NOTE: This article is taken from the Australian newspaper, The Courier Mail, October 4, 2015.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has suspended Fr. George Passias after an extra-marital affair came to light with a woman from his parish. That affair, which has allegedly been going on for years, resulted in the pregnancy of the woman.
It should be noted that Fr. George Passias is a long-time spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim of Arizona. When he was Chancellor of the Archdiocese (during Archbishop Spyridon’s reign), he helped Geronda Ephraim get blessings to build 8 new monasteries. He provided the monasteries with inside information on the bishops, priests, etc. who were opposed to the monasteries, the things they said about the monasteries, as well as confidential information from the Archdiocese. He was once nicknamed “Geronda’s eyes and ears inside the Archdiocese.”
In 1997, he aided Geronda Joseph Voutsas and his brotherhood so they could leave Canada undetected by Metropolitan Sotirios and reside at St. Anthony’s Monastery until they bought new property in the States.
Now, the article:
A HIGH-RANKING Greek Orthodox priest starred in kinky sex tapes with his much-younger parish-school principal and was forced to resign after the affair — which he’d denied for years — was confirmed by church elders.
Father George Passias, the married 67-year-old pastor of St. Spyridon Church in Manhattan, even impregnated his married lover, 45-year-old Ethel Bouzalas, according to sources.
Passias was once the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, in charge of all of the religion’s US priests, reports the New York Post.
An adherent to a fundamentalist faction of Greek Orthodoxy led by a controversial cleric in Arizona, he took the helm of St. Spyridon nine years ago — and immediately ordered female worshippers to cover their heads during confession.
But there was no such nod to modesty in their shocking sex videos. In one scene, the bearded cleric, wearing only a white T-shirt, watches his long-haired brunette lover plant her G-string clad bottom on a piece of banana bread wrapped in cling wrap.
Mrs Bouzalas, wearing stiletto heels, oddly wiggles on the loaf until it is flattened — a fetish known as “cake crush” or “cake sitting”.
In another video clip, the pretty Peruvian rubs her feet on the priest’s face as they lie under a mirrored ceiling and she records his ecstasy at the encounter. In another tape, the priest performs oral sex on his lover while she is still clad in sheer pantyhose.
The videos and photos of the pair were provided anonymously to The Post last week with a letter saying they were downloaded off a computer in Passias’s church office. The sender wrote that a private investigator had been hired to tail the couple to their rendezvous in motels in New Jersey and upstate New York.
The scandal blew up in early September when Tom Bouzalas, Ethel Bouzalas’s husband, emailed Bishop Andonios Paropoulos, the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States, and disclosed the affair, the bishop told The Post.
The bishop said that both Fr Passias and Ethel Bouzalas then came to see him and that Fr Passias was suspended on September 16 “as per the sexual-misconduct policy of the archdiocese”.
Bishop Andonios said he had not seen the sex tapes but “learned of their existence during our meetings with both parties”.
After a weeks-long absence from the pulpit, Fr Passias told his St. Spyridon flock in an email last week that he was leaving for “personal and health reasons”, and confessed to “multitudinous sins and shortcomings”.
“I will now fade out of this world for a considerable time according to God’s will,” he wrote. “He has chosen for me … that I should retire and follow the way of silence, prayer, fasting, and utter devotion to our Lord.
“Please do not ask where I am going and where I will be. Then it would not be possible for me to fulfil what is my lot.”
He asked his parishioners to pray for him and his wife. He has four grown children. Mrs Bouzalas has three kids.
‘She’s a goddaughter to me’
In 2013, The Post broke the story about the unorthodox relationship between Fr Passias and Mrs Bouzalas and alleged fiscal wrongdoing at the church, which has nearly 200 families and was established in 1931 when the neighbourhood was a Greek stronghold.
When Fr Passias took the helm of the Wadsworth Avenue church in 2006, Mrs Bouzalas came with him as his assistant. He called her his “spiritual goddaughter,” and they arrived and left together every day. A church handyman said he once saw her sitting on the priest’s lap.
Mrs Bouzalas told parishioners that she converted to the Greek Orthodox faith and that Fr Passias baptised her while she wore a bikini. The conversion apparently came before she was to marry her husband, a follower of the faith.
Greek Orthodoxy has 24 million followers worldwide. The seat of the Christian church is in Istanbul, Turkey, presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Priests can only be men but are allowed to marry.
With his flowing black robes and oversized cross around his neck, Fr Passias cut an imposing and authoritative figure. Mrs Bouzalas, meanwhile, favoured short skirts and high heels.
Mrs Bouzalas, who had no education credentials, was soon promoted to be the volunteer principal of the St. Spyridon Parochial School, which serves kindergarten to eighth grade and has a taxpayer-funded pre-kindergarten program. She also became church treasurer and a signatory on bank accounts.
In addition to imposing the conservative rules, Fr Passias ruffled longtime congregants who said he removed controls over church spending and questioned why money was being poured into repairs at the school.
Management of four church-owned apartment buildings was given over to a company tied to Alma Bank, which also provided cash and mortgage refinancing. Renovations of the buildings was then done by two firms tied to principals at Alma Bank.
In 2013, Fr Passias told The Post the allegations were cooked up by a group of “evil-minded people” — parishioners who wanted him gone.
They have been saying I’m having a private affair with her,” he said. “She is a goddaughter to me. That’s it.”
Steve Papadatos, the Parish Council president, at the time called the allegations against Fr Passias “lies”, then blasted The Post for publishing a story that he said was “replete with slander” and innuendo. He called the church “eternally grateful” to the priest and Bouzalas, according to The National Herald, a newspaper that covers the Greek community.
Mr Papadatos last week said that he wouldn’t comment on the scandal, but that he stood by Fr Passias and Mrs Bouzalas and wanted people to pray for them.
The bishop said that the misconduct was brought before a “Spiritual Court of the First Degree” last week and that a council of church leaders — including the head of Greek Orthodoxy in the United States — will review the findings. Any punishment, including possible defrocking, will be decided in Istanbul.
Church to investigate
Asked why the church had ignored the longtime allegations of the affair, the bishop said, “Lacking any concrete evidence of an affair, there was no responsible way the church could take any further action.”
He said an audit a few years ago found no misuse of funds, but another investigation would take place “to assure that between that time and now, nothing has changed”.
Mrs Bouzalas packed up her school office last week. A moving van carted off a desk, filing cabinet, table and shopping bags with her belongings. A new principal has been assigned to the school.
Her husband refused to comment on the affair or the pregnancy but said the couple was still together. He confirmed he knew of the sex tapes.
Fr Passias, in his farewell note to parishioners, said he was following the direction of “my spiritual father Geronda Ephraim”. Ephraim presides over St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox monastery in Florence, Ariz. The family of a young man who lived there and committed suicide in 2012 contends the death was the result of “six years of physical and psychological abuse” at the monastery.
When close spiritual children of Geronda Ephraim fall into scandal, especially if they hold any rank or prestige in the community, the monasteries usually give an Ephraim-centric explanation and justification. The Ephraim-centric explanation is always, “The devil is trying to hurt Geronda Ephraim through his spiritual children” (usually via betrayal, scandal, etc.). Thus, it’s never really about the struggle and hardships of the individual but rather their fall or shortcomings are weapons the devil uses to target Geronda Ephraim.
When the individual is regarded as holy or as some esteem in the Greek community, the monastery’s simple answer is usually, “No one is infallible. Even saints on their deathbed have lost their souls due to lapsing into pride. Only Christ is infallible. Nothing is concrete until you’ve actually passed the toll-houses and are saved. Saints have even lost their souls on the last rung of the ladder.”
Of course, when Geronda Ephraim’s spiritual children have reputations and are “famous,” such as, Stylianos Kementzetzidis, Elder Ephraim Dikaios, Fr. George Passias, etc., then the “deeper,” “spiritual” explanation of their fall becomes Ephraim-centric: “The demons used these people to hurt and sadden Geronda Ephraim.”
In this case, because Fr. George helped Geronda Ephraim so much in the early years and was instrumental in the establishment of so many monasteries in America, sharing inside information so Geronda Ephraim would be aware of “what was going on behind the scenes in the Archdiocese,” etc., the devil became jealous and resented him. Thus, he wanted to make Fr. George fall for two reasons:
1) To hurt and sadden Geronda Ephraim.
2) To scandalize the Greek community and make people fall from the faith (since so many Greek Orthodox regarded Fr. George as pious and holy).
After his suspension, Fr. George sent an email to his “spiritual children” announcing his retirement. The complete email that Fr. George Passias sent to numerous followers is below:
My Beloved Spiritual Children in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Today I share with you a very difficult and trying period in my priestly life.
The time has come for me to resign from the active ministry for personal and health reasons. Now I will dedicate myself to the repentance that I have tried to preach and share on behalf of our Lord. At the direction of my spiritual father Geronda Ephraim, I will now fade out of this world for a considerable time according to God’s will. He has chosen for me according to my multitudinous sins and shortcomings, that I should retire and follow the way of silence, prayer, fasting, and utter devotion to our Lord. Please do not ask where I am going and where I will be. Then it would not be possible for me to fulfill what is my lot.
It is immeasurably difficult for me to direct you to seek through prayer and vigilance, another spiritual father who will be able to address your needs with love, truth, and conviction for the betterment of your souls. God will provide. But you must also do the due diligence by seeking another Father, and then after prayer, choosing him as your spiritual guide and father. Think not that I will forget you! Never! I have already entered your names to be commemorated every day in the Holy Liturgy forever!
I am very grateful to the Lord for granting me to be a spiritual father to you, and have tried to do the best that I could to do in that role making myself as available as time and health permitted.
I will always love you through prayer and in my heart together with your family.
Please pray for me and Presvytera Mary, and my family I implore you.
In His Abiding Love,
+Father George G. Passias