Archbishop Seraphim of Canada Arrested

News about the arrest and charging of Archbishop Seraphim of Canada on two counts of child sexual assault circulated widely yesterday (American Thanksgiving Day).  You can read articles: CTV Edmonton, Canada.com, Global Winnipeg,  The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

The arrest means Canadian authorities believe the allegations have sufficient merit to warrant a trial.   The OCA’s Synod of Bishops had in their recent meeting (November 15-18) also approved a commission to look into these allegations.

However painful such a story is for the Church, the Church as an institution was called into existence to deal with sin in the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.  The purpose of the Church is to deal with sin and sinners, and now we will see how the Church, with its very human leaders deals with sin and sins, not only in the world, but in the Church.

While news within the church of allegations of misconduct comes as a shocking surprise and is often met with incredulity, I am much reminded of the Gospel lesson of the Last Supper as recorded in  Mark 14:16-23 (and the parallel account in Matthew 26:19-30):

And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover. And when it was evening he came with the twelve.  And as they were at table eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful, and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.

Images of the last supper resonate with us not only because of Holy Thursday and iconography but more because of Holy Communion which we receive each week.  We understand the event of the Mystical Supper to be one of high points of the liturgical remembrance of Christ during Holy Week – for Communion becomes our real participation in the life of Christ, in His death and resurrection as members of His Body.

In the midst of this Mystical and sacramental participation in Christ, we see the Twelve Disciples one by one verbalizing the fear of their own hearts: “Is it I, Lord?!?”  For Christ informs them around the Eucharistic table that one of them is going to betray Him.   Each disciple does not express the firm conviction and disbelief, “No!  It is not true, don’t say that, Lord.”  They each do not ask, “How can you say that, Lord?”  Rather each one asks aloud, “Is it I, Lord?”   Is it I, chosen apostle, one of the Twelve, who will betray you?  They each knew themselves.

What a scene!  The chosen and holy apostles each is able to vocalize that dreaded fear, “Is it I who will betray you, Lord?”  For each in that moment realized the truth and the depth of his own heart:  for each it was a possibility.  We each need to think about this truth before we rush to judgment or lose all faith in the Apostles or the Apostolic Church.   “Is it I, Lord, who can betray you?”  “Is it I, Lord, who does betray you by my sins?”

We deceive ourselves if we believe that church leaders are sinless for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  All includes priests, bishops, apostles, and saints.   We each stand in church as sinners, perhaps penitents, perhaps seeking forgiveness and mercy, perhaps redeemed by Christ, but sinners nonetheless. 

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.   (1 John 1:8-10)

This is the reality the Church claims to believe.  It is not for nothing that before receiving the Eucharist we recite in the creedal prayer, “Neither like Judas will I give you a kiss.”   The incredible truth about us as disciples is we are human and we are capable of betraying Christ – not only that, but betraying Him by the kiss of peace.   We do contemplate Judas each Holy Week as well, as a reminder of what it is to be human.

The reality of humans, the reality which God so grudgingly acknowledges in Genesis 6:6 and 8:21 in the story of Noah and the great flood, is that there is evil in the heart of humans even from when we are young. 

We are created in God’s image and likeness, capable of bearing God in us, capable of theosis.  We also are beings in whose hearts evil can and does dwell.  Both are the truths about humanity, and both are supposed to be included in how the Church sees itself, its members, and the world.  In the Church we deal with truth, even when it is painful and cuts to the heart.  “Is it I, Lord?”

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17 thoughts on “Archbishop Seraphim of Canada Arrested

  1. The sin of the church administrators is they have waved away the sin of Seraphim Storeheim for too too long making light of the known allegations. This attitude be in the two years of Metropolitan Jonah, OCA, or through to the 80’s and the administrators of that time, the OCA has been deficient in protecting the children and vulnerable peoples, and has instead through its bishops been a network to foster abuse to include sexual abuse and keeping a sustaining network of abuse by dereliction of the rules under which it is organized.

    The OCA budget, as well as budgets of other Orthodox Christian Churches, are devoid of any help or aid to victims of abuse. The candle funds and canisters of appeals etc. are emptied to aid when the legal funds are needed, for a priest or bishop charged with a crime.

  2. Donna McLean

    Archbishop Seraphim has not been to court yet and you are already finding him guilty!
    There is obviously some kind of evidence but that does not mean it is true. That is what a jury is for. To hear both sides not assume ones guilt. Recently a teacher in Edmonton Alberta was charged with sexual assault on two students and it went to trial. At the trial it was uncovered that the girls were lying. The teacher was aquitted but his reputation and health were ruined. Very little is reported when someone is aquitted… Let’s let this go through the legal system before we rush to judgement. I do realize we are all sinners and that Vladyka is as well, but he has not been found guilty of these charges as of yet .

    1. Fr. Ted

      We have to be willing to admit that a bishop like any human being can commit a mistake, a crime or a sin. That was the point of my blog. A legal trial and a church investigation are warranted by the facts.

      By not shying away from what has happened – allegations made which resulted in charges being filed and a arrest of a bishop – we give permission to all in the church to be awake and alert to the power of sin and the fallenness of humanity.

      The issue at the moment is not whether any of us personally think the archbishop is innocent or guilty, but rather that we learn to be watchful regarding the power of sin in our lives. We must not allow Satan to catch us unawares.

      The legal process is going to run its course, and that will determine his legal guilt or whether judge and/or jury were not convinced of the allegations. The Church investigation will have to do the same.

      Meanwhile all of us have to deal with the fact that sin is real, that we each are capable of sin, and even of betraying Christ.

      That is the painful reality which the case brings to our attention. The Church is in the business of dealing with sin, so let’s not enable a delusional blindness to the power of sin, but rather let us learn the lesson of the need for watchfulness and being awake as we experience our life in the world. By dealing with this case – however it may be resolved – we give encouragement to let truth reign in our personal lives as well as in the collective Body of Christians.

      We are in effect empowering ourselves as Christians to recognize and resist evil. This brings the light of Christ to even the darkest corner of the church.

  3. Donna McLean

    Fr Ted Thank you for your clarification. I agree with what you say. I understand we are all capable of dreadful sin and the need to be watchful. My problem is that people are assuming the worst and judging. If Vladyka were found guilty; I understand he would no no longer be able to serve; however he would need forgiveness and love.
    I am praying for him and for the accusers. We all need forgiveness and God’s Mercy.

    1. Fr. Ted

      Well said, Donna.

      One way we have to protect the church and all of us who are in it is to be bold and open in our discussion of sin, mistakes, problems, and evil, so that we can triumph over sin and evil and death.

      If we cannot talk openly about these things we trap ourselves in a world of suspicion, fear, shame, hatred, self loathing, despair and defeat, with no hope of getting out of the morass. Openly admitting sin in the church should not be as hard as it is – we after all have confession and pray that we each might spend the remaining time of our life in repentance. We don’t pray that just for criminals – that is our prayer for each of us and ourselves! Repentance isn’t some unclean disease to be avoided, it is our way of life, the way to Christ, the way to God’s Kingdom.

  4. Mark Pearson

    Fr Ted, I would suggest that we “cannot talk openly about these things” simply because of the reactions that are engendered. Everyone thinks that criminals should be condemned, punished, berated, looked down upon, despised, loathed, etc don’t they? Our judgemental attitudes to the ‘sinner’ means that we cannot have an open conversation at all. The contrast to G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown who was always a perceptive observer of human nature and never condemned the perpetrator but was always guided by ‘there for the grace of God go I’ is illuminating.

    1. Fr. Ted

      It is true. It is also why many alcoholics and the like prefer to work out their repentance at AA rather than in the church for they often feel AA will accept them as they are – a penitent moving on in life – while the church might reject them as a failure.

  5. Micheal Sydney Drew

    Hello father Ted thank you for updated info on this matter, i know his eminence arch bishop seraphim he is the bishop of our church, i think if he is truly guilty of these horrific crimes, he should not have been made a bishop. These kind of crimes are what make people draw away from God. I also believe he will have to answer for his crimes one way or another, even though God does forgive all things…. I think it is unacceptable! These discomfiting crimes are destroying the christian church’s all over the globe, once these crimes were first noticed something should of been done about it. Thank you God Bless Sydney Drew

    1. Fr. Ted

      What is true is that the Church has to publicly deal with such allegations, however painful it may be. The Church exists because sin exists and for no other reason that to deal with sin. It is not surprising that sin exists, but it is surprising how hard it is for both church leadership and members to deal with sin. The investigations into what happened will hopefully give the direction needed for how to proceed.

      1. Micheal Sydney Drew

        Yes the church does exists cause sin exists but the question is why would the church allow this kind of sin to happen in the first place, and then when found out swept it under the carpet for so many years? Also father Ted do you the church’s opinion on the paranormal I am a paranormal investigator, my website is http://eidoloninvestigations.weebly.com if you could take a look at it and tell me what you think it would dearly be appreciated. me myself I will continue to pray for His Eminence. I also feel for the family of which this crime was committed. Thank you for your time Micheal Syd God Bless Fr Ted

      2. Fr. Ted

        Just a note before looking at anything else – why would the church allow this kind of sin to happen in the first place? The Church doesn’t control each member’s actions. People act for all kinds of reasons and do all kinds of things without consulting the Church. If they asked, they would see the church doesn’t condone sin. Just wanted to be clear on that point – when any one in the church sins, it’s not because the church “allowed” it, it happens because an individual chooses to ignore what the church teaches. Did the apostles “allow” Judas to betray Christ, or did he do it on his own? They had no idea what he was doing.

  6. Micheal Sydney Drew

    oh OK I never looked at it that way, In my heart i don’t think he is guilty. But your right y would he tell the church he did something like that . I’m sure the church has it’s ways of dealing with this also , since this happened we haven’t prayed for him in church out load any why isn’t his name said in the Divine Liturgy?

    1. Fr. Ted

      Normally, as your diocesan bishop he would be prayed for during the divine services. At the moment, he is under suspension, so is not serving as the diocesan bishop, and therefore is not prayed for in that capacity. Nothing prevents you from praying for him in your own prayers. While he is under suspension, he is not mentioned as the bishop of the diocese. I suppose in your services you are mentioning Bishop Irenee by name, correct?

      1. Michael Syd Drew

        yes that is correct I am an Altar Server at St John The Divine Orthodox Church In Windsor Ontario My Priest is Father Dean Katzilas. I was originally Anglican and I moved into the neighborhood of St John and had a dream of the orthodox cross and told my wife about it and she says “babe i think i seen that cross down the street on a cold church” i said “NO WAY” cause i had thought i was dying i had severe anxiety and panic disorder and that’s when i got on my knees and prayed to God asking him for help the next night i had a dream of the cross, So one day i decided to walk down the street and check it out so I did and Father Dean happen to be outside and told me to come to church so a couple of weeks later i did and , it was the best decision I have ever made, ever since my life has changed , I was made orthodox, and I have also had my children Baptized in the faith. Just hearing that kind of thing about the orthodox church was disturbing, cause I’ve only heard things like that coming from the Roman Catholic church’s all over the planet. Not once have I heard things of that nature about the Orthodox church’s But The Lord God Does forgive all Thing’s, and may he shine his light on His Eminence and turn his face toward him and give him peace, he will always be in My Prayers!!!

  7. Thomas Chase Ells

    I am so saddened by this news, but thank you posting this blog. In my local Monastery the Nuns had been asked to pray for HG AB Seraphim, and I did not know why. I have served with HG AB Seraphim, and knelt and prayed with Him. When I looked, following the most recent news to see the Hierarchs, and HG AB Seraphim was not shown there, I worried and wondered. He is always in my prayers. I pray he is not guilty, and in fact innocent. But think, did we not pray one day, was that the day he fell? Or to pray for the accusers, “all those we have in mind”.
    And now, H.E. Met Jonah? Even without sin, or even direct knowledge of sin (I not knowing the report, or what H.E. knew), and we are the loss for this. Yes, there but by the Grace of God go I! For we are captured in this sin of the world, and we are drawn ever closer to Satan by such events, all of us; Save For Christ’s intercession.
    I thank God for allotting me sins that I am able to bear with His help, and for not making me the great sinner that I am capable of being. Maybe it is better that I am so weak, I cannot bear great sins and therefore do not commit them. We need to forgive the sinner Seraphim, but the Bishop, if guilty under God, will be like St John Climacus shows, falling from a great height. And needing all the more pray to obtain salvation.
    God Be Gracious Unto Us, and To Shine His Light Upon Us, and Have Mercy on Us. Amen.

  8. Pingback: Blogs on Sexual Misconduct in the Church | Fr. Ted's Blog

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