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Top Canadian Archbishop Arrested, Charged with Sexual Assault

TORONTO (RNS) A Canadian Orthodox archbishop has been charged with sexual assault on two 10-year-old boys about 25 years ago.
Kenneth William Storheim, known as Archbishop Seraphim, flew from his home in Edmonton, Alberta and surrendered to police in Winnipeg, Manitoba last week.

He was charged with molesting two 10-year-old boys while serving as rector at Holy Trinity Sobor Cathedral in Winnipeg between 1984 and 1987.

Citing a publication ban intended to protect the victims’ identities, police released no further details, except that they are not aware of any other complaints. Police began their investigation in July and a warrant for Storheim’s arrest was issued Nov. 16.

Storheim, 64, has jurisdiction over all of Canada for the New York-based Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

On its website last month, the OCA said its bishops received a police report alleging “misconduct” by Storheim “some 30 years ago,” and that the archbishop had been granted a leave of absence.

Storheim posted a letter on the archdiocese’s website in October saying he was taking a leave of absence for health reasons.

“These are very serious charges that this individual is facing,” Winnipeg police spokeswoman Constable Natalie Aitken told Canadian media outlets. “I think it was very courageous for (the victims) to come forward.”

Storheim was ordained a priest in New York in 1979, and served parishes in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and North Carolina. He became a bishop in Edmonton in 1989 and was elevated to Archbishop of Ottawa and of Canada in March 2007.

His lawyer, Jeff Ginden, told CBC News last week that Storheim has no plans to quit his job. “He has faith in the system that justice will be done,” Ginden said, adding Storheim is “adamant” he isn’t guilty. “He’s shocked (at) the allegations.”

The Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said it has been seeking an investigation into complaints against Storheim for two years.

The OCA, with its roots in the Russian Orthodox Church, is the second-largest Orthodox church in the U.S., with nearly 85,000 U.S. members, according to recent data. Data from 2004 reported 10,000 members in Canada and some 700 parishes, monasteries, missions and other institutions in North America.

The OCA says it has created an internal “Synodal Commission” to probe the allegations. Storheim was released from custody on his own recognizance and ordered to appear in court on Jan. 10.