|Molestation Charges against Archbishop Unfathomable: Family
By Andrew Hanon
October 6, 2010
The sister of an Orthodox archbishop accused of child abuse fears he’s the victim of a vicious smear campaign.
Dianne Storheim-Hill was “shocked” when she heard last week that her brother Archbishop Seraphim Storheim, the Canadian head of the Orthodox Church in America, is being investigated by Winnipeg police over 25-year-old allegations of child abuse.
“I’ve always thought that would be the perfect way to smear someone you hate. And he has enemies,” she said Tuesday. “An allegation gets out over the Internet and unlike how it should be, you’re guilty until proven innocent.”
Storheim-Hill, who grew up with her brother and two other siblings in Edmonton, explained that as the head of a large, sprawling archdiocese, Storheim must often make tough decisions that sometimes lead to resentment and bitterness.
“People are jealous of him, or don’t agree with something he did. He disciplines people and they don’t like it,” she said.
On Oct. 3, the OCA’s synod of bishops announced that Storheim will take a three-month leave of absence during the police investigation.
According to Pokrov, an advocacy group for victims of abuse by Orthodox clergy, Storheim is accused of molesting two 10-year-old boys while he was a church rector in Winnipeg from 1984 to 1987. Pokrov alleges that the two complainants, now in their mid-30s, claim there were other victims.
But Storheim-Hill describes the archbishop as a “loving, caring, selfless, sweet, forgiving man. Any of those fit him.”
Her 66-year-old brother “is not doing well. He was exhausted before this because he travels all the time. At the most, three days in a week he’d be at home. It’s hard — he was always the shoulder we cried on.”
She said she hasn’t spoken to her brother since he took the leave, but has communicated through email.
One of Pokrov’s founders said the group had heard about the Winnipeg allegations two years ago. Cappy Larson said they were told the victims went to the church back in the 1980s, but nothing was done.
“We were told these things had been reported 25 years ago, before (Stroheim) was even a bishop and that supposedly that the synod of bishops knew about this and they went ahead and consecrated him bishop anyway,” she said.
Seraphim was born Kenneth Storheim, the oldest of four children.
Dianne said their parents were devout Christians who raised them in the Anglican Church. Kenneth, who graduated from the University of Alberta in 1968, was ordained an Anglican priest and served at Christ Church in Edmonton and St. Mary’s in Ponoka.
He was drawn to the Orthodox church because of its “deeper and fuller” spirituality, she said. Dianne and her sister Linda went with him.
Storheim was a priest in Alberta in 1981-82. He was in Winnipeg from 1984 until 1987, when he was appointed Bishop of Edmonton.
In 1990 he was enthroned as Archbishop of the diocese of Canada, a position he’s held ever since. He lives in Ottawa.
Dianne said she and her siblings are firmly behind their brother.
“So far all we’ve heard is heresay. There’ve been no names, no deeds described,” she said. “No one believes he did anything wrong.
She added: “My brother (Gordon) said that if anything, Seraphim might be naive about how a hug was taken or some consolation to someone, but we just can’t fathom it.”
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