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10.8.10 Three Stories From Winnepeg's Free Press


Archbishop takes leave of absence as Winnipeg police investigate sex abuse claims

By: Gabrielle Giroday
Posted: 5/10/2010 6:15 PM | Last Modified: 5/10/2010 10:28 PM


Winnipeg police are investigating claims of sexual abuse that surfaced after about 30 years against a former Winnipeg priest who’s now a high-ranking Canadian archbishop.
An American advocacy group for abuse survivors said the claims against Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim), the Canadian head of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), Archdiocese of Canada, started surfacing two years ago. The group said they involve two now-adult men who allege the abuse happened in the early 1980s, while the two visited Winnipeg.


The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) says in a news release that Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa, the head of the church’s Canadian archdiocese, asked for and was granted a three-month leave as of last Friday.


The archbishop, 64, had posted a letter on the archdiocese’s website last week suggesting the reason for his leave was health issues.


“Having also seen my physician, I was informed that this leave is rather overdue,” he wrote. “It is my intention and hope to maintain as much solitude and silence as possible.”
But the subsequent release from the church, posted Friday on their website, stated otherwise.


“I have blessed the church’s office for review of sexual misconduct allegations to work in conjunction with the Canadian police authorities,” said Metropolitan Jonah, speaking on behalf of the church.


He said the church would comply with its policies and procedures “in order to obtain the necessary information needed to bring about a proper resolution.”
An online biography of the Alberta-born Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) says he was ordained as a priest in 1979 in New York, and later worked as rector of the Holy Trinity Sobor in Winnipeg from 1984 to 1987, before becoming a bishop in Edmonton. Larson said the organization forwarded information they’d received to the Winnipeg police about three months ago.


SNAP Orthodox released a statement Tuesday that criticized church officials for what they said were delays in coming forward with complaints and asked people with information to contact an investigator with Division 41, the division in charge of sex crimes and child abuse investigations. In a letter posted on SNAP Orthodox’s website, the organization said the alleged abuse involved two boys who were 10 years old and allegedly came to the attention of the church more than 20 years ago.
A Winnipeg police spokesman confirmed there’s an ongoing investigation.


Storheim has not been charged with any criminal offences.


Gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca with files from The Canadian Press

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Archbishop accused of abuse
Allegations date back to ‘80s in Winnipeg ; Head of Orthodox church takes a leave

By: Gabrielle Giroday
Posted: 6/10/2010 1:00 AM


Winnipeg police are investigating claims a Canadian archbishop sexually abused boys when he was a priest in Winnipeg almost 30 years ago.


An American advocacy group for abuse survivors said the claims against Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim), head of the Orthodox Church in America, Archdiocese of Canada, surfaced two years ago.


Two men say they were abused in the early 1980s while they visited Winnipeg as 10-year-olds.


“I find it extremely disturbing that they have kept this a secret, I find it disturbing that they have not suspended this man from his duties and his responsibility, and taken him out of his position of power over innocent people,” said Cappy Larson, the San Francisco-based co-founder of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Orthodox, which bills itself as a resource for abuse survivors in the Orthodox churches.


The group says the matter came to the attention of the church more than 20 years ago.


“I’m very upset that there are young boys who are possibly in danger and they have done nothing to warn any of the parents or anybody in the diocese,” said Larson.


“I believe that they should have done something 25 years ago, but at least these last two years, when these allegations resurfaced, this man should have been removed immediately and people should have been warned.”


The archbishop, who has not been charged with any criminal offence, went on a leave of absence last week.
Bishop Irénée (Rochon) of Quebec City said he’ll fill in for “however long it takes” and the church’s Canada office is surprised by the allegations.


“We don’t know anything. We were never contacted by anybody... nobody ever phoned us or told us anything specifically,” he said.


He said the archbishop “claims he doesn’t know anything about it” and is troubled by the news.


“Everybody’s upset about it, the whole diocese, Archdiocese of Canada, is upset about it,” he said.


An online biography of the Alberta-born Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) says he was ordained as a priest in 1979 in New York. He worked as rector of the Holy Trinity Sobor in Winnipeg from 1984 to 1987, before becoming a bishop in Edmonton.


Larson said the organization forwarded information to Winnipeg police in the last three months.


SNAP Orthodox released a statement Tuesday that criticized church officials for what they said were “secrecy and delays,” and asked people with information to contact a Winnipeg police investigator with the division in charge of sex crimes and child abuse.


A church official in New York said they have been “co-operating” with the Winnipeg police over allegations of “misconduct,” after police contacted them about two weeks ago.


Archpriest Eric Tosi, OCA secretary, did not say how long the church had known about the allegations and pointed media to a prepared statement on the church’s website.
“I’m very cautious, as you can imagine, I’ve been advised by a host of attorneys,” said Tosi, in a phone interview from OCA’s headquarters in Long Island.


The abuse allegedly happened while Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) was working as a priest in Winnipeg, he said.
A statement released Sunday said the archbishop requested a leave in response to the allegations and officials were working with police to “in order to obtain the necessary information needed to bring about a proper resolution.”
“We offer our heartfelt prayers to the Great Shepherd and Healer, our Lord Jesus Christ, that all parties involved in this will be blessed with God’s peace, love and healing,” said the statement.


A letter from the archbishop on the church’s Canadian website said he was taking a leave as of Oct. 1.
“Having also seen my physician, I was informed that this leave is rather overdue,” said the archbishop. It later says: “It is my intention, and hope, to maintain as much solitude and silence as possible.”


A Winnipeg police spokesman confirmed there’s an ongoing probe.


gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

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Church confirms Ottawa archbishop investigated for decades-old abuse allegations
By: The Canadian Press
Posted: 5/10/2010 9:00 PM |

Last Modified: 6/10/2010 2:54 AM

WINNIPEG - A Canadian Orthodox archbishop is being investigated on allegations of sexual misconduct stemming from more than 20 years ago when he was a priest in Winnipeg.


The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) says in a news release that Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa, the head of the church’s Canadian archdiocese, asked for and was granted a three-month leave as of last Friday.
The archbishop, 64, had posted a letter on the archdiocese’s website last week suggesting the reason for his leave was health issues.


“Having also seen my physician, I was informed that this leave is rather overdue,” he wrote. “It is my intention and hope to maintain as much solitude and silence as possible.”
But the subsequent release from the church, posted Friday on their website, stated otherwise.


“I have blessed the church’s office for review of sexual misconduct allegations to work in conjunction with the Canadian police authorities,” said Metropolitan Jonah, speaking on behalf of the church.


He said the church would comply with its policies and procedures “in order to obtain the necessary information needed to bring about a proper resolution.”


No criminal charges have been filed in the case.


Winnipeg police could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.


Melanie Sakoda of the U.S.-based Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said her group has been urging the church to investigate the allegations for some time.


“We heard two years ago that a clergyman had filed a written report alleging that incidents took place more than 20 years ago,” she said in an interview from Moraga, Calif.
She said a colleague from SNAP contacted the church at the time and asked why no investigation had been launched.
“The first reason that we were given was that the report, having been made by a clergyman, was second-hand information and so they couldn’t do an investigation unless victims contacted them,” she said.


She said her group’s understanding is that the allegations involve pre-teen boys.


During the archbishop’s leave, Bishop Irne of Quebec City will fill in as head of the Canadian archdiocese, the church said.


According to a biography of Seraphim on the church’s website, he was born Kenneth William Storheim in Edmonton.


He served as a priest in Alberta, North Carolina and London, Ont., between 1981 and 1984, when he became rector of Holy Trinity Sobor in Winnipeg, where he served until 1987.


He became an auxiliary bishop of Edmonton in 1987, and became ruling bishop of the archdiocese in 1990. He was elevated to the rank of archbishop of Ottawa and Canada in 2007.


-- by Gwen Dambrofsky in Edmonton

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