339 F.Supp.2d 689 (W.D.Pa. 2004), C. A. 03-1851, Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Docket NºC. A. 03-1851
Citation339 F.Supp.2d 689
Party NamePatsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Case DateOctober 06, 2004
CourtUnited States District Courts, 3th Circuit

Page 689

339 F.Supp.2d 689 (W.D.Pa. 2004)

Patricia A. PATSAKIS, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. 03-1851.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania.

Oct. 6, 2004

Page 690

Samuel J. Cordes, Colleen Ramage Johnston, OGG, Cordes, Murphy & Ignelzi, Pittsburgh, PA, for Plaintiffs.

OPINION

HARDIMAN, District Judge.

In this Title VII action, plaintiffs Patricia A. Patsakis and Angela Sklavos allege gender discrimination and hostile work environment against the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Archdiocese) and Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh (Diocese of Pittsburgh). Although defendants answered Sklavos' claims, they seek dismissal of Patsakis' claims, arguing lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the "ministerial exception" to Title VII. The court held an evidentiary hearing on May 6, 2004 and the parties submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. After careful consideration of the evidence presented at the hearing and the submissions of counsel, the court finds that subject matter jurisdiction exists over Patsakis' claims.

I. Findings of Fact

The Greek Orthodox Church (Church), like most religious organizations, is hierarchical in structure. The Archdiocese of the United States is governed by an archbishop and eight metropolitan bishops who oversee their respective metropolises, of which Pittsburgh is one. The Pittsburgh metropolis includes fifty-two parishes in most of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and parts of Ohio. In addition, a Greek women's philanthropic organization known as the Philoptochos Society is usually present at each parish. The Metropolitan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Maximos Aghiorgousis (Bishop), has served in that role for the past twenty-five years. He has ultimate authority over the Pittsburgh Diocese, and his staff acts on his behalf. From time to time the Bishop delegates his authority to members of his staff, such as the registrar and chancellor.

The position of registrar largely involves the administrative review and record-keeping of sacramental documents submitted to the Bishop by priests within the Diocese. The registrar ensures that baptisms, chrismations, weddings, divorces, and funerals are conducted, reported, processed, and

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recorded correctly. The registrar also reviews and organizes files for parish council ratifications. While the registrar position is administrative, the position of chancellor involves both administrative and pastoral responsibilities. Consequently, a chancellor is normally a priest and is never a layperson. When the position of chancellor is vacant, a layperson may fill it as administrative assistant, but a layperson cannot hold the title of chancellor. Accordingly, women cannot hold the title of chancellor and are not allowed to perform divine liturgies, masses, weddings, baptisms, or funerals in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Patsakis was hired on December 1, 2001 as Registrar of the Pittsburgh Diocese (Registrar). At this time, Father John Panagiotou was serving as Chancellor of the Pittsburgh Diocese (Chancellor). As Registrar, Patsakis received sacramental documents, read them, and then reported to the Bishop if anything was missing or incorrect. Also, all materials for parish council ratifications were sent to Patsakis and she was required to review them, organize the files numerically, and enter the information into a spreadsheet. Patsakis did not complete church sacramental documents; instead, she issued blank documents to priests, who completed the information and returned them. Upon their return, she reviewed the documents on their face to ensure that the information was completed as required based on a checklist that was given to her. If the sacramental documents contained all the requisite information, Patsakis catalogued and filed them without submitting them to the Bishop. If a priest made a mistake, however--for example, by failing to include a birth certificate on a marriage application or by allowing a proposed best man at a wedding to be of a faith other than Greek Orthodox--Patsakis notified that priest and/or the Bishop that the document was missing or incorrect. She never exercised her discretion to determine if any documents were correct under Church doctrine.

Some three months after Patsakis became Registrar, in March of 2002, Father Panagiotou left his position as Chancellor. Faced with a vacancy in the Chancellor's position with no one immediately available to fill it, the Bishop devised a solution. He temporarily split the Chancellor position into two separate positions: a "Pastoral Vicar," who would perform the spiritual functions formerly performed by the Chancellor, and an "Administrative Vicar," who would perform the administrative functions. Deacon Euripides Christiludes was appointed Pastoral Vicar and Patsakis was appointed Administrative Vicar. Neither of these positions, nor even the title "Vicar" itself, is formally recognized in the Greek Orthodox faith, however. The Bishop split the position out of necessity; he wanted Patsakis to fulfill the administrative duties of Chancellor but, consistent with the teachings of the Church, Patsakis could not perform the position's spiritual functions because she is not ordained. Thus, as Pastoral Vicar, Deacon Euripides handled questions from priests regarding religious matters, and Patsakis, as Administrative Vicar, was, in the Bishop's words, his "administrative helper." Furthermore, the Bishop periodically referred to Patsakis as his "Chancellorette," though that title is not officially recognized by the Church.

As Administrative Vicar, Patsakis reviewed the mail with the Bishop on a daily basis, and drafted letters for his signature. Some letters were signed by the Bishop, his signature stamp was affixed to others, and Patsakis signed some letters under her own name. For example, she prepared letters to judges regarding the inability of the Bishop and parish priests to sit as jurors in civil or criminal matters,

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and she wrote thank you letters to donors. Generally, these were form letters found in the computer and she gave them to the Bishop for his approval. The Bishop normally reviewed and approved all correspondence sent from the Diocese, but on at least one occasion, Patsakis prepared a letter to the parish council in York, Pennsylvania on behalf of the Bishop, which the Bishop directed but did not review before it was sent.

Patsakis also liaised between the Bishop on the one hand and clergy and laity on the other hand. Patsakis corresponded with parish priests regarding the Bishop's schedule and the clergy-laity assemblies. Similarly, she received complaints and repeated them to the Bishop, who then decided how to handle them. Patsakis also corresponded with parishes regarding...

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  • Fassl v. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, 100405 PAEDC, 05-cv-0404
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • October 4, 2005
    ...where the plaintiff served as director of music for a Catholic parish church); Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America , 339 F.Supp.2d 689, 692-93 (W.D. Pa. 2004) ("[t]he propriety of asserting the ministerial exception' defense through a 12(b)(1) motion is As the discussion ......
  • Fassl v. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, 100405 PAEDC, 05-cv-0404
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • October 4, 2005
    ...where the plaintiff served as director of music for a Catholic parish church); Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America , 339 F.Supp.2d 689, 692-93 (W.D. Pa. 2004) ("[t]he propriety of asserting the ministerial exception' defense through a 12(b)(1) motion is As the discussion ......
  • 797 F.Supp.2d 604 (W.D.Pa. 2011), C. A. 08-44, Goodson v. Maggi
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • June 23, 2011
    ...as either a facial or factual challenge to the court's subject matter jurisdiction. Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 339 F.Supp.2d 689, 692 (W.D.Pa.2004) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir.1977)); Gould Electronics, Inc. v. Uni......
  • Goodson v. Maggi, 060311 PAWDC, 08-44
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • June 3, 2011
    ...as either a facial or factual challenge to the court's subject matter jurisdiction. Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 339 F.Supp.2d 689, 692 (W.D. Pa. 2004) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)); Gould Electronics, Inc. v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Fassl v. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, 100405 PAEDC, 05-cv-0404
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • October 4, 2005
    ...where the plaintiff served as director of music for a Catholic parish church); Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America , 339 F.Supp.2d 689, 692-93 (W.D. Pa. 2004) ("[t]he propriety of asserting the ministerial exception' defense through a 12(b)(1) motion is As the discussion ......
  • Fassl v. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, 100405 PAEDC, 05-cv-0404
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • October 4, 2005
    ...where the plaintiff served as director of music for a Catholic parish church); Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America , 339 F.Supp.2d 689, 692-93 (W.D. Pa. 2004) ("[t]he propriety of asserting the ministerial exception' defense through a 12(b)(1) motion is As the discussion ......
  • 797 F.Supp.2d 604 (W.D.Pa. 2011), C. A. 08-44, Goodson v. Maggi
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • June 23, 2011
    ...as either a facial or factual challenge to the court's subject matter jurisdiction. Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 339 F.Supp.2d 689, 692 (W.D.Pa.2004) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir.1977)); Gould Electronics, Inc. v. Uni......
  • Goodson v. Maggi, 060311 PAWDC, 08-44
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • June 3, 2011
    ...as either a facial or factual challenge to the court's subject matter jurisdiction. Patsakis v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 339 F.Supp.2d 689, 692 (W.D. Pa. 2004) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)); Gould Electronics, Inc. v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results