by Thomas Stamoulis*
Whilst taking the opportunity only a few days ago to read the farce printed on a website by what I would have once considered a reputable source, I was saddened to conclude that “journalism” or at minimal some “journalists,” lack the expertise which their role demands of them.
Certain articles do not uncover the truth of some sort, but rather, try to mould together various impressions in order to create a much larger illusion. But for whom and for what reason is such an illusion required?
The title “Greek Orthodox Church took tens of millions in rent from aged care home at centre of deadliest COVID outbreak,” draped an image of a young a newly elected Primate who now belongs to Australia, Archbishop Makarios.
The reality, ahead of him, still lies a journey which he must face in order to undo the errors of the past and finally heal the wounds he inherited from within his own community of faithful. But this is another story which will be told in the pages of history.
So, whilst the title alluded to one thing, the question remains, when were these funds “taken” and if under the current Primate, does he continue to watch the “funnelling” of the past unfold? Does he really live a lavish lifestyle and if not, is a “vow of poverty” (the first of subheadings in the illusion presented) part of Orthodox theology and tradition? I am sure McGhee or at least her reliable (?) “sources” would know the answers but failed to actually include these in the charade of an article.
Archbishop Makarios most definitely arrived on Australian shores in June 2019 and, was greeted with much fanfare by a people who saw very little of their ailing late Archbishop Stylianos, a man whom unfortunately in those last years of his life, failed to hold a presence in his community. Was the excitement experienced by the Orthodox Christians here uncalled for? I think not.
“He was arriving at parishes in a black Holden Caprice with dark tinted windows, a flag and a personalized number plate ordered just for him: ARCHBM.”
I am not sure of the point which McGhee is trying to make with the above. Yes, the Holy Archdiocese has allocated a black Holden Caprice for the use of the Archbishop and visiting guests, but the vehicle is the same vehicle that was used by the late Archbishop of Australia and all visiting Hierarchs since its purchase 8 years ago. And whilst the number plate was changed, it remained a personalised one just as that which existed before.
As for the flag, yes, like every vehicle of a Bishop and Archbishop it continues to be placed on the front of the vehicle. It is nothing new, nothing which adds to the fanfare, but simply something which the protocol of our tradition demands and something which again, the late Archbishop Stylianos and even his predecessor, Archbishop Ezekiel held in place. Where is the mistake?
“His ceremonial gowns of luxurious silks and wool in vivid hues, embroidered with gold thread, cost up to $30 000.00 each, according to sources linked to the church.”
The misleading comments with regards to vestments of golden thread are nothing but a mockery. “Sources linked to the church,” would need to firstly verify for themselves the costings of the vestments worn by the Archbishop before providing opinions and false ideas to “journalists” like McGhee.
But, let us highlight one truth here, the conservative black cotton garments worn by the late Archbishop which McGhee mentions, are the same as those worn by the current Archbishop and anyone who sees him on a daily basis would know this. Liturgical vestments like those in the images provided are no different to those worn by any other Orthodox Bishop or Archbishop of the Orthodox Church. And whilst many of these are ornate, they are not of real gold thread nor are they silk.
If the “sources” were a little more accurate they would have provided McGhee with further photos in which one would see His Eminence wearing the same vestments before he came to Australia, but also, that some of these vestments are shared and worn by the other Assistant Bishops. But would this have given credit to the illusion McGhee so willingly created?
Another question comes to mind. Whatever happened to the many vestments and mitres collected by the late Archbishops of Australia? Have those that have passed shared them in the same way as the man living, breathing and leading the Archdiocese today?
McGhee’s work further lacks truthfulness as one read on:
“Sources say before he moved in, a $3 million renovation was carried out.”
Journalism which is of standard should report on facts and not myths, especially when tying itself with logos and once Australian icons like that of the ABC. Minimal renovations were carried out and the figure printed in the article is fabricated, misleading and far from any truth. Obviously, here, the journalist (?) (McGhee) was either required to reach a maximum word count or wished to entertain herself or her “sources.”
Again, let us highlight one truth, the renovation was paid for by a faithful donor. His Eminence remained at distance with the property and only now uses the apartment which the Archdiocesan Council of Australia and the Consolidated Trust of the Holy Archdiocese (not him) approved, endorsed and openly announced in September 2020. The property is the Archdiocese’s, not the Archbishop’s, and represents the Church, not the individual. McGhee again fails to present fact over fiction.
The very unsettling heading and the first half of the article do not relate well to one another? McGhee strategically tried to introduce the Archbishop as the one who has benefited from the circumstances she described further on, truly poor and desperate journalism considering that the period she mostly refers to when discussing rental income (8 years specifically), is a period belonging to another Archbishop.
But the provocation of McGhee does not insult the Archbishop or Archdiocese alone, but the whole of the Greek Orthodox Community in the later half of what could have been respectful journalism. In order to support the title/subtitles/farce on paper, the Archbishop simply became the target so that all missiles could at least reach a destination, even if the destination was new and very unfamiliar with the missiles being fired. Even if the target was wrong, McGhee simply wrote to provoke.
“Taxpayers’ money, which is intended to provide care for the elderly Australians, is subsidizing the church.”
What McGhee does well is type figures, yet in highlighting these throughout the article, I still cannot understand how this bad journalism can reach the media. $73 million in federal funding to St. Basil’s? Which one, all or just Victoria? Millions, wait $22 million paid in rent, again when were these figures paid? Before or after the arrival of the current Archbishop? What do one’s vestments which are often recycled have to do with this? How do we blame someone for the mess He inherited?
“Inside the Outbreak”
McGhee plays with the emotion of the people using a subheading which is followed by images and ill representations of what unfolded at St. Basil’s Victoria. A short while before the Covid-19 outbreak, St. Basil’s Victoria was not the place that the article describes and throughout the period which saw the loss of lives and a grieving community come to grip with what had happened, those in positions of responsibility fought a just fight to try and stop the harm which unfolded.
It is not our position to comment on such a matter when currently this case is at court, but if McGhee has tried to marry the newly elected Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church with a lifestyle which is non-existent and further to this, relate this all back to the pandemic and St. Basil’s Victoria, I truly am saddened by her representation.
Minister Colbeck admitted that the Commonwealth made mistakes after taking over St. Basil’s (Victoria) on July 22, 2020. The residents of the home were left in the care of a small “surge” of staff hastily assembled by the federal government that engaged Aspen Medical a global health service provider to manage the crisis. The health provider itself could not mobilise experienced staff whilst many remained sick or in quarantine from the virus.
Let us not forget that there was a five-day delay between the first case of coronavirus being identified at St. Basil’s Victoria and the Federal Government being notified. The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services didn’t notify the Federal Government, which was responsible for the sector until July 14 (The first case was identified on July 9). Sally White had reported on August 4, 2020, that families had reported that:
“Their loved ones were neglected when the centre was taken over, and were dehydrated, not fed and in soiled clothing when transported to hospital.”
“The situation at St Basil’s was also complicated due to the cultural and linguistic diversity of the residents, with the replacement staff not able to speak Greek to communicate with them.”
The case of St. Basil’s Victoria is now with the justice system and WILL be judged accordingly but McGhee is not in a position to present only the mere minimum in order to smear the Church and its people and the Archbishop who a short while after arriving to Australia was to watch over a state of disaster caused by a pandemic. If McGhee is to present an image of what it was like from “Inside the Outbreak,” then it should be done with all the facts laid bare.
In concluding, one remains uncertain on what McGhee actually wanted to report on because the farce presented seems to be a summary of fiction and non-fiction in order to humiliate and destabilise the leadership of a vibrant and young Archbishop, one who has filled the churches with youth, one who has finally introduced initiatives that were non-existent, one that has finally made the effort to unite his community rather than keep it broken for his own success story.
Even worse, McGhee’s text insults a whole people who contributed to Australia, who are Australians and contributed greatly to Australia, by attacking their faith, their leader and all the good which they stand for. Whatever happened to respectful journalism?
*Thomas Stamoulis is a journalist
* The articles express the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of orthodoxtimes.com