July 19, 2005

What Athens Has To Do With Jerusalem

Religion in the News

by Andrew Walsh

The cassock does not make the priest” is an old Greek proverb that has been confirmed in spades during a year marked by a gaudy explosion of scandal in the Greek Orthodox Church. “Holygate,” as some Athens journalists have called it, has rocked the church in Greece as well as the Holy Land, where Orthodox Christianity has had a strong presence for at least 1,500 years.

Since February, the head-lines in Greece have been dominated by reports of shady secret land deals, the system-atic bribery of judges, poly-morphous sexual misconduct, drug -dealing, and an almost infinite variety of embezzlements by very senior bishops and priests. Indeed, one Greek commentator estimated on May 26 that about half of the Greek state church’s 86 diocesan bishops stand accused of crimes or breaches of ecclesiastical discipline of one degree or another.

The scandals caused the dismissal of the Patriarch of Jerusalem and may yet claim the Archbishop of Athens. They have certainly damaged the standing of what had been Europe’s most entrenched and privileged state church.

“The Greek public can only watch dumbfounded as the country’s bishops humiliate themselves on television, tossing barbs at each other and trading accusations of forgery, blackmail, dissolute living, even drug trafficking,” Kathimerini (The Daily), the conservative Athens daily that is Greece’s closest approach to a newspaper of record, editorialized on February 1.

About 95 percent of Greeks are baptized Orthodox Christians and, hitherto, few Greeks thought it possible or desirable to disentangle the twin strands of Hellenism and Orthodoxy.

Posted by kshaw at July 19, 2005 11:21 AM