Ex-altar boy testifies priest accused of sex assault would walk around naked

WINNIPEG – A second man testified Tuesday that he was sexually abused as an altar boy three decades ago by a priest who would become the top Canadian cleric in the Orthodox Church in America.

“I listened to everything he said,” the 39-year-old man testified at Seraphim Storheim’s trial.

“My mother clearly mentioned ‘Listen to everything he says.'”

Storheim has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting the man and the man’s brother. Neither complainant can be identified under a publication ban.

Both men have told the trial they were sent by their single mother at different times in 1985 to live and work with Storheim at a church in Winnipeg. They were both pre-teens at the time.

The man who testified Tuesday said Storheim would routinely walk naked around the small house attached to the church and would sometimes lie on the floor naked and touch himself.

“While I was in the kitchen having breakfast … he was lying down naked and his hand was on his penis.”

On another occasion, the man testified, Storheim touched him and inspected his groin as he sat naked on a bed.

“He was looking for pubic hair … combing through the area, just touching with his hands.”

Court also heard that on other occasions, Storheim held the boy’s pyjama bottoms up to a window for inspection.

Storheim’s lawyer challenged the man’s memory under cross-examination and said there was no genital contact or sexual touching.

“I’m suggesting to you that it did not occur,” Jeff Gindin said.

“Yes, it did occur,” the man fired back.

Gindin also asked the man why he never told anyone, including another priest at the church, about the alleged sexual abuse at the time.

“Did you ever tell that particular priest?” Gindin asked.

“No. Not that I recall,” replied the man.

The man’s brother told court Monday that Storheim got into bed with him and asked to be touched sexually. The brother admitted to large gaps in his memory and couldn’t provide many specifics. He said he is on several medications and has spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

There’s been no indication whether Storheim, who is now in his late 60s, will testify. He has sat passively throughout the trial and has spoken only when entering his pleas.

Storheim was arrested in 2010 after the brothers went to the police. He had worked as a parish priest in Alberta, North Carolina, London, Ont., and other areas before becoming an auxiliary bishop in Edmonton in 1987. He was elevated to archbishop — the church’s top position in Canada — 20 years later.

The Orthodox Church in America has 700 parishes, 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.