I guess it both heartens and saddens me. The Church in Greece is staffed by human beings, just like everywhere else. I'm just sad that it all seems to be so hard to admit.
Sex and drugs and the Orthodox church
Friday February 25, 2005
The tale has it all: drama, conspiracy and intrigue. No surprise, then, that for the past month every newspaper across Greece has spoken of little else but the scandals besetting the country's Orthodox church. Senior clerics have faced allegations of, among other things, drug dealing, embezzlement and homosexuality.
For the first time in decades, Greece's famously partisan media have put aside their political predilections to get to the bottom of a story that looks set to run and run. What they have come up with is eye-popping stuff.
"Divine comedy," screamed Eleftherotypia from its front page after the church's ruling body held an emergency meeting to discuss how to cope with the revelations. "They're trying to show that they're cleaning themselves up with a series of reforms that are not expected to have any immediate effect," said the centre-left daily.
There was, wrote the conservative tabloid Hora, "no end" to the "rot". The scandal extends throughout the church - and pictures of a 91-year-old bishop naked in bed with a young woman have appeared in the press.
Even the country's spiritual leader, Archbishop Christodoulos, has been forced to admit to having links with an imprisoned priest believed to be at the centre of a vast antiquities-smuggling and trial-rigging ring.
"Hour by hour, information and evidence mounts to confirm the relationship of Archbishop Christodoulos with the underworld," Hora proclaimed. "He ... does not seem to understand that he is sinking in lies," said Giorgos Trangas, the paper's editor.
The mass-selling leftist daily Ta Nea, at the other end of the political spectrum, agreed. "Not even the most passionate anti-cleric could have imagined what our eyes are seeing and our ears are hearing," lamented its columnist Thanassis Georgopoulou. "Not even the most fanatic enemy of the church could have planned such a painful and deep crisis."
Since the scandals first came to light, Archbishop Christodoulos had taken refuge in flat denial, said Ethnos. But now other prominent clerics had begun to break their silence - revealing his involvement with an internationally wanted drug smuggler - the daily reckoned there was no doubt he was facing the biggest battle of his career.
"Archbishop Christodoulos is fighting for his throne, a throne that is collapsing before the eyes of the faithful under the weight of the scandalous revelations of the impious acts of our holy brothers," the paper declared.
"Archbishop Christodoulos knew everything," screamed the conservative daily Apogeumatini, citing an interview with Ambrosios, the bishop of Kalavrita.
All commentators agreed that the church had handled the scandal appallingly. Kathimerini's veteran columnist KI Angelopoulos wrote: "The archbishop of Athens and the various bishops who are presently mired in the heart of the church scandal have claimed in public, or in corridor talk, that the church is the target of sinister forces seeking to undermine its leadership. Some defenders of the church have gone so far as to argue that the big powers, always keen to promote their own Balkan agenda, are out to tarnish the image of the Orthodox church ... Even if one were willing to believe at least some of these accusations, it is nevertheless hard to ignore the fact that the longstanding policies of the Greek Orthodox elite have themselves inflicted numerous wounds on the body of the church."