Unholy business

The archbishop and the Holy Synod who made the decision Monday to sack Bishop Panteleimon of Attica should know that firing a couple of priests is hardly a convincing sign of cleaning up the Church’s act. On the contrary, such moves increase suspicions that the Church is looking for scapegoats to cover up and perpetuate an unacceptable state of affairs. At least, this is what Panteleimon’s dismissal on Monday demonstrates. We will not comment on the sexual allegations but merely stick to the financial dimension of the scandal. The cleric is said to hold over 3 million euros in bank accounts and to have connections with offshore companies. The charges against him first emerged three years ago; the Holy Synod had then backed Panteleimon, saying there is nothing wrong about a bishop owning such property. The Synod on Monday said the allegations against Panteleimon were «shocking the faithful» and decided to remove him from his post. Such offenses, however, must involve perpetrators and suspects. Catharsis is not restricted to moral castigation but must also involve some kind of criminal penalty. In the Church, which claims to be holier than thou, similar or even stricter rules should apply. The charges that led to Panteleimon’s dismissal are linked to the management of Church property – particularly of bishoprics. The fact that bishops can set aside huge amounts of money for their later years (note that they have no pension-related concerns as they hold office for life) says a lot: It speaks to a lack of financial transparency, to an obvious ambiguity over bishops’ incomes and bishoprics’ resources, and to an absence of control over the management of Church finances so as to prevent scandals. Until the Church fixes the chaos and impunity around bishoprics’ finances, clerics will keep living on their own handouts.

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