Former archbishop given 8 months in jail for sex assault on boy

Author: James Turner
Date Published: 07/09/2014
Retired archbishop Seraphim (Kenneth) Storheim was sent to jail for eight months this morning for sexually molesting an altar boy at a Winnipeg parish nearly 30 years ago. (JAMES TURNER / FREE PRESS FILES)
Retired archbishop Seraphim (Kenneth) Storheim was sent to jail for eight months this morning for sexually molesting an altar boy at a Winnipeg parish nearly 30 years ago. (JAMES TURNER / FREE PRESS FILES)

A retired archbishop of the Orthodox Church in America was sent to jail for eight months this morning for sexually molesting an altar boy at a Winnipeg parish nearly 30 years ago.

Seraphim (Kenneth) Storheim learned this morning he would not get the benefit of a conditional sentence that would have allowed him to stay free in the community while serving his sentence.

“The accused was a mature offender at the time of the offence, the offence was a gross abuse of trust and the lasting effects of the crime on the victim are serious,” Justice Chris Mainella said.

Mainella convicted Storheim, 68, of sexual assault earlier this year following a lengthy Court of Queen’s Bench trial.

The victim was an 11-year-old boy visiting Storheim from Ontario in 1985.

The sexual assault on the child consisted of a single, extremely brief, incident or inappropriate touching when both were naked in the child’s room.

Storheim claimed the mutual nudity was for sex-education purposes.

Mainella rejected this, instead finding Storheim was interested in his own sexual gratification.

As well, there was evidence Storheim was “grooming” the victim, Mainella indicated.

“Sexual education does not require mutual nudity or the touching of genitalia,” Mainella said in a 22-page written decision delivered this morning.

At the time, Storheim was the parish priest Holy Trinity Sobor Orthodox Church on Manitoba Avenue.

He went on to rise through the ranks of his church to become one of its Canadian leaders. He had no criminal record.

He was suspended after turning himself in to Winnipeg police to face the sexual assault charge in 2010. He has since retired.

Storheim showed no emotion upon learning his fate, which was witnessed by a large number of people in court to support him.

He was seen handing over his personal possessions to sheriffs’ officers prior to be carted off to jail.

Storheim’s appeal has already been drafted, defence lawyer Jeff Gindin said outside court.

As well, he will seek bail pending the outcome of the appeal, likely at a hearing next Thursday morning.

Gindin said he believes Mainella made mistakes in weighing and ruling on the credibility of witnesses at trial.

It’s expected Gindin will also argue the jail sentence the court handed down is unfit.

Both he and the Crown agreed a conditional sentence was a possible outcome for Mainella to consider.

The Crown, however, argued the facts of Storheim’s case required the court to send a message that child sex-abuse cases will see strict punishment.

Mainella said Wednesday he gave serious consideration to keeping Storheim from the inside of a real jail cell, but found he couldn’t let that happen.

“A conditional sentence, even a long one with punitive conditions beyond just house arrest, would not only fail to reflect the objectives of denunciation and general deterrence in the circumstances, but would not be proportionate given the gravity of the offence and the accused’s degree of responsibility,” Mainella stated in his decision.

The eight months imposed was less than the year Manitoba prosecutors sought for Storheim.

Storheim’s supporters declined comment upon leaving the courthouse.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca