I got home this evening and after supper I checked my Facebook feed; for whatever reason this news story from January of this year made it my way and for whatever reason some how I had never heard of this one yet.
BOSTON – Former Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America John Heropoulos, who left the holy priesthood almost nine years ago, was married to a man on . . . January 9 . The civil ceremony took place at The Neighborhood Club of Quincy, MA with relatives and friends in attendance.
What follows below is my edited version of the article.
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[. . .] Religious Education Director [of the GOA] Tony Vrame congratulated them, as did Presbytera Cynthia Paleologos, the wife of Fr. Constantine Paleologos former priest of St. Spyridon [GOA] parish in Worchester [sic]. She wrote “so happy for you John! Sending love and prayers for health and happiness together.”
Fr. Dean Panagos, the presiding priest of the St. Sophia [GOA] parish in New London Connecticut who is also the president of the Clergy Association of the Metropolis of Boston wrote on Facebook, “congratulations John”.
[. . .] Heropoulos was a charismatic and able clergyman with excellent administrative ability. He began his Church service as Deacon to the late Archbishop Iakovos. [. . .] While everything seemed to be going well he informed Archbishop Demetrios that he was leaving the holy priesthood and requested to be defrocked. He went to Boston and worked for six years for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Today he is working in the development office of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral.
In an interview with The National Herald Heropoulos said that he met his partner Richard “six years ago at a social event in Boston.” Richard works at Harvard University.
[. . .] TNH asked whether he was attracted to men all of his life or discovered those feelings recently, Heropoulos said, “a gay person is born gay. It is not something that you chose. I was born gay and I was trying to be as good as I could be in my life. As a clergyman I became lonely and so I decided to seek companionship.”
He also said “I told my entire family and many friends years ago that I was gay and nobody was surprised. Everybody – my father, my mother, my dear friends, my family, were accepting and supportive,” and he added “everybody was thrilled that I found somebody to be in love with and to be married to.”
This far, nobody has sent him any negative messages or criticism for getting married to a man, he said.
TNH asked him how he reconciled his past self as a priest, as an Archimandrite, as a official of the Greek Orthodox Church having served in high positions in the [Greek Orthodox] Archdiocese [of America], and being well respected, with the new aspect of his life which theologically, ecclesiastically, and spiritually is not an acceptable situation. Heropoulos said “For me, in my service as a priest the issue was to be a celibate priest that was the key issue, to be faithful to the calling to be a celibate priest and then to try to be the best priest that I could be.”
“Are you saying that when you were a celibate priest you didn’t engage in gay sexual activities,” TNH asked. “I was faithful to my vow of celibacy,” he replied.
“Did you experience constant pressure? Were you looking to escape, to liberate yourself from that situation,” he was asked.
“I don’t think it was a matter of escape or liberation. I think that I dearly loved the priesthood and so I became a priest, and I did my very best and I was very faithful to my vows. When I believed that it was the best thing for me personally, spiritually, then I decided it was time to leave,” he said.
Asked if he is concerned that some in the Greek-American Community would be scandalized, he said “I left the Church [? (below he says he takes communion)] respectfully. Whether someone agrees or not that ultimately ones has the freedom to make that decision, there is nothing I can do about that.”
Heropoulos revealed to TNH that he goes on Sundays and worships in an Orthodox church and that he receives Holy Communion. He said, “yes of course I go to an Orthodox church and yes I receive Holy Communion.”
To the final question of whether he believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman, Heropoulos, said “I don’t have any comment on that.”