MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – Rev. Angelo Artemas, presiding priest at the Annunciation parish in Milwaukee, WI broke his silence and in exclusive interview to TNH spoke freely and openly about the situation involving his predecessor, Fr. James Dokos, who has been charged with stealing money from a trust of a former parishioner of his.
Dokos, who is charged with giving money to Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, was transferred after 22 years of ministry at the Annunciation in Milwaukee to the Saints Peter and Paul in Glenview, IL and Fr. Artemas was transferred against his will from there to the Annunciation church.
Bishop Demetrios through emails was pressuring and even “threatened” Fr. Artemas to make the issue of Fr. Dokos go away. Artemas forwarded Demetrios’ emails to the District Attorney of Milwaukee. Artemas believes that Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago should “retire” and Bishop Demetrios should “resign.” The entire interview follows:
TNH: What can you tell us about your predecessor, Fr. Dokos? How is the climate in your parish today?
AA: The climate is one of exhaustion here at the parish and they want to move on and rebuild both their finances and their parish. The last several years of his ministry here were basically shrouded in negativity. There was innuendo about missing money and those types of things, and so the parish was not fully aware.
TNH: It seems it wasn’t only innuendo, it proved to be a reality.
TNH: Did Bishop Demetrios somehow attempt to interfere with the investigation by sending you emails directing you to stop the whole process?
AA: Yes, he did. At one point he indicated that I would be released from this Metropolis. At times in the past he had mentioned verbally that he would remove council members.
TNH: Did you ask him why he wanted to transfer you?
AA: For failing to be obedient to the Metropolis in not making the issue go away and having the District Attorney drop the charges.
TNH: Did you request, two years ago, to be transferred from St. Peter and Paul Parish in Glenview, IL to the Annunciation parish in Milwaukee?
AA: No. There was a point that even His Grace Bishop Demetrios made clear to the parish council of Saints Peter and Paul and also to the Annunciation that I was not requesting reassignment, but I was asked to take the assignment.
TNH: Who established the reassignment, Metropolitan Iakovos or Bishop Demetrios?
AA: Bishop Demetrios.
TNH: Does Metropolitan Iakovos know what is going on?
AA: It is hard to say what is coming directly from His Grace Bishop Demetrios and what is coming with the knowledge of His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos, it is really hard to say. I don’t know.
TNH: Do you think it is time for Metropolitan Iakovos to retire and Bishop Demetrios to resign completely because of this scandal?
AA: Yes, I do.
TNH: What made you send the correspondence between you and Bishop Demetrios to the Attorney General?
AA: I was facing not having employment after a week or two. The emails were clear that I would be released before Holy Week and this was March of last year about the fourth week of Lent.
TNH: Do you think that Bishop Demetrios wanted to cover up the whole thing?
AA: I do not know what he wanted to cover up; I do not know what the urgency was. In May 2013 we disclosed everything first to Bishop Demetrios in the Metropolis, and it was only after he found no wrongdoing and told us to put the matter at rest that we went to the District Attorney.
TNH: Did you ever request to be transferred from the Annunciation parish to the Archdiocesan District of New York?
AA: No, I have not asked for any transfer outside of this Metropolis.
TNH: How do you explain the fact that Fr. Dokos had given monies to Bishop Demetrios?
AA: I can’t explain the situation. I do know that my predecessor is very close to Metropolitan Iakovos. I know he is close with Bishop Demetrios. Beyond that, I can’t explain anything that is more personal than that.
TNH: Do you ever talk to Fr. Dokos?
AA: I haven’t for two years now.
TNH: What are the parishioners saying now?
AA: A lot of the parishioners were not comfortable with the finances the last six to ten years. There were a lot of questions and a lot of rumors and at this point no one is really surprised by anything, and we are eager to move on. The District Attorney said that we can go to Civil Court but our parish council and I have decided not to do that. We are not asking for anything, we are trying to put this behind us and try to move on. [Note: a criminal case is brought by the District Attorney on behalf of the people, and a guilty verdict usually results in punishment, such as jail, whereas a civil lawsuit, a defendant found liable gives compensation – usually money – to the plaintiff/victim.]
TNH: Did you know Margaret Franczak, who established the trust?
AA: No I never met her. It was a trust established by her husband when he was still alive. He passed on first. They had a Goddaughter who was the original trustee but she was removed during the last few months of her life.
TNH: Why she was removed?
AA: We don’t know.
TNH: Did this whole issue have any influence on your ministry?
AA: It certainly has. It has actually helped me prioritize my ministry and it has made me realize that somewhere along the way whether in our Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology or elsewhere, clergy have to get better training in ethnics, primarily when it comes to inheritances and parishioner’s bequests and trusts and wills.
TNH: Are you implying that priests should not get involved in these things?
AA: Personally if someone asks to be a trustee even in my own family I would direct him to someone else, I will stay out of it entirely.
TNH: How many families do you have in the parish?
AA: We are about 450 families currently, but fifteen years ago we were about 800 families.
TNH: What happened?
AA: There was a negative environment here for quite a few years and we kept losing families.
TNH: Are you not afraid for speaking to me this freely?
AA: Yes, I am, but it comes a point that we really have to speak on principle, otherwise what good are we? This is the way I was raised and I think that is how at the end of the day this parish will regroup, and that is the only way to move forward in a positive direction.
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