Priest offered to pay boy for sex, trial hears

Author: Aldo Santin
Date Published: 06/11/2013
Archbishop Seraphim Storheim (PAT MCGRATH / POSTMEDIA NEWS ARCHIVES)
Archbishop Seraphim Storheim (PAT MCGRATH / POSTMEDIA NEWS ARCHIVES)

A man says a priest in the Orthodox Church in America offered him money to sleep with him when he was a young boy during the summer of 1985.

The man was testifying on the opening day of the trial of Seraphim Storheim, a priest in Winnipeg in 1985 and now an archbishop of his church.

Storheim is charged with two counts of sexual assault. The alleged victims are brothers. He pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday.

A publication ban prohibits the disclosure of any information that could identify the victims.

Storheim was suspended as archbishop in November 2011 after Winnipeg police charged him after a lengthy investigation.

The man, 11 at the time of the alleged incidents, gave testimony Monday that was often contradictory. He admitted he suffers from a variety of mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, panic attacks and other maladies and is heavily medicated.

He 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 around 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.

He said he repeatedly told his mother about the priest’s advances, but she refused to believe him.

On the witness stand Monday afternoon, the alleged victim’s mother said her son called her about once a week. He often cried, she said, but she assumed he was homesick. He never said he was being abused, she said.

The woman said she trusted the priest and thought he was a good person, adding she was shocked when her sons told her he had abused them.

“I never, never for a million years, thought (Storheim) would hurt my children,” the woman said as she broke into tears.

“I was shocked, devastated, when my boys told me what (Storheim) did to them.”

The woman said she contacted church officials in New York with her sons’ allegation but they ignored her concerns.

“Nobody help me for anything,” the woman said, adding she never thought to contact police about the alleged abuse.

She said she was confused about the timing of many of her sons’ allegations, adding it happened almost 30 years ago and she had tried to forget about the matter.

The woman’s other son is expected to testify today.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca