Orthodox cleric faces sex assault trial
The sex-abuse trial of Canada’s senior Orthodox Church cleric began Monday with a former altar boy accusing Archbishop Kenneth William (Seraphim) Storheim of inviting him to touch his private parts.
Storheim has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault involving two pre-teen brothers who were members of the church more than 25 years ago, when he worked at a parish in Winnipeg’s North End. Storheim is the highest-ranking cleric in the Canadian diocese of the Orthodox Church in America.
The first witness at the trial being held at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Winnipeg testified that his mother encouraged him to go to Winnipeg and serve as Storheim’s altar boy during the summer of 1985. He was shown his room, where he said Storheim sometimes came at night and hugged him.
The man said Storheim walked around the house naked and several times asked him if he wanted to see or touch his penis. He testified Storheim sometimes left money under his mattress. The man said there was no sexual touching but he hated being there and called his mother in tears, asking to be sent home.
The witness has testified he has mental health issues and is taking medication for pain and schizophrenia. He has said several times he doesn’t remember key details and has contradicted himself several times in his testimony and cross-examination.
The victim’s mother testified later Monday. “He was very nice to me, to my children,” the mother said of the cleric. “I invited him sometimes for dinner. He blessed my house … He was very, very nice. He talked to the children nicely. I never in a million years thought he could hurt my children. When my children told me what happened, I was stunned. I was shocked. I wanted to die.”
The allegations surfaced in 2008, when a clergyman filed a written report to the national church.
Storheim turned himself in to Winnipeg police in November 2010, when two charges of sexual assault were laid against him.
Internal investigation underway
Storheim was suspended by the Orthodox Church in America after the charges were laid, but he is still being paid and could be re-installed as archbishop if he is found not guilty.
The Orthodox Church in America has begun an internal investigation into the matter.
“It’s been a sad and stressful time for everyone. The church has been praying for everybody involved just that God’s will would be done,” said Matthew Estabrooks, the lawyer representing the church’s Archdiocese of Canada.