Parish solicits legal funds for accused cleric

Author: Cappy Larson and Melanie Jula Sakoda
Date Published: 01/05/2011

Parish solicits legal funds for accused cleric

He’s been suspended for child sex abuse allegations

SNAP begs Canadian bishop to stop the “hurtful move”

Victims say individuals can offer support privately, not publicly

The church must make sure that it is encourages the reporting of abuse

A Canadian Orthodox parish is using its website to help raise funds for a suspended archbishop who is accused of molesting children and a support group for clergy sex abuse victims is crying “foul.”

The Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is writing to officials of the Orthodox Church in America’s (OCA) Canadian archdiocese begging them to stop a Vancouver parish from soliciting support for Archbishop Seraphim Storheim. Storheim was suspended on November 30, 2010, following his arrest by the Winnipeg police on two counts of child sexual abuse.

SNAP says that it’s wrong for church officials to let congregants rally support for a credibly accused child molester.

Under “Important Links”

“Love and Support to Archbishop Seraphim” leads to:

“It’s terribly inappropriate and intimidating when parishioners publicly help an alleged child molester, especially through a church website and while an alleged church investigation is happening,” said Melanie Jula Sakoda of SNAP Orthodox. “Victims of childhood sexual abuse are afraid that no one will believe them if they tell of abuse by a respected religious figure. Pages and links like those on the Vancouver site only confirm those feelings.”

The group is calling on Bishop Irenee Rochon to make sure that the hurtful materials on the parish’s webpage comes down immediately and that church members are taught how

to best respond when clergy sex abuse allegations surface.

“Church websites and bulletins and newspapers should be begging victims and witnesses and whistleblowers to call police, not begging parishioners for money for the alleged predator,” said Cappy Larson, also of SNAP Orthodox.

In addition, Larson pointed out that the letter from the Vancouver parish council supporting the archbishop, which remains on the Vancouver site, was among the materials removed from the archdiocesan website in October. The OCA and the archdiocese issued statements at that time regarding the misuse of the archdiocesan website.

The archdiocese also issued a very specific statement regarding the inappropriateness of using church resources to solicit legal funds for the archbishop on December 30th. However, the offensive materials remain on the Vancouver website.

Storheim was arrested and charged with two counts of child sexual abuse by the Winnipeg police in November. The same allegations are also being investigated by the OCA.

A copy of SNAP’s letter to Canadian church officials, sent today by fax and email, is below.

Right Reverend Irénée Rochon
Bishop of Québec City
Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada
9600 rue St-Denis Apt A101
Montreal, QC H2M 1P2 Canada

January 5, 2011

Re: Holy Resurrection Parish Website

Your Grace,

Despite the directive issued by the Canadian chancellor, Igumen Alexander Pihach, on December 30, 2010,

Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Sobor in Vancouver, British Columbia, continues to publish on their parish website a letter of support for Archbishop Seraphim Storheim, a page soliciting legal funds for Archbishop Seraphim Storheim, as well as a link labeled “important” which leads to a private website supporting the archbishop and soliciting legal funds for him.

Under “Important Links”

“Love and Support to Archbishop Seraphim” leads to:

Igumen Alexander’s directive should have made it clear that this is an inappropriate use of the Vancouver parish’s resources, if the message had not been received when materials in support of the archbishop were removed from the archdiocesan website in late October. In fact, the letter from the Vancouver parish ( was among the items deleted at that time.

As advocates for survivors of clergy sex abuse, we know how hard it is for victims to come forward. Survivors are afraid that no one will believe them if they tell of their abuse by a respected religious figure. Pages and links like those on the Vancouver site only confirm those feelings and are very hurtful to victims. The Church should be working to encourage, not discourage, victims from reporting abuse.

Cappy and I urge you to take steps immediately to ensure that the pro-Archbishop Seraphim materials on the Vancouver website are taken down. We also implore you to teach your flock how to respond appropriately when a cleric is accused of child sexual abuse.

Please do something about this as soon as possible, as biased materials like those on Holy Resurrection’s site can have repercussions not only in this case, but also in others. It is in the best interest of the Archdiocese of Canada to learn about abusive clergy, but how can any victim trust that the archdiocese will deal fairly with an allegation of sexual abuse by an Orthodox priest when a case which is currently both before the criminal court, as well as under investigation by the OCA, is treated with such partiality on a church website?

Cappy Larson
Melanie Jula Sakoda
SNAP Orthodox Directors

cc: The Synod of Bishops, Orthodox Church in America
Igumen Alexander Pihach, Chancellor, Archdiocese of Canada