WINNIPEG — The archbishop of an orthodox church in Canada has been charged with two counts of sexual assault after turning himself in to Winnipeg police.
Kenneth William Storheim, who heads the Canadian archdiocese of the Orthodox Church in America, is accused of “historical” assaults on two individuals.
“The specifics of the case, or the investigation, obviously, we can’t go into,” Const. Natalie Aitken said Thursday.
“Our main priority is to protect the identities of the victims who have come forward.”
Those identities are subject to a publication ban. A California-based advocacy group called the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests has said the complainants are two men who were boys when Storheim worked as a rector in Winnipeg between 1984 and 1987.
Storheim’s lawyer said the archbishop reacted with shock and dismay when he learned of the charges.
“He is extremely adamant that this did not happen, that he did nothing improper or illegal,” lawyer Jeffery Gindin told CTV News.
Storheim, 64, had earlier served as a parish priest in Alberta, North Carolina, London, Ont., and other areas, according to a biography on the church’s website. He became an auxiliary bishop in Edmonton in 1987 and was elevated to archbishop 20 years later.
Winnipeg police said they are not aware of any more complainants, but did not rule out further investigation.
“If anyone is out there that has information regarding this individual or previous instances, our sex crimes unit would definitely like to speak with them,” Aitken said.
Police began their investigation in June and issued an arrest warrant last week. Storheim, who is now known as Archbishop Seraphim in his role as head of the church’s Canadian branch, flew to Winnipeg from Edmonton and turned himself in at police headquarters.
Storheim posted a letter on the archdiocese’s website in October which said he was taking a leave of absence for health reasons. One week later, church officials issued a statement which said Storheim was on leave because of the police investigation.
The Orthodox Church in America counts some 700 parishes, monasteries, missions and other institutions across Canada, the United States and Mexico. It is separate from other Orthodox churches such as the Greek Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Storheim has been released from custody pending his next court appearance.