New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Those who had concerns about differences of opinions between Archbishop Elpidophoros and members of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, must be reassured that our Hierarchy stands united, thanks to Rev. Alex Karloutsos. The strongman of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America succeeded to unite the Holy Eparchial Synod, which held an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday afternoon and rejected his proposal to set a retirement age for the metropolitans.
Karloutsos’ proposal was contained in a letter sent on July 7, 2020, to Constantine Caras, Chairman, Archdiocese Council Administration Committee, ahead of the scheduled to take place in September via teleconference Clergy Laity Congress. The Karloutsos letter story was published first at “Pappas Post”.
The Holy Synod Communique doesn’t name Fr. Alex Karloutsos but replies to his proposal to set a retirement age for the Metropolitan 75 years of age.
“It is stated that in accordance with the Sacred Canons of the Orthodox Church, there is no age limit for the exercise of the duties of Hierarchs”, the Communique of the Holy Eparchial Synod states.
It also rejects the proposal because the Clergy Laity Congress cannot decide on canonical issues.
It not clear why it was necessary for the Synod to reject the proposal, since it could not be discussed in the Clergy Laity Congress, since no local Clergy Laity had introduced it.
The first article of the resolution sites (Psalm 89: 10,11 LXX) of Moses prayer:
“As for the days of our years, in their span they are seventy, and if we have strength perhaps eighty; and what is more than these is toil and travail”.
Coming from Moses who died at 120 years of age, it’s clear that Fr. Karloutsos explanation to the Psalm is arbitrary. In addition, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is 82 years old, passed the age of 80 that Fr. Alex sets as maximum.
Communique of the Holy Eparchial Synod
July 8, 2020
The Holy Eparchial Synod met today in an extraordinary video conference at the invitation of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros with an exclusive objective to discuss the recent public debate on an official proposal to change the pension program of the Hierarchs.
Following a discussion, it is stated that in accordance with the Sacred Canons of the Orthodox Church, there is no age limit for the exercise of the duties of Hierarchs. The retirement from active ministry (or not) of an individual Hierarch is entrusted exclusively to the individual choice and sole judgment of said Hierarch. Furthermore, it is noted that within the Ecumenical Patriarchate, no such age limits are applied.
In conclusion, the Holy Eparchial Synod rejects the current proposal in the form of the draft resolution for the upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress of 2020, inasmuch as such a proposal is beyond the capacity of the Clergy-Laity Congress, which is unable to decide in matters dogmatic and canonical.
The Hierarchs of the Holy Archdiocese minister to the People of God in the spirit of self-sacrifice, love and devotion, dedicating their whole life in service to the Church.
From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy Eparchial Synod
THE LETTER OF REV. ALEX KARLOUTSOS
July 6, 2020
Saint Sisoes the Great
Mr. Constantine Caras, Archon Skevophylax
Chairman, Archdiocese Council Administration Committee
I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, with abundant gratitude for your service to our Church over the decades. I write to you on the Feast of St. Sisoes, the disciple of Anthony the Great. Sisoes knew the vanity of clinging to position and power, and wept before the tomb of Alexander the Great saying “O Death, who can escape thee?” He reminds all of us of our fleeting moment on this world’s stage. I share his icon with you (below), the very one I keep in my office above my head as a reminder of our need of humility in the face of our mortality.
As you may recall, two years ago we spoke about the resolutions (attached) that I thought would be salutary for the life of our Archdiocese. At that time, you did take them to the former Archbishop who rejected them out of hand, the Resolution about age limits being the obvious reason. Nevertheless, our Archdiocese turned the corner last year with the election of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, and there is now another opportunity to do what is right for the Church, rather than for personal agendas.
All of us remember the pain across the Church as former Archbishop Demetrios refused to retire, even after numerous requests from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in the face of a collapsing Archdiocese, and when he had already surpassed his ninetieth birthday! To this day division remains in the Archdiocese, between those who were begging for an end to a degenerating Archdiocese and those who supported the then archbishop, regardless of his advanced age and the obvious mismanagement in Church affairs.
It seemed to me then, and even more to me now, that having a uniform retirement policy would have solved the issue without any of the rancor or divisiveness engendered by his refusal to do what was clearly best for the Church. A retirement age is a simple and apolitical solution that is reassuring to the clergy of every rank. As our esteemed Ecumenical Patriarch often states: “above everything is Christ
and the Church.”
Additionally, should the Resolution on the pension program be adopted, and with the Eleventh Hour salvation of the Plan underway after literally decades of neglect, both Resolutions would have a salubrious effect on the life of all members of the hierarchy, the presbytery, and the diaconate. I am convinced that my brother priests are rightfully pained that their respective spiritual fathers have little or no concern for the clergy’s financial welfare. The corporate pension plan that was adopted years ago has undermined the Lord’s commandment that the greatest amongst us will be the greatest servant.
As you will note, I am copying the Archbishop and all the Metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod, as well as the Presidents of the Archdiocese Presbyters Council, the National Sisterhood of Presvyteres, the Retired Clergy Association and the Archdiocesan Benefits Committee, because I believe their support for such reasonable and beneficial proposals would be the logical consequence of their reading of these Resolutions.
Please let me know how I can be of help in advancing these Resolutions, and I thank you in advance for your consideration and that of the Administration Committee of our Holy Archdiocese.
Father Alexander Karloutsos
Protopresyber of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
CC: His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios
Metropolitan of the Metropolis of Boston
His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah
Metropolitan of the Metropolis of Denver
His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios
Metropolitan of the Metropolis of Atlanta
His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas
Metropolitan of the Metropolis of Detroit
His Eminence Metropolitan Savas
Metropolitan of the Metropolis of Pittsburgh
His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos
Metropolitan of the Metropolis of San Francisco
His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos
Metropolitan of the Metropolis of New Jersey
His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael
Metropolitan of the Metropolis of Chicago
Father Mark Leondis
President of the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council
Presbytera Nicole Keares
President of the National Sisterhood of Presvyteres
Father Eugene Pappas
President of the Retired Clergy Association
Father James Paris
Chairman of the Archdiocesan Bene%ts Committee
RESOLUTION REGARDING RETIREMENT
OF CLERGY AND TERM LIMITS FOR LAITY
WHEREAS, as the Psalmist has declared: “As for the days of our years, in their span they are seventy, and if we have strength perhaps eighty; and what is more than these is toil and travail” (Psalm 89: 10,11 LXX);
WHEREAS, the Holy Archdiocese of America (hereinafter the “Archdiocese”) does not now possess a standard for retirement of its clergy and lay leadership;
WHEREAS, the pastoral example of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is such that all bishops must submit their retirement to the Holy Synod at age 75 (Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, Article XV.1.25);
WHEREAS, the pastoral example of the Roman Catholic Church is such that all bishops must submit their resignation to the Pope at age 75 (Code of Canon Law, Article 2, Canon 401 §1), and parish clergy are required to submit their resignation to their diocesan bishop at the age 75 (Code of Canon Law, Chapter VI, Canon 538 §3);
WHEREAS, both of the aforementioned examples allow for archpastoral discretion as to the acceptance of the retirement (except the Roman Catholic Church where the Pope may only delay the retirement for two years until the age of 77);
WHEREAS, transparency is the foundation of any soundly governed organization and term limits and a prohibition against interlocking directorships foster and promote transparency;
WHEREAS the organizations of the Archdiocese do not currently have a requirement that all it officers, directors, trustees and committee members serve for a limited term so that transparency and sound governance may be achieved;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:
A. That the Archdiocese establish the age of 75 as the age that every clergyman must submit their retirement to the proper ecclesiastical authority. Proper ecclesiastical authority means: 1) for the Archbishop, all Metropolitans and all Bishops, the Holy and sacred Synod of the Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate; and 2) all other clergy to their ruling Hierarch.
B. That those serving, whether clergy or laity, as officers, directors, trustees, committee members, shall serve for a maximum of five consecutive years and that this requirement of term limits applies to all organizations of or associated with the Archdiocese and its Metropolises, including but not limited to the Archdiocesean (sic) Council, Metropolis Councils, Hellenic College and Holy Cross Seminary Board of Trustees and the National Philoptochos Society; and
C. That current members of the clergy and laity serving in their respective positions and who have reached or exceeded the age limit or term limit would be “grandfathered” in, and be exempt from this resolution for two years, after which if a member of the clergy they would submit their resignations pursuant to paragraph A above and if laity to the Archbishop for Archdiocesan/national level organizations and the presiding Metropolitan for Metropolis/local organizations
RESOLUTION REGARDING CLERGY PENSION
WHEREAS, the High Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ is One and shared by grace with the ordained clergy who serve as Bishops, Priests, and Deacons;
WHEREAS, a pension plan for all clergy in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese was created and became effective as of January 1, 1973, hereinafter referred to as the GOA Pension Plan. Pursuant to the terms of the GOA Pension plan clergy based on years of service will receive a pension upon retirement of approximately 23.4% of the annual earnings;
WHEREAS, subsequent to the creation the GOA Pension Plan a supplemental benefit plan was created for the Hierarchs in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese which created an enhancement in addition to the benefit paid out by the GOA Pension Plan. The Hierarchs supplemental plan is hereinafter referred to as the Bishops’ Plan. The Bishops’ Plan is a general obligation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The Bishops’ Plan supplements the hierarchs’ retirement benefits so that they receive 80% of the annual earning upon retirement (inclusive of the payment of 23.4% of their annual earnings paid out through the GOA Pension Plan);
WHEREAS, the parish clergy of our Holy Archdiocese have the opportunity to participate in a Clergy pension program, while the Hierarchs receive a supplemental income upon retirement that is based not on the sacred servant/leader model of our Lord and Savior, but rather on a secular executive/corporate model, and which is vastly different from the parish clergy;
WHEREAS, the Holy Archdiocese is setting aright its past financial and administrative anomalies;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:
A. That effective 30 days after the enactment of this resolution, the Holy Archdiocese of America terminate and cancel all obligations under the Bishops’ Plan and that there be one, singular and exclusive pension plan for all ranks of the priesthood, without any difference in respect to ratios of distribution based upon ecclesiastical rank;
B. That Bishops who are retired as of the date of the enactment of this resolution or who retire within 30 days of the date of the enactment of this resolution by submitting their written resignations to the Holy and sacred Synod of the Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate, will retain their rights, if any, under the terms of the Bishops’ plan;
C. That said clergy pension plan be fully funded by a proper and righteous readjustment of Archdiocesan assets to insure the fund’s success; and
D. That we encourage all full-time clergy – be they Bishop, Priest, or Deacon – to participate fully in the clergy pension plan and thus insure the health and stability of retirement for all members of the clergy of our Holy Archdiocese.