Church says resistant priest hid fund; defender explains why

Claims, countercharges fly online only

Rev. Nicholas KastanasKastanas

Metropolitan Methodius, 2014, Boston PilotMethodius

The removal of a popular priest, which sent shock waves through the Arlington Greek community last July and was followed by protests in September, continues to reverberate as the church hierarchy and a steadfast supporter engage in an online war of words.

Strong comments from each side about the Rev. Nicholas Kastanas, forced from leading St. Athanasius the Great after 27 years, have been posted on separate websites following recent court rulings.

In essence, the first extended public comments from Boston's Greek Orthodox Church suggest, without direct proof, financial impropriety by the priest known as Father Nick and make clear his resistance to the hierarchy's questions about a fund for the homeless and needy.

In response, Arlington parishioner Ioannis Moutsatsos offers a point-by-point defense of the priest's action in a blog titled "Web of Deceit."

Here is a brief summary of facts and opinion from both sides. In each case, YourArlington requested comment but was pointed to online postings. In addition, in September, YourArlington asked Father Nick through an intermediary for an interview, and he declined.

Metropolis' statement

An email titled "Boston Metropolis' media statement attached regarding Saint Athanasius" arrived at YourArlington's inbox Nov. 17. It provided only this link >>

These extended remarks begin by repeating the "state of turmoil" that Father Kastanas was said to cause, a phrase used last July when the priest was ousted. The source of that turmoil was linked to social media, but not further explained or documented at the time.

The statement makes clear that the ouster was "not abrupt," but occurred after Father Kastanas refused following repeated requests over more than two years, in 2015 and 2016, to answer questions about what the remarks refer to repeatedly as an "undisclosed account." That resistance leads to "thwarting the Metropolis' efforts to understand the ramifications of his actions."

The account, referred to sparingly as "Homeless & Needy," was discovered by Boston church officials in 2014, and the statement says the priest closed it after 21 years just before an audit last February.

Last March 27, the St. Athanasius' Special Audit Committee released a report saying the priest did not follow church rules -- known as the UPR, for Uniform Parish Regulations -- and left a lack of clarity about how much money flowed in an out of the account and who had access to it.

Those details became the focus of what information was on a new computer that Father Nick bought earlier this year as he got rid of his parish computer, the statement says. Church officials said they removed and took possession of the new computer in July following the priest's last service at St. Athanasius.

That removal led to what the statement calls a "lawsuit" filed by Father Kastanas on Aug. 1, called the first ever filed by a priest against the local hierarchy. That court matter, which is an injunction, continues.

The statement says: "The Metropolis deemed it necessary to publish this FAQ and Timeline only to address the systematic stream of misinformation being distributed by a small but vocal cadre of activists among the supporters of Fr. Kastanas."

Parishioner's response

One of the activists, Moutsatsos, responded in detail here >> Among his points:

-- Writing that "Fr. Nick has been put on public shameful display directed by a web kangaroo court," he discounts the failure to obey church rules and puts charges of "financial improprieties" in perspective this way: The Metropolitan lawyers "find an excuse in a financial account closed for more than 3 years, with limited bank records, due to the original bank being acquired by another, and the account type (a passbook account) supporting only limited documentation and transaction types."

-- Addressing why the account was kept quiet, Moutsatsos writes: "Importantly, and key to this discussion, Fr. Nick has always felt that these activities (and most especially the people that were involved) are privileged, confessional, confidential, and should not be publicly disclosed (Massachusetts State Law Chapter 233, Section 20A regarding the priest-penitent confessional relationship supports this position!)."

-- As to how much money may have been in the fund and how it was spent, Moutsatsos writes: "Facetiously, if not sarcastically speaking, it was perhaps Fr. Nick's 'extravagant vacation trips,' Mercedes Benz vehicles, multiple homes, and rich-living lifestyle that raised suspicions about this so called 'undisclosed' account; (everyone in the Parish knew about this account and donated honorariums to Father Nick because they trusted him to disperse [sic] to those desperately in need) or the 'huge amount of money' that it contained (a few thousand dollars each year!).

"Fr. Nick had not taken vacation in 15 years or so, and drove an old beat-up Jeep, crisscrossing the state to visit people in need of his pastoral care. The account had a final balance of about $1,000 when it was closed in the Fall of 2014."

-- In conclusion, Moutsatsos writes: "... the only question people would ask the Metropolis concerning the Homeless and Needy Fund is this: So what? We know the answer! The monies were used to help those most needy around us. People trusted (and still do) Father Nick ....

"Why don't you ask the only real question? DO PEOPLE TRUST THE BOSTON METROPOLIS AND THE GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE?

"Don't take us for fools! We know what you are doing! 

"We may be 'your flock' but we are not sheep. We are holding you responsible for the destruction of Orthodoxy in our communities, families and youth ...." 


Metropolitan Methodius' statement, November 2017 >> 
Parishioner Ioannis Moutsatsos' blog "Web of Deceit" 
Sept. 19, 2017: Supporter seeking to return 'Father Nick' lays out way forward
Sept. 12, 2017: Rally held aiming to return 'Father Nick' to Arlington church
OPINION: Aug. 2, 2017: To Greek church leaders: Get past social media, come together
July 30, 2017: At his last service, 'Father Nick' draws strong parishioners' support 

This news summary was published Monday, Nov. 27, 2017.

NOTE: In September, YourArlington asked the following to comment: Metropolitan Methodios, in Boston; Father Theodore J. Barbas, chancellor; Constandinos Ioakimidis, St. Athanasius parish council president; and Father Aaron C. Walker, assistant parish priest, Arlington. None had responded until the Nov. 17 email.

 
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