Canadian archbishop accused of sexual abuse
One of Canada’s highest-ranking orthodox officials is being investigated by police and his own church for allegations of sexual misconduct more than two decades ago.
Victims advocates say the allegations against Archbishop Seraphim Storheim relate to his time as rector of a Winnipeg church and concern two young boys.
The 64-year-old archbishop, who leads the Archdiocese of Canada in the Orthodox Church in America, took a three-month leave of absence from his duties, effective Oct. 1.
“I have blessed the Church’s Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations to work in conjunction with the Canadian police authorities and to comply with the Orthodox Church in America’s policies and procedures in order to obtain the necessary information needed to bring about a proper resolution,” wrote the Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen, the church’s leader, in a statement released Sunday.
No charges have been laid.
In his own statement a day earlier, the archbishop told parishioners that he had also resigned from all his other duties in the church. He gave no reason for the decision, suggesting his doctor had advised him to take a leave of absence.
“It is my intention, and hope, to maintain as much solitude and silence as possible,” he wrote.
Reached by The Globe and Mail Tuesday evening, the church’s Chancellor, Father Alexander Garklavs, declined to give any further details of the exact allegations against the archbishop, but confirmed the church was conducting its own investigation alongside the one being carried out by Canadian police.
He declined to say exactly when the church became aware of the allegations, but suggested it had known about them before police became involved.
“There were some reports,” he said. “But I can’t say much more than that.”
The allegations are believed to relate to two boys under the age of 12, said Melanie Sakoda, a member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. She said the boys complained to the church at the time of the alleged abuse and that a priest reminded church leaders of the allegations again in the fall of 2008.
“I’m very happy that the police are investigating,” she said.
Winnipeg police could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Irenee Rochon, bishop of Quebec City, will take over Archbishop Seraphim’s duties during his absence.
According to a biographical sketch on the church’s website, Archbishop Seraphim was born Kenneth William Storheim in Edmonton to Norwegian and Scottish parents. Originally a Lutheran, he converted to the orthodox religion in the 1970s. He became a priest in 1979, serving in Finland, Alberta, North Carolina and London, Ont., before becoming rector of Holy Trinity Sobor in Winnipeg. He held that post from 1984 to 1987, when he became bishop of Edmonton. He took over as the head of the archdiocese of Canada in 1990.
The Orthodox Church in America is an independent church in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, that claims hundreds of thousands of members across North America. Archbishop Seraphim was its highest-ranking member in Canada.