Church orders parish to cease funding appeal for archbishop charged with sex abuse
WINNIPEG — The Orthodox Church in America has ordered a Vancouver parish to delete from its website an appeal for funding to defend a disgraced former Winnipeg cleric facing sexual abuse charges.
”We’d sent out the instruction in English before, and this parish hadn’t complied,” Chancellor Dennis Alexander Pihach said Thursday. ”That’s because the parish isn’t English. It’s an immigrant community and it probably wasn’t cognizant (of) our instruction.”
The Vancouver parish of the Russian Orthodox Church in America had posted three messages of support for Archbishop Seraphim Storheim, including one with an address in Edmonton to send funds for his defence.
The appeal angered a victims’ group.
”It’s terribly inappropriate and intimidating when parishioners publicly help an alleged child molester, especially through a church website,” said Melanie Jula Sakoda of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Storheim’s first court date in Winnipeg is Jan. 10, but he is not expected to attend in person. He was the highest-ranking official in the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada until officials suspended him in November, days after Winnipeg police laid charges against him.
Police conducted a lengthy investigation last year into allegations Storheim sexually abused two teenage boys while he was a priest in Winnipeg 30 years ago.
The archbishop’s criminal lawyer, Jeff Gindin in Winnipeg, said his client adamantly denies the charges.