Church crisis: Time for state action

Those who thought that the corruption scandals and shady intrigue bedeviling Greece’s Orthodox Church were just a passing phase have been forced to reconsider. But the latest wave of revelations has swept away any leftover delusions nourished by senior Church clerics as well as by the political class. The embarrassing failure of the Church Hierarchy to shoulder its share of responsibility and kick off a process of self-cleansing has made state action imperative. The longer ruling officials remain paralyzed before the turmoil, the more the crisis will deepen. The inertia has opened the door to dangerous shady games. The relentless competition between private television channels means that the hidden agenda and ulterior motives of the different sources are not put under scrutiny. True, the noise generated by the disturbing revelations serves the government’s objectives, for it deflects public attention from everyday problems. As a rule, of course, politicians are keen to steer clear of such ailing phenomena. Even more so when these concern the Church, which, save the political parties, is the most influential institution voter-wise. Understandable as this may be, we must draw the line somewhere. At stake here is more than the government’s political plans. Calls are mounting for Archbishop Christodoulos to step down. Such move might let off some steam but, in truth, the problem is much more far-reaching than that. For that reason, the State has an obligation to regain control of the situation and forge a comprehensive cleanup campaign. The crisis has no doubt blackened the face of the Church; but it is also a chance for renewal. With the right moves, it could kick off a healthy drive for Church reform with broader positive consequences. The government and the opposition both have to face up to the challenge. Hiding behind calls for a separation between Church and State will take us nowhere. Such a crucial issue should not be addressed in such a tense climate. Because of its prime role in society, a separation would not rid the State of the problem. A separation would offer no exit from the current conundrum.

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