First witness called in Orthodox archbishop sex-abuse trial

Author: Aldo Santin
Date Published: 06/10/2013
Archbishop Seraphim Storheim (PAT MCGRATH / POSTMEDIA NEWS ARCHIVES)
Archbishop Seraphim Storheim (PAT MCGRATH / POSTMEDIA NEWS ARCHIVES)

The trial of an Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of America for sexually abusing two 11-year-old boys in the summer of 1985 began this morning.

Seraphim Storheim pleaded not guilty this morning to two counts of sexual abuse between June and August of 1985.

The first witness this morning was one of the victims, now 39 years old.

A publication ban was imposed prohibiting the disclosure of the identities of the two victims.

The witness often sounded confused and repeatedly contradicted himself when questioned by Crown prosecutor Breta Passler and defence counsel Jeff Gindin.

The witness said that he suffers from a variety of mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health issues, and is heavily medicated.

The man admitted he had trouble recalling the order of events and who was present during his alleged encounters with Storheim.

The man said that during the summer of 1985, he was in Storheim’s house when the then-priest would regularly walk naked and encouraged the boy to touch his genitals.

Storheim would often offer him money to sleep with him, the man said. “I started to get freaked out … ‘no, get away from me, get away from me,’” the man said.

The man said he repeatedly told his mother about the then-priest’s advances but he said she refused to believe him.

Storheim was the highest-ranking Canadian cleric in the Orthodox Church in America until officials suspended him November 2011, days after Winnipeg police laid charges against him following a lengthy investigation.

Storheim was accompanied to court by several supporters.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca