Archbishop charged with sexual assault
Archbishop Seraphim Storheim has stepped aside as head of the Canadian diocese of the Orthodox Church in America. Archbishop Kenneth William Storheim, who has held positions in a number of Canadian communities with the Orthodox Church in America, has been arrested and charged in Winnipeg with two counts of sexual assault.
Storheim, 64, turned himself in to Winnipeg police at about 9:30 a.m. CT on Wednesday, police announced Thursday.
Storheim has been released from custody on a promise to appear in court on Jan. 10.
In October, CBC News reported he stepped down as head of the Canadian diocese of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) amid allegations of sexual abuse involving pre-teen boys.
In a statement released on the OCA website in October, church officials said Storheim was on a leave of absence as police in Canada investigated abuse claims.
The allegations are 25 years old, according to Const. Robert Carver of the Winnipeg Police Service, which was leading the investigation.
A warrant for Storheim’s arrest was issued Nov. 16, police said.
Storheim flew to the city and turned himself in with a lawyer present, police said. He was most recently living in Edmonton.
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.
In a September letter to his congregation announcing he was taking a three-month leave, Storheim suggested he was doing so for health reasons.
His Winnipeg defence lawyer, Jeff Ginden, said Thursday that Storheim has no plans to quit his job and will remain on a leave of absence as head of the church.
“He has faith in the system that justice will be done,” Ginden said, adding Storheim knows little of the substance of the allegations against him.
“He hasn’t been given the police report, he doesn’t know what the disclosure is. All he knows is one thing — those things he’s not responsible for,” Ginden said.
“It’s gonna be an anxious time,” he said. “Obviously it’s not a pleasant thing to be accused of things that you don’t feel happened.”
Group sought investigation for 2 years
Melanie Sakoda of a Chicago-based victims’ organization called SNAP — Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests — told CBC News the group has been pushing for an investigation into complaints about Storheim for two years.
She said the church shouldn’t have taken so long to act.
“It makes me frustrated and angry but not surprised. They have a habit of protecting the clergy rather than doing everything possible to make sure children are safe,” she said.
Sakoda is glad charges have finally been laid and applauded “the brave victims that [came forward to] make this possible.”
“Children deserve to be protected. They deserve to have a safe place to go to church.”
Others seek information
Halifax-based lawyer John McKiggan specializes in historical sexual abuse cases, and said he’s been getting calls from people seeking information about Storheim.
“I’ve been contacted by people looking for information about the archbishop, and that’s not unusual,” he said.
“Frequently, survivors of childhood abuse are really struggling to find out information about their rights.”
Winnipeg police are asking anyone with information that might assist their investigators to contact the sex crimes unit at 204-986-6245.
With files from the CBC’s Karen Pauls