Canada--Convicted Orthodox archbishop defrocked; victims’ group is grateful
For immediate release: Monday, October 26, 2015
A Canadian archbishop criminally convicted of child sexual abuse has finally been defrocked by his synod. A support group for victims is grateful for this decision, but wants the bishops to do more.
Archbishop Seraphaim Storheim, who was once the highest ranking official in Canada for the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), was removed from the priesthood this past week, according to the Church’s website.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are grateful that the OCA has finally applied the mandates of its sexual misconduct policy to Storheim.
However, the victims’ group wants church officials to do more. Melanie Jula Sakoda, the Orthodox Christian Director for SNAP explained.
“I’m grateful that the OCA has permanently removed Archbishop Seraphim from ministry. It was the only option according to their guidelines. However, I think the faithful and the public need more from the synod.”
Sakoda pointed out that SNAP wrote to the bishops on July 23, 2015, following Storheim's release from prison. In that letter the group not only asked the synod to defrock Storheim, they also asked them to:
1. Inform the faithful and the public of the archbishop’s current whereabouts and any restrictions imposed by the Canadian government;
2. Use their authority to restrict Storheim’s access to children and parishes; and
3. Caution and alert families at risk, particularly those who believe the archbishop was wrongfully convicted and who may put children at risk to demonstrate their trust in Storheim.
Cappy Larson is the other Orthodox Christian Director for SNAP. She added, “The synod still needs to make public what they know about the conditions of the former archbishop’s release from prison. If Father Seraphim, as monks are addressed in the Orthodox Church, is residing in an OCA facility, the bishops need to make sure that he is forbidden to be alone with minors and that he only attends services where authorized. Even if the Canadian government did not impose any restrictions on the former archbishop, the Church can go the extra mile to protect kids who may not understand the significance of his change in status -- 'Father Seraphim' is still a potent title to a child.”
Finally, the Executive Director of SNAP, David Clohessy, urged the bishops to have church officials reach out to every parishioner in Canada, reminding them that children must not be put at risk. “There are people in the archdiocese who believe that the former archbishop was wrongfully convicted. These ‘true believers’ may not see any danger in allowing their young ones to interact with Father Seraphim, but the bishops have a responsibility to do what they can to prevent this from happening.”
Sakoda concluded, “The OCA has a moral duty to continue to monitor Father Seraphim, and to alert and caution families who may be at risk.”