The Winnipeg Free Press
24 January 2014 Posted: 12:22 PM
A high-ranking Orthodox archbishop has been convicted of sexually assaulting a young altar boy while working in a Winnipeg church nearly 30 years ago.
Seraphim Storheim, 67, showed little visible reaction today as he learned his fate. He will be sentenced later this spring and remains free on bail.
Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Mainella blasted Storheim in his two-hour decision, saying his claims of innocence rang hollow.
“He loves to parse words and concepts,” Mainella said in finding Storheim’s testimony lacked credibility. “Other times he would provide nonsensical answers. I reject his evidence entirely.”
Storheim did win a partial victory, as Mainella convicted him of molesting just one of two brothers who claimed they were attacked. Mainella cited issues with the other alleged victim, including mental illness, which impacted the quality of evidence he was able to provide.
Storheim had taken the witness stand in his own defence, claiming the only thing he was guilty of was caring too much for a troubled family he took under his wing.
Storheim admits he talked to the 11-year-old twin boys about puberty and body development, which included specific comments about ejaculation and pubic hair. He said the topic only came up during Bible study when the boys began asking questions. He said he regrets not quickly changing the subject.
But he repeatedly denied he ever touched the boys or repeatedly exposed himself to them, as they claimed on the witness stand. He said any touching that occurred was “certainly by accident.”
Storheim conceded it’s possible the boys might have seen him walking around in the nude during sleepovers at his home, but added, “there was never an intentional display.”
“I overstepped a sense of compassion,” said Storheim, now an archbishop with the Orthodox Church in America, which has historical ties to the Russian Orthodox Church.
He admits writing a letter of apology to the family years later in which he said, “I probably stepped over a pastoral line.” But he claims those remarks were for the talk about puberty and nothing more sinister.
Storheim was the parish priest at Holy Trinity Sobor Orthodox Church on Manitoba Avenue at the time of the alleged incidents. Storheim had befriended the boys’ family while he served at another parish in another community and the brothers visited him separately that summer.
Storheim had been the most senior cleric of his church in Canada when the charges were laid in the fall of 2011, holding the title of Archbishop of Ottawa and Canada, but was subsequently suspended from that post pending the outcome of the criminal charges and an internal church investigation.