Crown wants jail time for former Orthodox archbishop convicted of sexual assault

Author: James Turner
Date Published: 06/18/2014
Seraphim (Kenneth) Storheim, now retired from the Orthodox Church in America, leaves the courthouse in Winnipeg today. Storheim will be sentenced for sexual assault on July 9. (JAMES TURNER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Seraphim (Kenneth) Storheim, now retired from the Orthodox Church in America, leaves the courthouse in Winnipeg today. Storheim will be sentenced for sexual assault on July 9. (JAMES TURNER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

A former high-ranking Orthodox archbishop should serve a year in jail for violating his position of trust and sexually molesting an altar boy in Winnipeg in the 1980s.

That’s the view of Manitoba prosecutors as Seraphim (Kenneth) Storheim, 68, appeared for sentencing in the Court of Queen’s Bench this morning.

“The hallmarks of this case are the abuse of trust, the abuse of a child and the historical nature,” Crown attorney Breta Passler told Justice Christopher Mainella.

The Crown is seeking the term of real jail in hopes of sending a firm message to the general public that any child-sexual abuse cases will be seriously punished.

That’s even when the allegations date back decades and the perpetrator is of otherwise good conduct.

Passler opposed Storheim being allowed a conditional sentence. This would allow him to skirt jail and remain in the community under house arrest.

Storheim has no criminal record, and over the past 42 years had risen to the top of religious ranks to become an archbishop of the Orthodox Church in America.

The church has 700 parishes, missions and other institutions across North America.

It’s separate from other churches such as the Greek Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Storheim was suspended after being charged and turning himself in in November 2010.

He retired to private life after Mainella convicted him earlier this year, court heard.

Storheim was the parish priest at Holy Trinity Sobor Orthodox Church on Manitoba Avenue at the time of the 1985 incident.

He had befriended the victim’s family while serving at another parish outside Manitoba. The victim was visiting Storheim in Winnipeg at the time.

The sexual assault he was convicted of involved a single incident of inappropriate touching.

Defence lawyer Jeff Gindin described the assault as “the briefest of touches.”

“It’s very hard to do less and still have it be a sexual assault,” Gindin said.

A psychological report authored by top provincial psychiatrist Dr. Jeff Waldman found Storheim is a very low risk to reoffend.

Gindin implored Mainella to grant Storheim the conditional jail term.

Dozens of letters of support were presented to the court speaking to Storheim’s good character.

He’s also suffered stigma from the massive amount of media attention the case has garnered, Gindin said.

“I simply urge the court to spare putting Mr. Storheim behind bars,” he said. “Essentially he’s lost everything. His reputation is in tatters.”

Through a prepared statement, the victim, now in his 30s, told court of the devastating impact the assault had on him.

Storheim pledged to pray earnestly for the victim when offered a chance to speak in court.

“Having read the impact statement, I felt extreme sadness and pain in my heart that he was feeling these things,” said Storheim.

Mainella will issue a decision on July 9.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca