No issue has reached my inbox more since beginning to publish The Pappas Post than the recent firing of a popular priest at a Church in Arlington, MA. To say I’ve received dozens of emails and messages would be an understatement. It’s more like hundreds.
Fr. Nicholas Kastanas had served almost three decades at the St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church in suburban Boston. By all accounts that I’ve heard, he built a strong community with hundreds of active families dedicated to the parish, its ministries and community life.
Abruptly on July 27, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, headed by Metropolitan Methodios, sent a letter to the parish which was published on its website, effectively giving Fr. Nicholas a few days notice before what would be his final liturgy at the church he served for 28 years.
The letter mentioned vague accusations like “behavior that is contrary to Christina values”, “community turmoil” and “hurtful and destructive communications” but didn’t include specifics or a single detail or explanation.
The move caught most in the community by surprise and over a thousand people showed up for the popular priest’s last service at the church he helped build. Standing before the crowd, he even graciously thanked the Metropolitan— the man who had just abruptly fired him— for allowing him to serve the community for so many years.
Things that don’t belong in Greek Orthodox communities followed— the changing of the locks at the parish offices and confiscation of the priest’s personal items, candlelight vigils outside the parish with hundreds of people asking for answers from their bishop.
Of course, Facebook and Twitter have given the movement wind with thousands posting, commenting, tweeting and sharing stories.
It’s important to remember some facts here:
Fr. Nicholas Kastanas was never accused of doing anything wrong or defrocked by the Metropolis. He was simply fired, with no explanation except the contents of the letter sent to the parish and other than that letter, both the Metropolitan and his immediate subordinate, Fr. Ted Barbas, who serves as the Chancellor of the Metropolis, have been silent.
Not a single response to the thousands of faithful who want answers.
Was Metropolitan Methodios within his canonical right to fire his priest? Of course he was.
It’s the way things are done in the Greek Orthodox Church with Metropolitans yielding an iron fist over the affairs of their flock— after all, is it a coincidence that the word “despotic” comes from the Greek word “despotis” (bishop)?
But there are despots, and there are shepherds, who lead their flock in a loving and compassionate way (read: the Christian way) and offer them solace, comfort and understanding during times of crisis and upheaval.
Metropolitan Methodios has been silent. In fact, he hasn’t even been in Boston. He had already departed for his summer vacation in Greece when the letter hit the Arlington community like a thunderbolt on July 27, and he is still there.
Thousands of letters, emails, tweets, phone calls later and this community that has lost its spiritual father is still waiting for their shepherd— Metropolitan Methodios, to come and guide them and not leave them on the side of the mountain to fend for themselves.
I don’t know Fr. Nick and my only connection to this community is the constant bombardment of emails I receive from its parishioners. I’ve never even been to Arlington, Massachusetts.
But what I do know is that it’s America in 2017 and the way of the old Byzantine despots who demanded blind obedience and ruled with an iron fist over their flock isn’t the way to create a legacy, let alone run a community.
The faithful of the Greek Orthodox community of Arlington deserve better treatment from their hierarchs and decency and dignity from their Metropolis. A simple response to emails, a general assembly meeting, a group meeting with representatives— something. Anything.
And a priest who served and built a community for almost 30 years who wasn’t accused of any specific wrong-doing… well, he deserves some human (not to mention “Christian” decency.
Church “leadership”? It reminds me more of the mafia than anything I ever learned in Sunday School regarding “Christian values”.
POLU WREO PARADIGMA MAS EDOSE O SEBAZMIOTATOS NA METAFEROUME STA PAIDIA MAS POU AGAPISAN KAI AGAPOUN SEBOTOUSAN KAI SEBONTAI GIA 25 XRONIA KSEROUME TON TON FR NICK OXI ALES SIKOFANTIES OXI ALES ADIKIES !!!!!!!!! GIATI TOSO ADIKIA DESPOTA???? TELOUME TON FR NICK AKSIOS AKSIOS
Greg, wonderfully written and perceptive article. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. Arlington needs answers will not tire or relent until it does.
Our beloved Archbishop Iakovos marched alongside MLK to protest hatred, racism & injustice. He showed up with compassion & love for our fellow brothers/sisters. True leaders go to where there is discord, they do not run away from it. They offer guidance & set the good example, so that others will follow.
Cowards… That is the leadership of the Boston Greek Orthodox Diocese. Disgusted by the actions of a master and a puppet!!!
And you wonder why people don’t go to church anymore???? They will suffer for their dictating ways!
Whatever the facts are, the Bishop has more of them than you. Byzantine despots? Silly overgeneralization and an analogy based on ignorance of Byzantine history.
Stop defending the Bishop. This isn’t the first time this happened. He played politics in Andover when he replaced Fr. Paul Pantelis for no good reason. Nothing against his replacement Fr. Chris Makiej, who is phenomenal, but that move was for no good reason other than Fr. Paul was not a favorite. Enough already, time to replace the self appointed King. Time for the Metropolitan to retire!
The Bishop has been very quiet stating, he is awaiting the court case to be over.
There is either nothing…. or there are going to be a lot of disappointed people.
Thank you for the Great article Greg! Unfortunately for us (Arlington Parishioners) this shepherd (Metropolitan Methodios) not only did he NOT take care of his flock but he let the wolfs in so they can to destroy us!
Yes, Methodios is well within his rights to defrock the father.
Unfortunately, sometimes for the protection of the not-so-guilty and the guilty, not every detail is released.
There was another church in Boston where one clergy member (not the senior minister or associate minister) was arrested one a second case of something that was … well, I’ll employ the euphemism “salacious improper surveillance.” You can figure out what that is.
The elder board meeting notes and the letter to the congregation did not discuss any of these details. I was doing a random google search on a different matter (looking for article about the church within a certain domain) and I discovered this wrong-doing.
Sometimes this is done to “save face.”
The people of Arlington showed disrespect for Metropolitan Methodios. He is our Spiritual Father and in fact the Metropolitan of Boston. I am so sad when i hear people running around saying that Fr. Kastanas has served decades. What does this mean? Because he served for decades, he should not be touched or disciplined or even defrocked when he does or did something wrong? It is a very weak argument. Through the actions of the Parishioners of the Arlington Church, they have demonstrated that, even though Fr. Kastanas was in that Parish for decades, he did not lead well in his last days at the Church. He was vowing that he will come back, but there is no guarantee that this will happen. The people of Arlington must know that Ierosyn or Priesthood is forever, but they have not helped Fr. Kastanas to keep his Ierosyn and neither is Fr. Kastanas doing the right things to tone down this nonsense. The Metropolitan through the Holy Spirit lays hands on the layman to elevate them from sub-deacon to Deacon and then Priest. The same Metropolitan and the Church court could take away that Priesthood, thus relieving a Priest of their duties and returning him to layman. I am not saying this will happen because i am not a Priest or Bishop, but it could spiral to that level. Then what will the people of Arlington do? Laymen cannot celebrate liturgies. I think that people who are demonstrating all over the place should also be mindful of the prayer the Bishop prays for those who have fallen asleep. “if he or she be under the ban or excommunication of a Bishop or Priest…forgive him or her Lord.” Be careful what you do. You are Orthodox Christians, not a cult.
From the Metropolis statement he was a just another thief and he decided to take his family and follows down with him even though the Bishop tried to spare him off this embarrassment.
I feel sorry for all those lost souls now that it’s clear they were duped and now can’t get the egg off their faces including the owner of this blog.