The Hellenic Times - March 30, 2000
Report on the State of the Church
By John Catsimatidis *
I am happy to report that, on March 3-4, we held two days of very constructive Archdiocesan Council proceedings. Those of us who attended (56 out of 78 council members) gathered together in a spirit of peace, harmony and cooperation.
As President of the Council and Vice Chairman of its Executive Committee, I want to assure all faithful members of the Church that the Archdiocesan Council is dedicated to doing the right thing for our Church and its people.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, Primate of the Church in America and Chief Steward of the Archdiocese, offered his vision for the Church in America from a spiritual standpoint (see related article, this page).
We were most grateful for the uplifting words of His Eminence, who set the tone for the rest of us to follow as we conducted Church business.
As a lay person entrusted with certain responsibilities, my job is to shed light on the affairs of the Archdiocese from an administrative standpoint.
The Archdiocese is a not-for-profit religious corporation. From a corporate standpoint, then, the financial and legal condition of the Archdiocese is the subject which I am honor and duty-bound to discuss.
Archdiocese Finance Director George Chelpon reported that the Archdiocese experienced a shortfall of $3.1 million in 1999.
Jerry Demetriou, recently appointed General Administrator of the Archdiocese, cited the shortfall as the reason the Archdiocese needs to eliminate some 10-15 positions.
For the record, however, it should be pointed out that the Archdiocese employed 65 people when Archbishop Iakovos retired and 66 when Archbishop Spyridon resigned.
It should also be pointed out that, in light of the turmoil which exercised the Archdiocese last year, the current debt should not be considered such a bad result.
When we stop to consider that, from 1994 to 1996, the Archdiocese recorded losses of $7.05 million (over three fiscal years, that's an average loss of $2.35 million per annum); that some of this debt carried over from previous years; that the Archdiocese was under siege last year (e.g., lawsuits, parishioners pressured not to send their money), it could have been much worse.
In any case, to keep the Archdiocese solvent during such shortages, the Executive Committee has agreed to extend the Archdiocese's line of credit with Atlantic Bank by an additional $1.3 million.
This credit line is personally guaranteed by substantially all the members of the Executive Committee, and it provides the Archdiocese with the flexibility it needs to take care of accounts payable.
During Council proceedings, moreover, I mentioned that we should start a fundraising campaign with the objective of retiring the current debt before the Clergy-Laity Congress this coming July in Philadelphia.
It has since been brought to my attention that this could be viewed as a "band-aid" or "quick-fix" solution, and that we need to prevent shortfalls in the future.
Agreed. Of course we need to come up with more creative strategies. We are, in fact, developing a program to raise money more effectively at the parish level, but the fact remains that we still need to take care of this debt now.
On that note, however, we all need to ask ourselves, are we doing enough?
When people give money to certain arms of the Archdiocese, they feel that their obligation to the Church has been fulfilled. Unfortunately, the Archdiocese itself receives none of this money. While other areas of the Church flourish, the Archdiocese starves.
For example, it has been pointed out by many members of the community, as well as by members of the Council, that money donated to Leadership 100 is donated with the intention of helping the Archdiocese, but help is still not as forthcoming as it could be.
I will address this particular issue in the near future. For the time being, let's get our bills paid before the Clergy-Laity this summer, and be assured that the Executive Committee has stepped to the plate.
Archdiocesan General Counsel Manny Demos spoke of three specific lawsuits which have been hanging over the Archdiocese's head.
Manny has been doing an excellent job for us, so far. He provided us with a general overview and spared us from excessive detail. The substance of Mr. Demos' report is simply this:
Two lawsuits, he told us, should end up getting dismissed. He also said he is very optimistic about the third.
There are those who might feel that my legal synopsis here is a little guarded, but there's really no sense in upsetting the apple cart at this point, so I'll leave it at that for now.
Meanwhile, please allow me to wish all of you KALI SARAKOSTE.
* Publisher John Catsimatidis is also President of the Archdiocesan Council
[ Orthodox Truth | www.orthodox-truth.bugs3.com/a5_catsimat.html - March 30, 2000 ]