Continuous mistakes, misguided choices, spreading of divisiveness and papal-like tendencies have rendered Patriarch Bartholomew unable to select the new Archbishop of America.  A Special Clergy-Laity Congress is a viable solution to that effect. It is necessary for Bartholomew to step aside: his presence is almost certain to lead to even more division in our Church, the Greek-American community and World Orthodoxy.

The complete fiasco of the latest episode in the series “Archbishop Demetrios Will Resign” – the third or fourth this year, we lost count already – exposed the Patriarchal leadership in all its magnificent ineptitude, as well as the utter incompetence of Bartholomew’s deputies in the Church and the media.  If their goal was to exhaust the last drops of credibility the Patriarchate enjoyed among the church and the community, then congratulations are in order! Nobody can trust them anymore, nobody can count on them, as we seriously contemplate the future of the Church in America. They are disgraced…

It was the latest in a long series of mistakes, fatal choices and even more catastrophic moves, all of which can naturally be attributed to the ultimate leader, Patriarch Bartholomew:  “The bucket always stops there”…. This columnist has previously noted some serious personality flaws Bartholomew has displayed on various occasions, namely his “contrarianism”, his constant “in-fighting” with all, and his demand to impose his views and his will by the force of his status. Those of us who were born in Greece – and especially in the islands – have surely had the unfortunate experience of encountering such contrarian personalities…  As an anthropologist by training, I can rationalize that such traits helped the “natives” survive and flourish through centuries of untold adversity.  But as a human being I can attest to the impossibility of living any sense of normal life next to such a person!… Unfortunately, such is the personality our Patriarch has consistently displayed…

One could also easily detect a certain inferiority complex since the early stages of Bartholomew’s leadership, esp. against Archbishop Iakovos, whom he treated unfairly, and whose natural leadership skills Bartholomew could never match. Alas, life has always a way to repay in kind both the good deeds and the misdeeds. We are now witnessing the perfect “divine punishment” coming upon Bartholomew, as his ineptitude and his complete leadership failure is exposed for all to see…  That the personality flaws are at the root of the problem is easy to prove: A simple comparison with Bartholomew’s predecessor, Patriarch Demetrios, who glowed with a sense of true Christian love, as opposed to Bartholomew’s habitual suspiciousness, is very convincing.

If love was the Patriarch’s guide, then most ecclesiastical problems could be resolved with common sense, seeking the widest possible common ground and the necessary compromises. Instead of showing Christian love, the Patriarchate supports various geopolitical interests, seeks the accumulation of wealth, displays the vain show of power where possible. Where showing its power is not expedient, bowing in front of the “Sultan” is preferred… Many Patriarchs were faced with impossible threats and blackmailing by the Turkish regime, but none has debased his office so thoroughly.

In a historically “devilish” coincidence, Bartholomew’s problematic personality fell upon and matched another even more problematic personality, that of Father Alex Karloutsos. The latter is a priest in name only, but in reality he is seeking to maximize his secular wealth and glory.  Cooperation between the two has brought our Church, the Patriarchate and Orthodoxy itself at serious impasses. They both believed they were invincible, “endowed” as they thought they were with supreme intelligence and other gifts that the common folk, the rest of us, lack…  But in the end, they were blown adrift by the sheer force of their narcissism, having fallen victim to their own reflection upon the harshness of reality…

And so in the last twenty five or so years: 1) They attempted to “milk” the generosity of the faithful for all its worth, using dubious tax evading schemes and blowing up the bills for the construction of St.Nicholas at Ground Zero. They could accomplish their “milking” goal, without leaving aside their religious work, but, instead, greed brought them to the District Attorney’s office (no matter how much prosecutors despise dealing with church corruption…)  Worst of all, they lost their natural support, people’s trust.  2) They “expanded” the scope of their “work” in order to act as agents against Russia, purposefully leading the 2016 Panorthodox Synod to failure. As if this was not enough, their “handlers” demanded more.  And they, unscathed, responded by getting mixed in the Ukrainian conflict, facilitating a coming bloodshed in a Christian nation… The Patriarch violated centuries old Orthodox rules and practice by granting, on his own, autocephaly to the schismatic Church of Kiev, acting as if he was the Pope, with complete disregard to Orthodoxy’s collective decision-making traditions. Naturally, not only the Russian Church (which showed an equally disturbing lack of Christian love) and its allies, but many of the rest of the churches (including the Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria and the churches of Poland and Serbia and many hierarchs in Greece) erupted in disagreement.  Specific to Greece, Bartholomew has a long history of disputes and open fights with all Archbishops and several local church leaders, using the same divisive tactics as he does elsewhere.

Most importantly, his continuous mistakes have alienated him from the Patriarchate’s most important church, the Church of America.  The most important elements of cohesiveness of the Greek-American community have traditionally been Orthodoxy and love for Greece and Cyprus, the latter displayed in decades of political and lobbying intervention at the centers of power in DC. Since the alliance of Father Alex Karloutsos with Patriarch Bartholomew, many efforts by the community to show support for the Cyprus problem or other issues concerning Greece and Cyprus are muffled or undermined.  It’s is noteworthy that three years ago, Father Alex invited two Turkish businessmen to participate at the Greek Independence Day Celebration at the White House! Recently, the newly enthroned Metropolitan Nathaniel of Chicago chose to see the Turkish consul in his first few days in office, while months later the Greek consul still waited in line!…

We are in front of a huge, multi-faceted, impasse, which becomes even more pressing by the necessity of selecting a new Archbishop for our Church. Regarding this last issue, I have recently proposed postponing the selection until construction of St.Nicholas at Ground Zero is complete and until the financial situation is straightened out, and only under the condition that both Arch.Demetrios and Father Karloutsos are removed.  The continuous mistakes by Bartholomew leave little room for anyone to seriously believe that he is in a position to make a good choice of a new Archbishop.  Especially when his top criterion for the new leader is loyalty to him personally. Also, the idea of consulting widely with the Church of America has not even remotely crossed his mind.  It becomes increasingly likely that an abrupt move by the Patriarch will lead to a permanent split in our Church and possibly to its complete departure from the Patriarchate, something we should not wish under any circumstances.

The situation could be resolved by calling a Special Clergy-Laity Congress, having one and only goal, the election of candidates for the position of Archbishop. Naturally, the process would begin in the Metropolises and Parishes, but all “viable” candidacies, should be put to a vote at the Special Clergy-Laity Congress.  I think we can all agree that only an Archbishop enjoying the widest possible approval in the ranks of our Church would be able to help the Church avert the present road to catastrophe

As Bartholomew is full of egotism, he would never agree to such a Special C-L Congress, in which case it would be better to step aside.  He is already finished as a Patriarch: he will be remembered as “The Last Ecumenical Patriarch”, or “The Patriarch of Division and Schism”. Whoever is the new Patriarch, he will be forced to learn from Bartholomew’s mistakes and he will have to agree to this new way of electing an Archbishop (which may be later elaborated to provide a method for the election of the Metropolitans). A solution along the above lines is the best possible choice and serves both the interests of our Church as well as the interests of the Patriarchate – which must remain to eternity the true Cradle of Orthodoxy. Amen.

December 1, 2018




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