Wayward Priests Go Unpunished (Part Two)

By dogcatcher on March 12th, 2016

EXACTLY HOW MANY CANONS AND COMMANDMENTS MUST A PRIEST VIOLATE BEFORE THE CHURCH TAKES ACTION?
(Part Two)

The story of the former Greek Orthodox priest (and Dean) of the adherents to the Elder Ephraim’s “theology,” George Passias, is now old news. Articles have been written, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (“GOA”) and the Patriarchal Synod have spoken. But, what does each of us hear? It really depends on who you are willing to hear. In this one story of sex, lies and deception, the roots of the schism within the GOA are apparent. The arguments made (in support of, or against, Mr. Passias), the positions taken by the Ephraimites and the non-Ephraimites and the lies told in his defense are a strange foreshadowing of what the future holds for the Faithful. Rather than go over the salacious and pornographic detail which have brought shame on all the faithful, let’s all try to understand why we are in an era of “deny, defend and deflect” as it concerns the Ephraimite issue that is slowly, yet methodically, dismembering the Church.

Some would argue that the most proponents of Elder Ephraim’s “theology” possess a superiority complex, believing that they alone hold the truth and all others’, including all other non-adherents’, faith is inferior. This is used by them as a defense mechanism to thwart anti-Ephraimite thinking or criticism of their leaders or and their movement. Spend some time with a “hard-core Ephraimite” and see if you agree. Could this be the reason George Passias alleged 3,000 spiritual children rush to his defense?

Part of what we are witnessing is what is referred to as “reactive devaluation.” This is a cognitive bias that occurs when a proposal is devalued if it appears to originate from an antagonist”. [For a definition of this form of bias please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reactive_devaluation ] In this case, anyone that does not pledge support of and belief in the theology is consdiered an antagonist. It does not matter whose position may be correct, the very fact that it is coming from an antagonist makes it incorrect (You may hear the same thing from many a Trump supporter). Here we see how many followers could literally care less what any authoritative figure in the Church has to say; only ideas, doctrine or “theology” coming directly from someone in the movement is considered valid. Many followers are like those Hare Krishnas that you would find in the airports or street corners 30 years ago. Could you get through to any of them? We now have this type of mind-filter being placed inside our fellow Orthodox by adherents who only hear, trust and listen to their “Spiritual Fathers”, and not to anyone else because they are “the Evil One’s tools.”

Another explanation of what we are witnessing in the fallout from the Passias matter concerns subjective validation, sometimes called personal validation effect. It is a cognitive bias by which a person will consider a statement or another piece of information to be correct if it has any personal meaning or significance to them. Only ideas and statements that are directly relevant to an individual are heard and retained in memory. For a definition of subjective validation bias please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjective_validation

Here are examples of arguments defending George Passias shadowing these two cognitive biases at work proposed by his fellow Ephraimite followers in Chicago:

1. George Passias was set up by the GOA.
2. All of this occurred and was premediated by the forces behind the scenes at the GOA.
3. He was drugged in the video clip by those wishing to bring him and his spiritual Father down in an attempt to kill the movement.
4. All those mentioned in the articles were working in concert with each other to bring shame on the Ephraimite movement.
5. The woman was to blame as she was a conduit for the Evil one.
6. She is not pregnant with his child.
7. The Hierarchs and the GOA are jealous of Elder Ephraim and his clean Orthodoxy movement and the GOA will do anything to slander the Ephraimites and their movement.
8. This is all about power and money. Elder Ephraim’s movement has both and since the GOA is dying, the Elder Ephraim is the only hope of saving the church in the US. We will prevail and close down all the GOA Parishes, only “our people” will survive this battle for souls; the Parishes are for nominal Christians anyway!

Anyone notice a pattern here? The truth of the assertions (which by most reasonable people would be taken as facts) is colored by the proponents’ expectations and beliefs. The alternate reality behind the arguments is, of course, belied by the facts, which to the Ephraimites are very inconvenient. They happen to have an added benefit in that they are true.

Mr. Passias was not only defrocked, but the Monasteries lead by Elder Ephraim have been placed on notice that he is not allowed entrance into those Monasteries. We ask ourselves. How many days can pass before this edict will be violated?

Now let’s look at the schism using as a basis the foundation of these cognitive biases. The following excerpts are extracted from comments in response to an article entitled “As a Child of St. Spyridon, I am Appalled” published Friday, October 9, 2015 and written by Constantinos E. Scaros. Here is the telling exchange of two commenters, designated by a first person (“A”) who questions the “premises” of the article, the veracity of the evidence and of the confession of Passias and a second person (“B”), who tries to counter the arguments (mostly to no avail):

B:
“Mr. Scaros while I appreciate your perspective I believe in many ways you’re missing the point of priests like Fr. George Passias. Chanting well is how many of these priest with a hidden agenda keep their positions within our greater Church. The damage all fundamentalist Priests do is generally done in a closed office when they are meeting privately with individual parishioners. While these adherents to the “theology” of Elder Ephraim continue to do damage, many others just sit and listen to the wonderfully beautiful liturgy that they repeat Sunday after Sunday. They are unaware of the agenda. Universally, carnage is left at every parish where these adherents go. They blow up one parish move onto the next. That is the point of their message. That is their agenda, to cull out the “nominal Christians”. All that remain are spiritually observant to them and to them alone. Unfortunately, their message comes at a great expense to the greater church. None of us should ever allow ourselves to be intoxicated by the sound and the spirit and the beauty of our liturgy. If it is coming from an individual whose goal is to destroy what is in their path and leave the “chosen” remains for the Ephraimite movement. Should you want to understand the mentality of this ilk of clergy you should be reading the following websites: Gotruthreform.org, Weareorthodox.com, or look up “Orthodox Reformer”. There is also a Facebook website entitled “Concerned Orthodox Laity of America” that is quite good. Good luck on your journey to understanding.”

B goes online several hours later and posts this:

“I appreciate both your concern and focus. The problem at your Parish is being repeated at Parish after Parish all over the country, without the disclosure of “Sex, Lies and Videotapes”, and of course now, money. We are losing people at an alarming rate and yet the Church is not only silent, they continue to ignore this malignant cancer on the body of the Church. They convince everyone at all these Parishes with an affected Priest, that it is an isolated incident, limited to the Parish in question. It is not!

We are dying a slow death because we have individuals who are only Hierarchs in title, not action or behavior. Also the proponents of this Ephraimite movement have now co-opted the common sense and discernment of what is now a majority of our jurisdictional Hierarchs. Chicago is overrun by the Ephraimite movement and instead of the Laity that is on the Metropolis council acknowledging the problem, they “Deny, Defend and Deflect” acting as if nothing is wrong. This cancer is eating away from the inside and is under the skin of the body of the Church. Fr. Passias is considered the highest level of affected clergy among their rank and file. While they preach abstinence to married couples, he apparently thinks nothing of violating God’s laws and impregnating another’s wife!

There is a news story in your paper (“Bay Ridge Man Tells TNH of Passias’ Holy Cross Days”) that documents the civil war at Passias’ prior Parish and how Parishioners were treated. There is your story. Look into the following Parishes in the Metropolis in Chicago and see if you do not find parallels to that man’s story: St. John the Baptist Parish in Des Plaines, Illinois, St. George Chicago, St. Demetrios of Chicago, St. Demetrios, Libertyville, Illinois and many many others. Please focus your newspapers’ attention to this migration. The normal leave, and Ephraimites then control the Parish. The Ephraimites follow their spiritual leaders to the new Parish and best practices, transparency and following the Uniform Parish Regulations fall by the wayside.

I thank you too for your efforts, but keep in mind this is not just a one Parish issue, it is a national issue. Unfortunately, we are in an era of the “prom committee” leading the Church.

Rebutted by comment two from A:

“Like most readers, I’m not privy to the financial matters of St. Spyridon Church, nor to the administrative situation of its school. However, while I have to admit that anything is possible, I do know Fr. George enough to go out on a limb and defend him from the sexual misconduct accusations. Why? Because the “evidence” provided to us, at least so far, is shoddy and dubious – at best.
One of the photos is obviously “photo shopped” with the outlines of the super imposed image clearly visible; therefore I have to question the credibility of this mysterious “source”. In addition, after supposedly HOURS of secret liaisons and tawdry tapes, we’re provided with thirty-six SECONDS of some goofy fetish, where one cannot see, or identify the woman’s face. Not surprisingly, there is no physical contact, only a curiously impassive, and rigid image of Fr. George’s face that quite suddenly, appears in a mirror located several feet away from the woman. I find it conspicuously odd, that despite YEARS alleged of relations, and the more recent graphic accusations, NONE of the photos or videos (which I would imagine would be all over You Tube by now) even shows them holding hands, let alone anything explicit.
Finally, let me remind readers that not so long ago there was a Bishop in Greece who was accused of fiscal improprieties, and after review by the Church leadership, was stripped of his ecclesiastical duties. He was later accused of sexual relations with a nun(s). Ultimately, all of the accusations proved to be false. That Bishop was Saint Nektarios of Aegina.”

(Editors’ note: A’s arguments against the known evidence are:
I do know Mr. Passias and defend him against the accusations – it is obviously photo shopped.

The facts are only “alleged”, not proven. (This despite confessions of both of the parties to the affair.)

Hours of liasons are reduced to 36 second where we do not see the woman’s face, they do not touch one another and we see him through a mirror.

There should be more evidence of tapes, videos, evidence of the affair and the lack thereof makes the evidence that is available suspect or wrong.

The woman who acknowledged the affair cannot be trusted as a valid source.)

B:

“A, are you kidding?

Thank you for providing us a narrative of what the problem is with having “spiritual gurus” infect our theology. I am personally insulted that given the facts here you would invoke Saint Nektarios. First of all, nothing was Photoshopped. Amazingly, you can make an assertion like that after his mistress has acknowledged taking the videos and the liaisons. Secondly, the priest in question has already gone and confessed to the Chancellor his indiscretions including impregnating another man’s wife he happens to see as a “Godchild”.

So even after your “Priest” sends an email to his multitude of “spiritual children” acknowledging indiscretions and issues you can still manufacture arguments that he is innocent?

Clearly, we have a schism occurring not only in our theology and our Church, but also in our capability to ascertain fact from fiction. This schism has been brought to the shores of North America through the movement started by Elder Ephraim. His carriers have so infected our laity that commonsense is now in short supply. We are entering into an era where anything a follower of the Elder does can be rationalized away by ignoring the facts with spurious and nonsensical arguments. In other words, there are two sets of rules in our church now. Our hierarchy appears weak against the face of evil and cannot deal with a cancer that has infiltrated our church. So let’s see if we can give this a short summary. In spite of the fact the priest in question has confessed, his mistress has not only confessed but is now accusing him of victimizing her, he has sent an email confirming a multitude of issues to hundreds or even thousands of his “spiritual children,” we still have people defending him, mostly by denying the facts that were confirmed directly by the accused.

What happened to the days of honor? When someone did something wrong and just acknowledged it and moved on without winding up their multitude of followers to defend them in spite of the fact they committed sins against God? And, the tactic of using a Saint of our church to justify a position that this confessed adulterer is somehow innocent! Those among us have now reached new lows.”

A:

“Sorry B, but quite frankly I couldn’t care less about your personal feelings. People’s live are being utterly destroyed based on hearsay, conjecture and innuendo – as was the case with St. Nektarios.

You and others seem have all the answers, but, none of the questions. A confession is NOT proof of guilt. Fr. George has been lamenting his “multitude of sins” since well before he met Mrs. Bouzalas. Does that indicate previous affairs? I suggest you and other readers pay careful attention to what is written and actually take the time to examine the so-called “evidence” provided so far. We need to be mindful of what we say because we will all be judged.”

B:

“A, do you know what it is to bear false witness? “Thou shalt not bear false witness” forbids speaking falsely in any manner designed to deceive our neighbor, or in this case fellow Orthodox Christians.

I am merely repeating what witnesses to the events are saying. You are adding new and false information about “photo shopping” and casting aspersions on anything that disagrees with your perspective of your truth. By the way, a confession is a statement where one acknowledges some personal fact that most people would prefer to keep hidden.

Are you one of this “Priest’s Spiritual Children”? Why would you be a proponent of contradicting facts. Did the “evil one” cast the Priest’s sperm into this woman? Is there any honor left in our Faith when we have people making up things to defend someone who has acknowledged his actions?

Again the Church faces a crisis and we have people attempting to discredit the messenger but not the admitted wrongdoer. The Ephraimite movement has generated those who are now so spiritually obedient that they submissively put forth false information to protect one of their own. Personally I am appalled at the use of a saint to make someone who is so far from the normal behavior of a civilized human, let alone a Christian look better.”

Next the author of the article, Constantinos Scaros, interjects with this comment:

“To clarify, both Fr. Passias and Ms. Bouzalas admitted to the affair. So, the fact of the affair is not in dispute.

Were those photos of the affair photoshopped? Who knows? The point is, it really doesn’t matter. Of course, the “cake-crushing” video makes the story juicier and attracts more readers, but the impropriety here is the fact that there was an affair, not the gory details.

What interests me more than what happened – because what’s done is done – is what will happen from this point forward regarding a responsible oversight of church personnel – clergy and laity alike.

For me, the main concern is not that a man of the cloth succumbed to the weakness of the flesh, but rather that the Archdiocese gave him about 1000 chances before finally defrocking him.

Every time a priest does wrong and instead of being defrocked is transferred to another parish, it causes more and more young members of the faith, who are not bound by any ecclesiastical strongholds, to say: “Umm, so can you please tell me again WHY you expect me to give up my Sunday morning to come to a place like this?”

Next A comments:

 

“Ok, sure Constantino. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”; “Let’s move along, nothing to see here”. Sorry my friend but the only “fact” beyond “dispute” is that neither you nor I, or anyone else at the NH know what Fr. George or Mrs. Bouzalas specifically admitted to behind closed doors. Perhaps one or both, felt threatened, frightened or coerced. Perhaps one or both admitted to something in order to protect another party or cause. Such a scenario certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented. So, just to RE “clarify”; an admission is NOT proof of an extra-marital affair; and neither are the two photoshoped “stills” or the doctored 36 second “video” (which more than several parties agree). While you may prefer to flippantly disregard the clearly tampered-with “gory details” as juice inducing fodder to “attract more readers”, Bishop Andonios apparently considered them legitimate evidence spurring him to “contact Archbishop Demetrios immediately….after seeing the EVIDENCE” (emphasis mine), as reported in the NH. If the 36 second snippet / “evidence” has been tampered with, then obviously, it’s NOT evidence – which really does “matter”. Naturally, now one must also question, the credibility and motivation of the anonymous provider of this so-called proof, the integrity of a betrayed, 17-year jilted and estranged husband, the (in)competence of an Archdiocese, apparently unfamiliar with the term “forensic”, and the equally incompetent newspapers unfamiliar with “investigative” reporting. The search for truth is never “done” my friend. Ironically, it was Fr. George’s passion, zeal and indefatigable pursuit of both spiritual and secular truth that attracted scores of younger members / families to the faith. Again let me reiterate: anything is possible, but there are way too many inconsistencies and incongruities to this entire travesty. I suggest we all tread lightly before condemning the man.”

Next B comments:

“A, you are literally the gift that keeps giving! Every time you post it is like Christmas.

The understanding of those watching the historically significant Ephraimite movement and the detrimental impact upon the greater Church is increased. So here is my turn to correct the misinformation being promoted on behalf of the now defrocked Fr. George Passias. Clearly here there is an “ADMISSION”. What is an admission, “If a fact or issue is admitted, the fact or issue is deemed to have been proven CONCLUSIVELY. [emphasis added by this author]. Admitted facts or issues, along with other proofs, can be the basis for summary judgment or for a jury verdict”. Chapter 5 section 500 Admissions, Illinois Trial Evidence, Lee Hugh Goodman. In laymen’s terms you can be executed for admitting a capital offense. Here we have the addition of a pregnancy, more conclusive proof.

Do you so feel an obligation to defend that you will print anything at the cost of the truth? Word is that Passias had as many as 3,000 “Spiritual Children”. Is this number correct? No, it is incorrect. It is an estimate of what many believe to be true, but it is also a good faith estimate. The pollution of the Greek Orthodox Church is now firmly in the hands of many of those children as they post pure nonsense.

Is condemning the victim and her husband the only way to defend your “defendant”? If the same actions were engaged in by a liberal Priest would you cast aspersions on those victims? The Ephraimite movement has created a street gang mentality within the Church. Please continue to post your version of the truth. It only serves to enlighten the fence sitters or those that do not have access to those who are obedient to the Ephraimite doctrine.

Please continue to post all things in defense of poor Passias as the schismatic nature of the movement gains clarity for those that can hardly believe that it exists. The movement has thousands of converted Ephraimites whose allegiance hangs in the balance. The cost to the movement of his actions are high and the utter hypocrisy of the movement is clear. In my area of the geographic world almost all of our Ephraimite clergy are overweight. Is it a real lack of fasting, or is it a life of lies?”

A:

“Good grief B. I’m not an attorney, but even I know that a PUBLIC trial in front of 12 jurors is entirely different from the private meetings, discussions and defrockment (sic) proceedings that took place behind closed doors, and most importantly, beyond public SCRUTINY. I suggest you stop watching “Rosemary’s Baby” (“Did the “evil one” cast the Priest’s sperm into this woman?”), and instead, try to actually examine the meager “evidence” provided so far.”

B:

“A, my friend, I am not the one “drinking the Kool-Aid” here.

This is not a trial, but an admission against interest, to be (legally) technical. This Priest confessed! No evidence needed at any level by anyone or anyone in a position of authority. To me and countless others he said he did it, so then he did it. That simple, case closed.

Why do you continue to go after the quality of the public evidence? He said he did it, case closed. In every civilized nation in the world people that confess their crimes pay the price. Instead you are engaging in a barrage of misinformation which can only be for the single purpose of giving his followers a hope of his innocence in spite of his confession. WHY are you clouding this up, what is your goal, please tell us your agenda?

He at least went into the office of the chancellor and fell on the sword. He acknowledges his multitude of sins. Why are all those sympathetic to their favorite Ephraimite destroying the foundation of the Church with misinformation? This has become an International story that has placed the Church and this Priest’s behavior in the forefront of a major scandal. Instead of you showing disdain for the guilty, you weave a defense based on a deliberate, yet methodically conceived, set of alleged facts that seem to have no basis in reality.”

Conclusion

In conclusion we are witnessing our own Orthodox version of the “Trump Effect”. It does not matter what an Ephraimites says or does, the followers/proponents of the movement are going to believe only what they want to believe. The above exchange also illustrates why we are generating so many entrenched and ingrained Ephraimites into our Seminary. (You may note above that after acknowledging that These young men and the women that go to Hellenic College and Holy Cross Seminary are already followers of this “theology”; they are so preprogramed, nothing can change their minds.

So whether it is a “Superiority Complex”, “Reactive devaluation” or “Subjective validation,” one side lives in and espouses to their followers their own version of “reality.” A reality created by them and for them to keep the followers ignorant and obedient. But, a reality that is changing the future and greatly affecting the Church as we knew it.

Next up, let’s see if the Synod will defrock Fr. Dokos for pleading guilty to a felony or if his confession in open court (see the transcripts) will also be deemed to have been “coerced.” How will his actions be defended and will he also be protected by the brotherhood?