Lawsuit alleges abuse at Greek Orthodox Church

Associated Press/September 9, 2008

Chicago - A former altar boy in a Chicago-area Greek Orthodox Church says a priest sexually abused him in the 1970s and church officials allegedly failed to act on what they knew, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit claims the former Rev. Nicholas E. Katinas abused a man identified as "John Doe 124" when the man was a teenager at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Olympia Fields.

Doe, now 46, of Streamwood was "raised in a deeply religious and strict Greek Orthodox family" and was an altar boy who played on the church's basketball team, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Cook County and seeks unspecified damages. The abuse allegedly began when Doe was 15 years old.

"This man has suffered in silence and shame thinking he was all alone and couldn't do anything about this," said attorney Jeff Anderson, whose Minnesota-based firm has handled several priest abuse cases. "This has been an ultimate betrayal. He was taught to trust and revere this priest."

Officials also allegedly "observed at least four suspicious incidents suggestive of pedophilia involving Katinas and teenage boys" at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church but "failed to act on that knowledge," the lawsuit said.

Stavros Papagermanos, a spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which is named in the lawsuit, declined to comment Tuesday.

Katinas, 73, worked at the Olympia Fields church from 1969 to 1978, according to the lawsuit. He was then a priest for almost three decades at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas before being suspended in 2006.

Katinas did not immediately return telephone messages from The Associated Press Tuesday at Texas listings. He has not been criminally charged.

He was suspended from the Dallas church in July 2006 but church officials did not publicly offer a reason for his removal until the following year.

"After a thorough investigation of allegations of serious misconduct involving minors, Fr. Katinas was suspended in accordance with the Archdiocese's Statement of Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Clergy," according to a February 2007 press release by the Archdiocese.

Katinas faces a similar lawsuit in Texas involving five alleged victims of sexual abuse. Tahira Merritt, an attorney for the plaintiffs in that case, said Katinas has fled the U.S. for Greece, which has stalled legal proceedings in Texas.

"The hierarchies are more concerned about secrecy and protection of their reputation than the children," Anderson said. "This happens in a hierarchical churches. They've kept secrets and protected offenders."

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