for Her.”
Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey writes about this in his long announcement: “Moreover, I denounce the silence of those who were present at the graduation ceremony and allowed Mr. Valiotis to address this terrible speech without reacting or interrupting him.”
Mr. Valiotis was speaking in the commencement ceremony of an institution of higher education, which, as such, owes primarily to respect freedom of speech. Reactions, interruptions and disapproving boos coming from the public in attendance or the students or the graduates, could also be considered expressions of free speech, but if they were coming from Archbishop Demetrios, the other four metropolitans present or the School administration would be firstly considered rudeness and secondly a gag on free speech. Doing such a thing would not reflect well on a respected hierarch and academic as Archbishop Demetrios.
In a written statement, the Metropolis of Chicago writes, “it was a mistake to honor with an honorary title of Orthodox Theology a person who is known for his anti-ecclesiastical and anti-orthodox positions, mainly against our canonical authority that is the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Whatever the honoree said was a repetition of his views which he declares every chance he gets.”
As for Mr. Valiotis – who has a theology degree from Greece – the honor that was bestowed upon him from Hellenic College was a doctorate of humane letters and not Orthodox Theology. Normally, someone who has donated not just ten, but more than twenty million dollars to the Archdiocese and to schools and parishes of the Archdiocese in America, some millions to the Technical College of Sparta and many other institutions in Greece and America, would be deserving of such an honor and title regardless of some of his views. And those who feel that this honor demeans the College and our Church, let them return the money he has donated to the Archdiocese and our parishes, after they first replenish them with their own.
THE SCOOP WAS ELSEWHERE
For us, Stathis Valiotis’ references in his speech to the Phanar, was not the news. Similar views have been expressed in the past by many in our Church, without any particular resonance. Let us not forget that during the ecclesiastical crisis aimed at dethroning Archbishop Spyridon, the organization GOAL that was created then, had people in its ranks who preached autocephaly, and it was financially supported by Michael Jaharis of blessed memory and others favored by the Ecumenical Patriarch. But many people that today express “indignation” did not react then. The scoop that came out from the commencement ceremony was the statement by Stathis Valiotis to the National Herald: “the problem of the Church in America is that over the last thirty years it has had two archbishops. One is elected and he is celibate in New York and the other is married and lives somewhere on Long Island. Whatever effort the elected is doing, it is torpedoed by the appointed one.”
It is a parphrasis of a report of Metropolitan Antonios of San Francisco, of blessed memory, to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in May of 1998, which we heard with our own ears and was concerning the “man of the Ecumenical Patriarch in America” Fr. Alexander Karloutsos.
We wrote it then in the daily “Proini” and we have repeated it courageously in recent years, especially after the multiple instigated “admonitions” to Archbishop Demetrios to resign, because in one way or another he will be forced to – just to recall an editorial by the publisher of the National Herald.
The “indignant” Archons have announced they decided to honor this year in October with the Athenagoras Award Fr. Alexander Karloutsos and they write about him – among other things – that he has served as assistant to three Archbishops. What they have omitted to mention is that this assistant has gotten rid of two Archbishops (Iakovos and Spyridon) and he is preparing to get rid off Demetrios as well. He is the perfect Brutus, even though none of the two said: “Even you Fr. Alexandre? (et tu Brute?) If there is a Brutus Award, he deserves it!
We shall repeat then that our Church in America cannot have two Archbishops. And before the succession of Demetrios happens (it will happen at some point, since he just passed 90), the Archdiocese in America should:
- First, has to clarify what has happened with the finances (incidentally none made an effort to answer our questions regarding the report)
- Second, to have one and only one Archbishop.
During the last few years, as some, for self-serving purposes only, are trying to incite an ecclesiastical crisis, we, that have lived through it twice during Iakovos and Spyridon, have stated with courage that we do not intent to get entangled in the division of the Greek American Community, a division which some want to profit from.
We witnessed with regret – in the case of the reactions to Valiotis’ speech – the use as answers with the same expressions from crises past. For example, Metropolitan Evangelos used in his announcement the characterization “mitraloias” (μητραλοίας), which means matricide, and had been attributed then to Iakovos by a Greek-American daily. “We must not follow one’s personal views and even matricidal feelings or sentiments of people without basis and reason.” (μητραλιών – misspelled in the Greek text). At some other point the same announcement refers to “…Arius, Nestorius and all Heretics, who fought against the teachings and traditions of our Orthodox Faith from within…”
Valiotis did not speak neither about the nature of God nor about the question of whether Panagia is Mother of God, Theotokos or Christotokos; and his critics are neither Athanasioses nor Cyrills.
Therefore, what is the conclusion? The Archdiocese in America, after Iakovos, has lost a great deal of its autonomy; and all the possibilities for decisions on its own without a veto from the Phanar, have dramatically been restricted by consecutive charter changes.
Worst of all, the two large independent funds that have been created and the changes silently being advanced in the Archons organization (some say that each one will contribute $10K and the sums will be sent to the Patriarchate) will financially bleed-dry the Archdiocese and the parishes in particular. Especially for the latter, when there are financial difficulties, the “Greek School” is the first victim.
For us, these are the basic issues and not if Archbishop of America becomes the Metropolitan of France, or Elpidoforos, or Methodios, or Evangelos, or someone else.
Whomever the Patriarch wants will become Archbishop, and when that time comes, God willing, we will welcome him with love and respect. But simply put, there is absolutely no reason at this juncture to seek a “peace-maker,” while it sufficient to preserve the peace that exists, regardless of the problems. –