Details Emerging in +Seraphim Story

Author: Mark Stokoe
Date Published: 10/08/2010

As allegations of sexual misconduct and a criminal probe by Winnipeg police into the actions of Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa some 25 years ago spread across the Canadian media, from Vancouver to Halifax, new details are being added to the story day by day.

Allegations Clarified

According to Canadian newspaper reports, the allegations stem from two adult men who allege the abuse happened in 1984 while the two were visiting Winnipeg. They were 10 years old at the time. According to Pokrov.org, an Orthodox organization that deals with abuse, the boys complained to the Church at the time of the abuse, but no action appears to have been taken.

Clean Past

According to an Edmonton paper: ”A former Anglican, Storheim spent two years at Christ Church in Edmonton and four years at St. Mary’s in Ponoka, Alberta. Bishop Jane Alexander of the Anglican Church in Edmonton confirmed Storheim was a member of the diocese from 1973 to 1978, but said no one has raised any concerns about his time with the church. “As far as we’re concerned, in all of our files and records, there’s absolutely no accusation, no complaint, not even a whisper of anything untoward during his time with us,” Alexander said. “He was seen as a good and faithful parish priest and there’s nothing in the records to even hint at anything inappropriate.”

The Allegations Re-emerge

An Orthodox priest, as yet unidentified, reminded Orthodox church leaders of the 1984 allegations again in the fall of 2008, prior to the Pittsburgh All American Council. According to a June 2009 letter from the retired Bishop of Alaska, Nikolai, Archbishop Seraphim subsequently removed his name from consideration as Primate. Melanie Sakoda of the U.S.-based Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said her group has been urging the church to investigate the allegations since that time: “We heard two years ago that a clergyman had filed a written report alleging that incidents took place more than 20 years ago,” she said in an interview from Moraga, Calif. She said a colleague from SNAP contacted the church at the time and asked why no investigation had been launched.

The OCA Responds

On July 15, 2009 Metropolitan Jonah admitted in a letter to Sakoda that he was aware of the allegations, writing: “…together with other members of the OCA’s Holy Synod of Bishops and all of those who work with us in the administration of the OCA have taken this matter very seriously. Although no formal accusations have been made by the alledged victims in this matter, we are pursuing an investigation as per the OCA’s established guidelines.”

That appears to be untrue. According to the retired Bishop Nikolai in his June 2009 letter to +Jonah : ” ….I was told that he (Storheim) confided these matters to you and that you sent him to the St. John Monastery ( where the Abbot is reputed to be a pyschotherapist of sorts) for a ten day retreat.” The OCA policy guidelines for sexual misconduct may not specifically cover misconduct by Bishops, but they certainly do not advocate “retreats” as a form, or replacement, for an active investigation.

Other newspaper reports cite Chancellor Fr. Alex Garklavs, inferring that the Church knew of the allegations well before October 2010. ” Reached by The Globe and Mail Tuesday evening, the church’s Chancellor, Father Alexander Garklavs….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 Police Respond

According to the Canadian newspapers, Pokrov forwarded information they’d received to the Winnipeg police about three months ago. Winnipeg police then confirmed last 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,