|Interview with Tahira Khan Merritt
Orthodox Reform [Dallas TX]
April 30, 2007
Orthodox Reform interviews Tahira Khan Merritt. She represents clients who claim Fr. Nicholas Katinas, a Greek Orthodox priest, sexually abused them over a period of years while the clients were altar boys at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.
Orthodox Reform: In a nutshell, tell us about this lawsuit.
Tahira Khan Merritt: The lawsuit involves the sexual abuse by Fr. Katinas of two former altar boys at Holy Trinity between 1983 and 1986.
Orthodox Reform: Why is this lawsuit necessary?
Tahira Khan Merritt: The officials who were in charge of Fr. Katinas as well as Fr. Katinas himself must be held accountable for their actions in civil court. Because the victims are now more than 28 years old, criminal charges are not possible.
Orthodox Reform: Is this lawsuit mainly about money? If not, what are it's main goals?
Tahira Khan Merritt: The main goals of the lawsuit are accountability, reform, and justice.
Orthodox Reform: You were on the Rudy Kos case? Tell us a bit about that. What should the Orthodox learn from the Roman Catholic's mistakes?
Tahira Khan Merritt: I was the assisting attorney on the Rudy Kos case for seven years. I worked very closely with the victims and their families. The Orthodox church should learn from the Kos case that a Dallas jury will hold them accountable with large monetary damages for not protecting the innocent.
Orthodox Reform: Did your client make attempts to handle this quietly and discretely?
Tahira Khan Merritt: John Doe 1 did contact the GOAA but they wanted him to meet with a priest, which because of the abuse he was uncomfortable with. I did speak with Fr. Michael Kontogiorgis once who promised to provide counseling to Doe 1 but has yet to do so.
Orthodox Reform: Have representatives from Holy Trinity (Fr. Katinas's church) responded to your attempts to enter dialog with them on this topic? What about the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Denver Metropolis?
Tahira Khan Merritt: No one from Holy Trinity or Denver has contacted me. See above on the GOAA.
Orthodox Reform: Should Orthodox Churches have a safe environment program? Why? What does a safe environment program look like?
Tahira Khan Merritt: A safe environment program is necessary to make everyone accountable for the protection of our children. A safe environment program helps us identify behavior which could be child abuse and stresses reporting to civil authorities.
Orthodox Reform: We have heard various reports on Fr. Katinas' whereabouts (that he never went to Greece, that he went to Greece but has never come back, that he is avoiding the Greek Chancellor and the press, etc.). Do you know of his recent or current whereabouts?
Tahira Khan Merritt: I don't know where Fr. Katinas is hiding.
Orthodox Reform: Why is it important that Fr. Katinas be defrocked? Why is the "permanent suspension" the Archdiocese proposes not enough?
Tahira Khan Merritt: Defrocking sends a message — we care about our children not the men who hurt them.
Orthodox Reform: Regarding Fr. Katinas, many would say, "These things happened more than 20 years ago. He is an old man and no longer a threat." Is this a safe assumption?
Tahira Khan Merritt: Research has shown time and again that pedophiles do not stop abusing children unless they are incarcerated or dead.
Orthodox Reform: What advice would you give the parishioners of Holy Trinity and that church's Parish Council in the wake of this lawsuit being filed?
Tahira Khan Merritt: Talk to your children. Ask them if they were hurt and report it to the police.
Orthodox Reform: What about the Greek Orthodox Bishops? What advice would you give them?
Tahira Khan Merritt: Do the right thing. Don't hide behind legal technicalities when you know the truth.
Orthodox Reform: What would you urge Fr. Katinas to do?
Tahira Khan Merritt: Admit what you did, ask your victims for forgiveness, and get help.
Orthodox Reform: What about other victims of Orthodox clergy sexual abuse? What would you recommend they do to report abuse? Based on your experience in your client's case, is it safe to assume the Greek Orthodox Church will respond appropriately?
Tahira Khan Merritt: Not based upon what I have seen. Report to the police or CPS who are charged with investigating abuse and then get help from mental health providers and support groups such as OrthodoxReform.org.
Orthodox Reform: What can other Orthodox Christians across America do to combat this serious issue?
Tahira Khan Merritt: Be transparent. Don't hide behind the clerical garb. Enlist the help of the parish and communicate with them. Be honest with victims. Help them and speak the truth. Do not protect the men who hurt our children — turn them over to the police and assist in their prosecution.
Tahira Khan Merritt can be reached at http://www.tkmlawfirm.com or 888-901-5931. Orthodox Reform can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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