Lawyer, Archbishop Offer Conflicting Testimony Regarding +Seraphim's Parish Visits
In response to SNAP's recent criticism that +Seraphim (Storheim), the suspended and charged Archbishop of Ottawa , appeared to be intending to visit an OCA parish in British Columbia in potential violation of his bail conditions (read that story here), Storheim's lawyer Jeff Grindin stated to a Winnipeg newspaper: "Not likely.... He's got certain bail conditions, and as far as I know, he's abiding by every one of them." Writing to OCANews.org today however, retired Canadian Archbishop Lazor (Puhalo) affirmed that "Vladika Seraphim has visited a number of the parishes in Canada -- and at the invitation of the parishes."
The Lawyer Denies
In an article in the Winnipeg Free Press on September 26, Grindin, a noted Winnipeg criminal defense attorney, spoke about his client and his bail conditions. The unattributed article states:
" The case of an Orthodox archbishop facing sex-crime charges in Manitoba is headed back to court for a preliminary inquiry later this fall.
Archbishop Seraphim Storheim was the highest-ranking Canadian cleric in the Orthodox Church of America until church officials suspended him in November 2010.
Winnipeg police laid charges following the church's suspension.
The preliminary inquiry is scheduled for two days in mid-November, Storheim's lawyer, Jeff Gindin, said Friday.
The charges against Storheim came after a lengthy police investigation into allegations the former Winnipeg cleric sexually abused two teenage boys 30 years ago.
A Chicago-based advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse that is monitoring the case said in an email Friday the archbishop may be violating his bail conditions -- to avoid contact with minors -- by visiting a church this weekend in Victoria, B.C.
Not likely, according to his lawyer.
Gindin said his client is restricted to two addresses, one in Edmonton and another in Ottawa. One is his home and the other is his sister's house.
Even to visit his sister, the cleric must submit dates of the trip through his lawyer before the court approves the travel.
"He's got certain bail conditions, and as far as I know, he's abiding by every one of them," Gindin said.
The Archbishop Affirms
Grindin's assurances have been contradicted however by retired Canadian Archbishop Lazor (Puhalo). In a comment to OCANews.org today Puhalo reveals:
"Vladika Seraphim has visited a number of the parishes in Canada, and at the invitation of the parishes. It appears that the court has given leave for him to be in the churches.
Vladika Seraphim also visited Holy Resurrection Sobor in Vancouver, and the Sobor in Saskatoon. He is, indeed often present in the National Cathedral in Ottawa.
Canadians will pass a judgment about Vladika Seraphim before the decision of the Civil court. Moreover, Vladika Seraphim is deeply loved by the faithful in Canada, and they are reticent to leap on any media bandwagons and take it for granted that he is guilty unless proved so beyond any reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Canadians are less affected by media-ism than Americans are, and we really do respect the Constitutional "presumption of innocence unless proved guilty beyond any reasonable doubt." This "proved" has not yet occurred, so the parishes that invite the beloved Vladika to visit are joyous when he visits. That will not be pleasing to all, but that is the reality."
Witnesses confirm that Storheim did in fact attend a Great Vespers service last weekend at the BC parish, and stayed for a meal afterwards.He did not serve, however.
On the other hand, OCANews.org has also been informed by witnesses that Archbishop Seraphim has not only attended services in the National Cathedral in Ottawa, as Archbishop Lazor states, but he has heard confessions there after being suspended.
Clearly, Mr. Grindin needs to speak to his client. The OCA Crisis Management Committee, Legal Counsel, Legal Committee and Lesser Synod needs to speak to Metropolitan Jonah, the locum tenens, and Bishop Irenee, the administrator of Canada, who must be allowing the suspended Archbishop to continue to make parish visits despite his suspension.
And one can only hope no one speaks to the Winnipeg police and courts, lest the Archbishop's bail be revoked prior to his mid-November hearing.
- Mark Stokoe