(Winnipeg Free Press) - A high-ranking former orthodox archbishop has been ordered to stand trial on historical Manitoba sex-abuse charges. Former is the wrong word. To my knowledge he has not been laicized or retired.
Seraphim Storheim appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom Wednesday for the conclusion of a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed. A court-ordered ban prevents specific details from being published.
Provincial court Judge Rocky Pollack ruled the Crown had met the standard of proof required to move the case along. The case will return to court in March for the setting of a trial date.
Storheim has pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing two teenaged boys while he was a priest in Winnipeg 30 years ago. He remains free on bail with several conditions, including having no contact with children.
Storheim was the highest-ranking Canadian cleric in the Orthodox Church in America until church officials suspended him last November, days after Winnipeg police laid charges against him following a lengthy investigation into allegations that only recently emerged. None of the charges has been proven and he is presumed innocent.
A U.S.-based victims' group spoke out following Storheim's arrest, angry that a parish was using a church website to raise defence funds for Storheim. A Vancouver parish of the Russian Orthodox Church in America posted three messages of support for Storheim, including one with an address where funds for his defence could be sent.
Last December, the Orthodox Church distanced itself from the Vancouver parish with a statement that said in part: "The Archdiocese of Canada for the Orthodox Church in America is not in any way associated with any legal fund or other defensive effort being set up to aid Archbishop Seraphim."