Former archbishop removed from priesthood after sex assault conviction
DETROIT — A former archbishop convicted of sexually assaulting a young altar boy at a Winnipeg church has been demoted to a monk.
Seraphim Storheim, who is 69, was once the highest-ranking official in Canada for the Orthodox Church in America.
The church’s website says Storheim was removed from the priesthood during the annual fall session of its Holy Synod of Bishops last week in Detroit.
Storheim was found guilty early last year of assaulting the boy while he was working as a parish priest at Holy Trinity Sobor Orthodox Church in the 1980s.
He started serving an eight-month sentence earlier this year after an unsuccessful bid to overturn his conviction before the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
He was freed in July under an earned early release.
A statement on the church’s website offered “prayers for the victims, their families and all those who have been affected by the events surrounding this case,” but also recognized Storheim’s supporters.
“We acknowledge the anguish that has been expressed by many who love and support their former pastor and understand that some may feel that our actions were unfair,” the statement read. “Sexual abuse is a sad reality of our fallen world, one that destroys the lives of many victims and is a manifestation of the brokenness of our world that is in need of healing.”
A spokeswoman for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group for victims, said the group is grateful for the defrocking, but it wants the bishops to disclose the conditions of Storheim’s release from jail to ensure he has no contact with children.
“If Father Seraphim, as monks are addressed in the Orthodox Church, is residing in an OCA facility, the bishops need to make sure that he is forbidden to be alone with minors and that he only attends services where authorized,” said Cappy Larson, an Orthodox Christian director for SNAP.
“Even if the Canadian government did not impose any restrictions on the former archbishop, the church can go the extra mile to protect kids who may not understand the significance of his change in status. ‘Father Seraphim’ is still a potent title to a child.”
Storheim’s lawyer, Jeff Gindin, had argued before the appeal court that his client should get a new trial because new photos and documents cast doubt on the credibility of the victim and the Crown’s version of events.
Storheim was placed on leave when he was arrested in 2010 and he retired following his conviction.