Dallas, TX.- Ending months of rumors, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese informed the Parish of Holy Trinity in North Dallas that its long time priest, who led the Greek Orthodox community of the area for 28 years, Rev. Nicholas Katinas, was suspended over allegations of child sexual abuse. He retired on July 1, citing illness and fatigue. Father Katinas is a married father and grandfather. One of his sons is a priest.
The devastating confirmation occurred Wednesday night, when Rev. Michael Kontogiorgis, assistant chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, informed a hushed crowd of about 400 parishioners that accusations of child sexual abuse were the cause of the suspension.
“There is no doubt that Father Nicholas engaged in serious moral transgressions,” Father Kontogiorgis told the parishioners.
Father Kontogiorgis said the complaint that led to the suspension was lodged in the “not too distant past” and arose from another parish. Father Katinas, 72, served a church in the Chicago area before coming to Dallas.
There had been no previous indication of misconduct in Father Katinas’ long tenure, Father Kontogiorgis said.
But he added, “The statements we heard were corroborated by the accuser’s childhood friends who are now well-respected professionals in other parts of the country.”
In speaking to the congregation about Father Katina’s conduct, Father Kontogiorgis used the word “minors.” He would not elaborate afterward but did confirm that he meant to use the plural.
Father Kontogiorgis told the congregation that he is also investigating a recent complaint against Father Katinas involving abuse alleged to have occurred at Holy Trinity.
A Dallas lawyer, Tahira Khan Merritt, said she represents a man who claims to have been sexually abused by Father Katinas while an altar server in 1983-85. She expects to file a lawsuit soon.
Church members said that rumors had engulfed the congregation but that it was still difficult to believe that Father Katinas had been suspended because of sexual misconduct allegations.
“It’s the last thing we would have expected,” Paul Cromidas told Dallas Morning News.
Holy Trinity’s administrator, Larry Wright, said the suspended priest left Monday for Greece to visit family. Father Katinas could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Cromidas said the Greek Orthodox Church has not been aggressive enough in investigating complaints against priests, and he criticized the long delay in informing the congregation about the nature of Father Katinas’ suspension.
“It could have been and should have been dealt with sooner,” he said.
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has paid more than 10 million dollars in settlements of sexual abuse cases. The latest in California, involving a priest who passed away, has cost Archdiocese about 4 million dollars.
In the case of Father Katinas, although the complainer announced through his lawyer that he is planning a law suit, legal sources said the statutes of limitation may have expired.
In response to further inquiries, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America provides the following:
As communicated to the faithful in the Orthodox Observer, the Rev. Fr. Nicholas Katinas, formerly the pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas, has been suspended from all priestly functions, effective July 5, 2006.
After a thorough investigation of allegations of serious misconduct involving minors, Fr. Katinas was suspended in accordance with the Archdiocese’s Statement of Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Clergy. As a result of the suspension, Fr. Katinas can no longer perform any liturgical, sacramental or other priestly functions. The suspension, in accordance with existing Canon Law practices, is valid for all Orthodox Christian jurisdictions.
Parish administrators of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church were notified of the suspension in July 2006. On February 20 and 21, 2007 further information regarding the suspension was communicated to the Holy Trinity community during an official visit by the Rev. Fr. Michael Kontogiorgis, Assistant Chancellor of the Archdiocese.
“This necessary disciplinary action was taken with deep sorrow and pain,” commented His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios. “We grieve for those who were affected by the misconduct. We also grieve with Fr. Katinas, his family and with those whose lives were positively influenced by his priesthood. We fervently pray for healing for all involved in this tragic situation.”