Greece: Society shaken by scandals

The Orthodox Church, sexual abuse, drug dealers and spies

Greek society has been shaken by revelations of scandals in which judges and leading priests are involved. Every day over the last three weeks the media revealed the size of corruption that exists within the justice system and the clergy hierarchy. Everything started with the discovery of the bribing of a judge and there has been a domino effect since, with new allegations springing up.

Everyone in Greece is now aware of stories about priests who pressed judges to release big drug dealers from prison, judges who are allegedly members of criminal organisations, and bishops who have made huge fortunes from fraud and who also forced young monks, and other people, to have sexual relationships with them…it seems the list of scandals has no end.

The most serious revelation concerns the strong relationship between the Archbishop and other higher priests with a big drugs dealer, arms trader, and probably secret services agent (he is named ‘Vavilis’, but he has used various other names), who is wanted by Interpol. His close connections with the Church are such that he has acted as a delegate of the Orthodox Church, and a representative of the Archbishop, in many countries (including Israel, Lebanon, Italy and the Vatican)

Until very recently, in social survey Greeks put the judiciary and the Church as the most "acceptable" and respected institutions. They were considered "clean". In addition, the Archbishop, despite his ultra-right political opinions, was one of the most popular people in Greece. This was because of deep alienation of workers and youth from "politicians", due to the anti-working class policies of many governments and to the widespread corruption at the top of society. It was as also as a result of the demoralisation of the majority of the population, due to sell-outs by the so-called representatives of the working class, and disappointment workers feel towards the policies of left parties. The social democratic Pasok ruled for most of the last decade but, as advocates of the market economy, it failed to improve living standards. The present New Democracy Party government, led by Costas Karamanlis, carries out right wing, neo-liberal policies.

But because of the new scandals there is a change in Greek public opinion. Polls over the last two weeks show that the authority of the judiciary and Church has collapsed and the popularity of the Archbishop imploded. Greek society feels "betrayed" by those who were supposed to be an ‘example’ for all and who were mean to act as moral ‘guardians’ – in opposition to the politicians. The size of the alleged corruption, especially concerning the Church, is a serious shock for Greeks.

The government, however, supports the Church and the justice system. Government spokes people say these institutions have to perform their own ‘purification’ and that it is willing to help them, but that government does not want to take any initiative or measures to "clean [away] the rubbish".

Corruption is inherent in the capitalist system. It is inherent even in those institutions that the system creates to guard against corruption. Scandals like those shaking Greece can take mass consciousness forward by leaps and bounds. They can assist working people, especially the new generation, which is fresh and carries no sense of betrayals and demoralization, to arrive at conclusions about the capitalist system; to understand that only through the overthrow of capitalism, and the building of a socialist society, can workers and youth get rid of all the profit system and its reactionary institutions.

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February 2005