Rev. Michael Pappas to Be Defrocked

By Theodore Kalmoukos
Orthodox Reform
November 11, 2007

Priest in San Francisco to be Defrocked

BOSTON, Mass. – Rev. Michael Pappas, former parish priest of Holy Trinity Church in San Francisco, is going to be defrocked and returned to the ranks of the laity, according to Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco.

In an interview, Metropolitan Gerasimos told the National Herald, "As I had said during our last interview that, upon my return from the Synaxis of the hierarchy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I was planning to sent Father Pappas to Spiritual Court, and I did so. The Court has decided to recommend his defrocking. The issue was discussed at the recent meeting of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Church in America, and it was decided that his name be sent to the Patriarchate to be defrocked."

The Herald has also learned that Father Pappas has obtained a new position as the executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, of which he was a member of the board as ecumenical officer for the Metropolis of San Francisco. He has also been appointed to the Mayor's Sister Committee with Assisi, Italy.

Gerasimos verified the Herald's information that the soon-to-be ex-priest was chosen to head up the San Francisco Interfaith Council: "Yes, it is true," he said.

Asked how Father Pappas managed to get that job, Gerasimos said, "The position was open, so he applied, and he got the job." Asked if the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco belongs to that Interfaith Council, Gerasimos said, "We do not participate officially, but they invite us if there is an ecumenical activity." Gerasimos also clarified that the Metropolis of San Francisco "had nothing to do with Father Pappas' appointment… we have not been asked."

The Metropolis of San Francisco's Spiritual Court of the First Instance decided Father Pappas' fate this past September. The Archdiocese of America's Spiritual Court of the Second Instance validated the Metropolis of San Francisco's decision this past October 16, and has asked the Ecumenical Patriarchate to defrock the San Francisco parish's former pastor.

Holy Trinity Church found itself in turmoil after disclosures that Father Pappas, who by all accounts was thought to be one of the most prominent and active clergymen in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, was at the center of a sex scandal, as the National Herald reported in its September 8 edition.

Father Pappas – in his forties, married and a father of three under-aged children, two of whom are twins – admitted he had extramarital affairs. In a letter dated August 21, he informed members of his parish that he had been unfaithful to his wife. Ćeal for his ministry made his marriage suffer and led him astray, he state din his letter: "Over these last 15 years, in my zeal to excel in ministry, I have neglected the garden of my marriage, and as a result, it has withered on the vine. In those moments of hunger, I have sadly strayed from faithfulness and dishonored the sanctity of the gift of a precious wife and treasured children. Today, I am haunted by the Lord's words, 'physician heal thyself.' Had I listened more carefully to the words I preached, perhaps the irreparable damage done to my marriage and the divorce, which will now sever an almost 20-year relationship, might have been avoided. For this painful reality, I take full responsibility."

Although Father Pappas does not specify the type of infidelity he engaged in, the National Herald has obtained information alleging that his unfaithfulness included sexual contact with members of both sexes.

The Herald has tried to communicate with Father Pappas several times, but he has so far not responded. Sources familiar with the case told the Herald that Father Pappas was not engaged in relationships either with minors, or with individuals from his parish.

Father Pappas served the Holy Trinity parish community for three years. Prior to his assignment there, he served at Saint Basil's Church in Stockton, California. He was very active in interfaith and interchurch relations with the Metropolis of San Francisco. He also served on the Archdiocese Clergy Sexual Misconduct Committee, and was at one point a candidate for the position of executive director of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund, the Church in America's most affluent arm.

When Metropolitan Gerasimos learned of Father Pappas' activities, he called him to his office and suspended him from all clerical, ecclesiastical and sacramental duties. Gerasimos has since temporarily assigned a retired priest, Rev. James Adams, to serve the Holy Trinity community. At the same time, the Metropolis of San Francisco sent a letter to its faithful informing both clergy and laity that Father Pappas "was suspended from active ministry within the Greek Orthodox Church and released from all priestly and pastoral duties… effective August 20th, 2007."

Gerasimos went to visit Holy Trinity parish in person; met with the parish council; and told parish faithful that Father Pappas was suspended, without disclosing details of what had transpired. Gerasimos asked the parish to safeguard its unity and sobriety in an effort to overcome a "sad situation."

In an interview at the time, Gerasimos, who was headed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople to participate in a Synaxis of all the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne, told the Herald, "I beg your understanding, but I am not at liberty to tell you anything about the case of Father Pappas, other than I have placed him in suspension from every liturgical and pastoral activity."

Asked whether he was planning to send the now-suspended priest to Spiritual Court and initiate the process for his defrocking, Gerasimos said yes: "I will most certainly do that when I return from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I will send him to the Spiritual Court to be defrocked," he said.

"I am deeply sorry about Father Pappas' case because he was really a very able and active priest. He had done a tremendous job at his parish which, as you can understand, has now been wounded," Gerasimos added.

The Herald has since learned that Father Pappas is in the process of divorcing his wife who, with her three children, has moved in with her parents, and that Holy Trinity Church will continue paying his salary and benefits until the end of November, but that he has not provided financial assistance to his wife and children.

Asked whether Father Pappas continues to receive his salary from his former parish, and if he supports his family, Gerasimos said, "He will continue to get his salary until the end of November, and supposedly, the money he receives is for his family as well, and not only for him."

Asked whether anyone in the Church is helping to care for his family, Gerasimos said, "We have an allocation for his family through the Archdiocese and the Metropolis."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.