Orthodox archbishop’s sex assault trial set to begin
The trial of Canada’s highest-ranking Orthodox Church cleric, accused of sexually abusing boys over two decades ago, is set to begin today in Winnipeg.
Archbishop Kenneth William (Seraphim) Storheim is accused of assaulting two pre-teen boys who were both members of the church more than 25 years ago, when he worked at a parish in Winnipeg’s North End.
The jury trial is scheduled to begin on Monday morning.
The allegations surfaced in 2008, when a clergyman filed a written report to the national church.
Storheim turned himself in to Winnipeg police in November 2010, when two charges of sexual assault were laid against him.
Storheim has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Jeff Gindin, Storheim’s lawyer in Winnipeg, told CBC News the last 2½ years have been difficult for his client.
“It’s a hard thing to be facing. It’s been a long wait; he’s anxious to get it done with,” Gindin said.
“You have to have faith that things will work themselves out.”
Internal investigation underway
Storheim was suspended by the Orthodox Church of America after the charges were laid, but he is still being paid and could be re-installed as archbishop if he is found not guilty.
The Orthodox Church of America has launched an internal investigation into the matter.
“It’s been a sad and stressful time for everyone. The church has been praying for everybody involved just that God’s will would be done,” said Matthew Estabrooks, the lawyer representing the church’s Archdiocese of Canada.
Melanie Sakoda of a Chicago-based victims’ organization called SNAP — Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests — said the group pushed for years for an investigation into complaints involving Storheim.
“It’s certainly been a long time coming, but I’m really grateful that those men will have the opportunity to tell their truth. In the U.S., a lot of people don’t have that opportunity because of the statute of limitations we have down here,” Sakoda said.
“I hope justice will be done in the trial. But I think no matter the outcome of the trial, those two men are winners for speaking up and coming forward.”
Sakoda said she hopes the case will encourage more sexual-abuse survivors to come forward.
“There’s been a lot in the media about Roman Catholics and sexual abuse, and not so much about the Orthodox,” she said.
“As a result, most of our survivors are afraid to come forward and speak out, and I’m hoping that having this high-profile case will help more survivors come forward.”