Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Priest walked around house naked, trial hears

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A man who alleges he was sexually abused by an Orthodox priest almost 30 years ago said the man would regularly walk around his house naked and usually spent breakfast time lying on the floor holding his genitals.

The man, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, told the trial of Seraphim Storheim he was shocked to see the priest naked.

"Seeing a naked man (for the first time) was quite disturbing," the man, who was 11 years old at the time, testified today.

Storheim is charged with two counts of sexual assault involving two brothers during the summer of 1985. He pleaded not guilty to the charges when the trial began Monday morning.

Storheim is an archbishop with the Orthodox Church in America, which has historical ties to the Russian Orthodox Church. He had been the most senior cleric of his church in Canada when the charges were laid in the fall of 2011, holding the title of Archbishop of Ottawa and Canada but was subsequently suspended from the post pending the outcome of the criminal charges and an internal church investigation.

The man said he and his brother — who testified Monday — separately visited with Storheim in the summer of 1985 and stayed at his home.

The man said he was surprised when Storheim came into his bedroom at night and wanted to inspect his pajamas for semen stains and also examined his genital area for pubic hair.

The man said Storheim told him he was conducting sexual-education sessions for the young boy, who was being raised by a single mother.

"At this point, I did not know what was wrong or what was right," the man said.

The man said he never told his mother about the incidents and tried to block them out of his mind. However, he said he confided to his mother what happened when his brother hysterically called home on a daily basis during his visit to Storheim, suspecting his brother was being subjected to the same sexual abuse.

The man said he never again talked about the incident and never discussed it with anyone until almost 20 years later. The sight of another priest in 2004 who bore a striking resemblance to Storheim prompted him to see a counsellor and write about what happened to him.

He said another priest from the Orthodox Church in America contacted him in 2009 to apologize for not taking his concerns seriously when he was a child.

The man credited that priest with encouraging him to contact police.

"If it wasn’t for (the second priest), we wouldn’t be here today," the man said.

When questioned by defence counsel Jeff Gindin, the man conceded his recollection of many of the events from 28 years ago is hazy but insisted he was clear on what Storheim did to him in 1985.

The second priest is expected to testify Wednesday morning.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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