2 Jan 2011

Canadian police investigating allegations that Archbishop of Orthodox Church in America sexually abused pre-teen boys

CBC News - Canada October 6, 2010

Archbishop steps down amid abuse claims

Career took him to Winnipeg, Saskatoon, London, Edmonton

An archbishop who has held positions in a number of Canadian communities has stepped down amid allegations of sexual abuse involving pre-teen boys.

In a statement released on the website of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), church officials said Archbishop Seraphim Storheim, 66, of Ottawa is on a leave of absence as police in Canada investigate abuse claims.

The OCA's statement indicates the church is co-operating with investigators and that an internal probe is underway. The Canadian diocese of the OCA was established in 1903.

Winnipeg police confirmed Wednesday that they are investigating Storheim but cautioned that their probe will be time-consuming and complex. The allegations are nearly three decades old, Const. Robert Carver said.

"Twenty-five years is a hugely long time," he said. "We might have witnesses who are no longer alive. We might have witnesses who can't remember. It's not uncommon for people to say, 'It's old, let it lie. I'm not prepared to talk about it."

Storheim was the rector of Holy Trinity Sobor [parish] in Winnipeg's North End from December 1984 to June 1987, according to an online biography on the church's website. He has also held positions at churches in London, Ont., Saskatoon, North Carolina and Alberta.

Storheim's leave as head of the archdiocese began Oct. 1, the OCA's statement said. The church confirmed he was being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct in a further statement two days later.

In a letter to the congregation announcing he was taking a three-month leave, Storheim suggests he approached his superiors on Sept. 19 to approve his absence. He also suggests he stepped aside for health reasons.

"Having also seen my physician, I was informed that this leave is rather overdue," Storheim said.

Storheim has not been charged with any crime. Repeated calls to the Winnipeg church seeking comment were met with a busy signal.

Alleged victims were pre-teen boys

The head of a Chicago-based victims' organization called SNAP — short for Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests — said Tuesday evening it has been pushing for an investigation into complaints about Storheim for years.

In a telephone interview from Houston, David Clohessy said at least two alleged victims have come forward. They were members of the church, Clohessy said.

He said one of the alleged incidents took place in 1984, the year Storheim left a church in London and came to Winnipeg.

Clohessy charged that church officials have known about the abuse claims for years but were slow to act. The recent announcement of the internal probe and vow of co-operation with police comes as a relief, he said.

"We're just grateful there is an investigation and we hope that it's genuine and thorough and a clear one — and [that] it will be concluded hopefully soon and decisively," he said.

Clohessy added he hopes people with any information pick up the phone and share what they know with authorities.

"We're urging church officials to act like compassionate shepherds and aggressively seek out others who might have seen or suspected [anything]." he said.

He admitted being disappointed that Storheim was allowed to take a leave of absence instead of being removed.

"We think he should have been suspended rather than allowed to voluntarily resign," Clohessy said.

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1 comment:

  1. Former archbishop to stand trial for sex abuse

    By Mike McIntyre, Winnipeg Free Press January 19, 2012

    A high-ranking former orthodox archbishop has been ordered to stand trial on historical Manitoba sex-abuse charges.

    Seraphim Storheim appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom Wednesday for the conclusion of a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed. A court-ordered ban prevents specific details from being published.

    Provincial court Judge Rocky Pollack ruled the Crown had met the standard of proof required to move the case along. The case will return to court in March for the setting of a trial date.
    Storheim has pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing two teenaged boys while he was a priest in Winnipeg 30 years ago. He remains free on bail with several conditions, including having no contact with children.

    Storheim was the highest-ranking Canadian cleric in the Orthodox Church in America until church officials suspended him last November, days after Winnipeg police laid charges against him following a lengthy investigation into allegations that only recently emerged. None of the charges has been proven and he is presumed innocent.

    A U.S.-based victims' group spoke out following Storheim's arrest, angry that a parish was using a church website to raise defence funds for Storheim. A Vancouver parish of the Russian Orthodox Church in America posted three messages of support for Storheim, including one with an address where funds for his defence could be sent.

    Last December, the Orthodox Church distanced itself from the Vancouver parish with a statement that said in part: "The Archdiocese of Canada for the Orthodox Church in America is not in any way associated with any legal fund or other defensive effort being set up to aid Archbishop Seraphim."