+Seraphim Arrested on Sexual Assualt Allegations Stemming from 1985
• Archbishop Questioned, Charged, and Released
• Archbishop Remains Silent on Charges, But His
Defense Attorney Does Not
• Synodal Commission Recieves Blessing to Begin
Church's Own Investigation
The following announcement was issued by the Winnipeg Police yesterday afternoon:
"Historical Sexual Assault Arrest
In July 2010, the Winnipeg Police Service Sex Crimes Unit entered into an investigation regarding a historical sexual assault.
On November 24th, 2010 at approximately 9:30 a.m., Kenneth William STORHEIM, 64 years, turned himself into police and was arrested on the strength of a warrant. He has been charged with two counts of Sexual Assault.
As a publication ban is in effect, no further information will be provided to protect the identities of the victim(s) involved.
STORHEIM has been released on a Recognizance with a cash surety to appear in court at a later date.
Anyone with information that might assist investigators with this matter is asked to contact the Sex Crimes Unit at 986-6245." (Read the announcement here.)
AP Story Reveals Details of Arrest, Charge
Major newsservices such as the AP, and Canadian media such as the CBC, first published the story, which broke on Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The AP story was subsequently carreid on several major newspapers' web editions, including the New York Times.
The AP story offered some additional details to the sparse Police report:
"Canadian Orthodox Bishop Faces Sex Assault Charges
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 25, 2010
Filed at 8:45 p.m. EST
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — The archbishop of an orthodox church in Canada was charged with two counts of sexual assault after turning himself in, police in Winnipeg, Manitoba said Thursday.
Const. Natalie Aitken said Kenneth William Storheim, who heads the Canadian archdiocese of the Orthodox Church in America, has been accused of assaulting two people.
Storheim, known as Archbishop Seraphim in his role as head of the church’s Canadian branch, flew to Manitoba from Edmonton, Alberta and turned himself in at police headquarters, said Aitken, who would not provide further details on the charges.
Storheim, 64, had earlier served as a parish priest in Alberta, North Carolina, Ontario and other areas, according to a biography on the church’s website. He became an auxiliary bishop in Edmonton in 1987 and was elevated to archbishop 20 years later.
Winnipeg police said they are not aware of any more complainants.
Storheim posted a letter on the archdiocese’s website in October saying he was taking a leave of absence for health reasons. One week later, church officials issued a statement that said Storheim was on leave because of a police investigation.
Police began their investigation in June and issued an arrest warrant last week.
The Orthodox Church in America counts some 700 parishes, monasteries, missions and other institutions across Canada, the United States and Mexico. It is separate from other Orthodox churches such as the Greek Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Storheim has been released from custody pending his next court appearance."
According to CBC News, quoting another Winnipeg officer, Constable Robert Carver, the arrest warrant for +Seraphim was issued 10 days ago, on November 16th. The officer confirmed the alleged victims "were two pre-teen boys"; and that +Seraphim has agreed to appear in court "on January 10th".
You can read that CBC story in full here, with local coverage in Edmonton (+Seraphim's hometown) here, as well as international coverage through the Canadian service of the BBC here.
Archdiocese Breaks News to Council, Clergy
Upon news of the Archbishop's questioning and subsequent arrest, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Archimandrite Alexander (Pihach) sent the following statement to Canadian clergy and Archdiocesean council members:
"On Nov 24, 2010, Archbishop Seraphim was interviewed by Winnipeg City Police. Two charges of sexual assault of minors were laid against Archbishop Seraphim at the beginning of the process. Nothing has been proven against the archbishop. In all probability, this matter will now go to trial. The matter is proceeding much as Archbishop Seraphim expected, because of the high profile nature of the situation, and the notoriety associated with it.
Events are alleged to have taken place 25 years ago, when the men making complaints were children. Therefore, a publication ban has been placed against the release of their names. Any release of their names is a violation of the Winnipeg court order.
In accordance with very strong legal advice to do so, Archbishop Seraphim has remained silent to the allegations against him. This provides the opportunity for his lawyer to obtain, through the courts, the evidence Winnipeg police have compiled. Archbishop Seraphim will then be able to respond to a full picture of the allegations made against him. Continued prayers are required for all concerned in this situation.
As information becomes available, it will be provided to the faithful of the archdiocese."
Defense Attorney Speaks
If the Archbishop was excersizing his right to remain silent, his defense attorney was not. In speaking with the CBC, cited earlier, Jeff Ginden, a noted Winnipeg criminal defense attorney with almost 40 years experience, is quoted as follows:
"His (+Seraphim) Winnipeg defence lawyer, Jeff Ginden, said Thursday that Storheim has no plans to quit his job and will remain on a leave of absence as head of the church.
'He hasn’t been given the police report, he doesn’t know what the disclosure is. All he knows is one thing — those things he’s not responsible for,' Ginden said.
'It’s gonna be an anxious time,' he said. 'Obviously it’s not a pleasant thing to be accused of things that you don’t feel happened.'
'He has faith in the system that justice will be done,' Ginden said, adding Storheim knows little of the substance of the allegations against him."
OCA Investigation Begins
The idea of a Synodal Commission responsible for the internal Church investigation into allegations concerning +Seraphim was blessed by the Holy Synod of Bishops during a special Synodal session on October 13, 2010. However, the scope and nature of the Commission’s work was only approved by the Metropolitan on November 23rd, and the Commission’s mandate only sent to members of that Commission, ironically, the day before Seraphim was arrested.
As reported earlier by OCANews.org, the Synodal Commission will be led by Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Melchisedek and will include 5 Canadians: Protopresbyter Mirone Klysh, Archpriest Richard Hawrish, Dr. Lila Amirali, MD, Dr. Thomas Kolivakis MD and Mr. David Grier. Additional consultants from particular fields of expertise may be included, as circumstances require.
Their report will be presented to the Synod, who will then determine what is to be reported to the Archdiocese of Canada and the OCA as a whole.
- Mark Stokoe