|Archbishop Seraphim Takes Leave of Absence Amid Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
By Mark Stokoe
October 3, 2010
In a statement issued Saturday evening, October 2nd in Ottawa, Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) announced he had resigned from all his duties with the Synod of the OCA on September 19th, and requested a ”Leave of Absence” from his duties with the Archdiocese of Canada, effective October 1. In his letter, the Archbishop did not mention a specific reason for his unexpected and sudden request, other than stating that his physician had informed him it “was overdue”. In a subsequent announcement from the OCA, posted this evening, October 3rd, on OCA.org, the Church confirmed that the Archbishop of Canada was being investigated for sexual misconduct.
The Archbishop’s Announcement
The Archbishop made the announcement of his departure personally to his Archdiocesan Council in Ottawa on October 1st, and subsequently published what can only be called a disingenous letter to the Archdiocese. The statement reads:
“Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am informing all at this time that on 19 September 2010, I wrote to Metropolitan Jonah and asked the blessing to resign from all the duties I held with the Holy Synod, in particular those of the Lesser Synod, and Chairing External Affairs, and Chairing the Board of Theological Education. Metropolitan Jonah then responded by blessing this resignation from these responsibilities.
Shortly afterwards, the Metropolitan with the Lesser Synod, gave me a Leave-of Absence for three months from my responsibilities within the Archdiocese. This Leave then began in part, but with the exception of several particular matters that had to be completed first. The last of these is the opening of this Archdiocesan Council Meeting on 1 October at about 1300 hrs in Ottawa. Having also seen my physician, I was informed that this Leave is rather over-due.
During the course of the Leave, Bishop Irenee (Rochon), our Vicar Bishop, together with the Chancellor, Igumen Alexander (Pihach), and the Secretary, Protodeacon Nazari Polataiko will care for all of the pastoral service, and the administrative service of the Archdiocese.
As all ought by now to be aware, the Office of the Archdiocese is in the process of its move to the Cathedral premises in Ottawa, a process which takes time, and which should be completed before the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. The telephone number fi of the Office has been forwarded to Protodeacon Nizari’s mobile telephone number since 10 September. The general e-mail address of the Archdiocesan Bishop(firstname.lastname@example.org) will remain as it is, and be administered by Protodeacon Nazari.
It is my intention, and hope, to maintain as much solitude and silence as possible.
Giving thanks to God for everything, and in particular giving thanks to God for all the Christ-loving labour and service being offered to Him by the clergy and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Canada, I remain,
With love in Christ,
The Archbishop of Ottawa and Canada
The OCA Announcement
The OCA, however, issued its own announcement the following day, on Sunday evening, October 3rd, stating:
“The Lesser Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting at the OCA Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, NY, September 21 - 24, 2010, heard an official report that police in Canada have received a complaint alleging misconduct committed by His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada some 30 years ago.
An investigation is now is progress.
In response to this, Archbishop Seraphim requested a leave of absence.
On behalf of the Holy Synod of Bishops, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, made the following statement:
“I have blessed the Church’s Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations to work in conjunction with the Canadian police authorities and to comply with the Orthodox Church in America’s policies and procedures 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. During Archbishop Seraphim’s leave of absence, His Grace, Bishop Irenee of Quebec City will function as the Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada.”
In keeping with OCA sexual misconduct guidelines, the OCA did not elaborate on the charges that have been leveled against the 66-year old hierarch, other than revealing them.
OCANews.org, however, has learned that the Winnipeg police have contacted potential witnesses in both Canada and the United States. The allegations stem from Seraphim’s time, some 30 years ago, while serving as a parish priest in Canada. (There is no statute of limitations regarding sexual misconduct in Canada.) According to sources close to Syosset, the Canadian police contacted the OCA Chancery immediately before the Metropolitan Council meeting last month, informing them of the allegations. The Archbishop, who had flown to New York to attend the joint MC-Synod retreat on September 20th, subsequently choose not to attend the meeting, but instead, after meeting with the Lesser Synod, offered his resignation from all synodal duties, and took a voluntary three month leave of absence that became fully effective October 1st.
+ Seraphim’s Career
A former Anglican clergyman, +Seraphim was received into Orthodoxy in 1978. He was ordained to the diaconate in October 1979, by Archbishop Sylvester of Montreal in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, and to the priesthood a month later by Metropolitan Theodosius at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY. He lived at New Valaam monastery in Finland for eight months in 1980-1981, and received a Master of Theology degree from SVS that same year.
He served parishes in Alberta in 1982, North Carolina in 1983, London, Ontario in 1984, and Winnipeg, Manitoba from 1984 - 1987. He received monastic tonsure on April 3, 1987, at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA.and was consecrated auxiliary Bishop of Edmonton on June 13, 1987. He became the ruling bishop of the Archdiocese of Canada in 1990, and Archbishop in 2007.
Archbishop Seraphim served in a number of administrative capacities in the Orthodox Church in America. He was secretary of the Synod of Bishops, chairman of the Department of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations and chairman of the Board of Theological Education. He was also co-chairman of the Bishops’ Dialogue (North America) between the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA] and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In 2002 +Seraphim was one of two candidates nominated to replace Metropolitan Theodosius, but the former Metropolitan Herman was chosen by the Synod instead. More recently he was cited in the Special Investigative Committee's Report for failing to act on allegations that the former Chancellor Robert Kondratick had attempted to misuse charity funds while in Moscow. (Read that Report here.) A few days later +Seraphim was appointed Administrator of the Metropolitan See of the Orthodox Church in America upon the forced retirement of Metropolitan Herman in September 2008. In November 2008 he surprised delegates by declining nomination as Metropolitan Herman’s successor, citing the fact that as he was “a Canadian”, and thus, as a “foreigner”, his election would somehow be problematic. (Read that story here.)
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