Forgiving Church corruption
The conviction of a former Greek Orthodox bishop to eight years’ imprisonment for siphoning tens of thousand of euros from a convent is not part of the Church’s self-imposed cleanup campaign. In fact, the punishment of Metropolitan Panteleimon underscores the insincerity of the Church’s pledges. Panteleimon’s sentence was imposed by a civil court following a suit by the Ossios Ephraim convent. According to the Constitution, the Church of Greece is administered by the Holy Synod, which comprises senior clergy and the permanent Holy Synod. The Church has at its disposal all the necessary supervisory, investigative, and judicial bodies that were entrusted with purging the Church of corruption. Had the first two bodies lived up to their task then we would not be witnessing convictions of senior clergymen for criminal acts. But the legal tussle between the metropolitan and the convent shows that all the responsible ecclesiastical bodies have paralyzed or even abused their self-rule status as a ticket to impunity. Christodoulos has responded to criticism saying that he made first use of a 1983 law deposing Panteleimon in August after he was charged with embezzlement for scandalizing the faithful. Archbishop Christodoulos reportedly resorted to this ultimate measure after Panteleimon admitted to putting some 1.5 billion drachmas aside for his old age. It seems that Christodoulos and the permanent Holy Synod were scandalized by the sheer amount of his property, not the source of it. They were barely moved by the court’s ruling that the savings found in Panteleimon’s accounts were not justified by his wage. Nevertheless, the archbishop has failed to issue a statement so far. Christodoulos’s pledge to purge the Church body of corruption (which came after a wave of corruption reports) is hypocritical or, worse, a bid to absolve the corruption.