Naughty archbishop won't be defrocked

Winnipeg Sun/April 02, 2014

By Kristin AnnableĀ 

A disgraced archbishop recently found guilty of sexually assaulting a Winnipeg boy in the 1980s will not be defrocked by the Archdiocese of Canada.

Instead, Archbishop Seraphim Storheim was retired quietly by the church.

The decision has outraged critics who say the decision to spare Storheim of the defrocking goes directly against the church's sexual misconduct policy.

"I think they are being very cautious, there is a lot of sentiment of support for him in Canada," said Melanie Sakoda, the Orthodox director of SNAP, also known as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"The thing that bothered me is their policy seems to be very clear: If he is found to have abused a child, he is to be defrocked."

The archbishop still awaits sentencing after being found guilty in January of sexually assaulting a pre-teen boy in the mid-1980s while he was the rector at Holy Trinity Sobor in Winnipeg.

The church's sexual misconduct policy, updated last fall, states any clergy found to have committed child sexual abuse shall be deposed and permanently prohibited from exercising any functions or responsibilities of parish ministry.

Officials for the Orthodox Church of America, a parent organization to the Archdiocese of Canada, say the decision to retire came from a need to replace Storheim as ruling bishop in Canada and they have not ruled out defrocking the archbishop.

Archpriest Eric George Tosi, secretary for the OCA, said as per canonical law, a final ruling on Storheim's fate will be in the hands of a 12-member spiritual court. The court cannot convene until the church's initial investigation is complete.

An arduous process, which Sakoda says isn't necessary.

"The trouble with that, is unlike the Catholic Church, in the Orthodox church the canons are sort of guidelines, they are not law," Sakoda said. "If they wanted to do this, whether it is a panel of 12 bishops or not, they could. I think that sends a message and it sends the wrong message."

In a letter dated March 21, the church decided Storheim would be retired and continue sitting as a retired member of the clergy, take communion with the clergy and worship in his choice of a church in Edmonton or Spencerville, Ont.

The church had suspended Storheim in November 2010 when the allegations of abuse first surfaced, saying his fate within the church would be decided by a commission after the criminal procedures had been completed.

Storheim will be sentenced sometime in June and after that, his lawyer said he would filing an appeal.

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