Catholic Bishop Richard Stika and the Diocese of Knoxville embroiled in yet another scandal
(For Immediate Release April 27, 2022)
According to the news outlet The Pillar, Bishop Richard Stika dismissed as “boundary issues” allegations that a Knoxville seminarian forcibly pinned a fellow student down after subjecting him to a barrage of graphic sexual advances. Diocesan records suggest that Bishop Stika played down the assault accusations while giving the seminarian thousands of dollars in cash, furnishing him with expensive electronics, and paying his cell phone bill.
To us, the news that continues to emanate from the Diocese of Knoxville and the involvement of Bishop Stika is like a bad multi-season series on Netflix. From April 2021 through April 2022 the news featured reports of a lawsuit accusing the Bishop of a cover-up, allegations that Bishop Stika bullied a Catholic over mishandled accusations, a lawsuit for the cover-up of an alleged rape, and even a Vatican investigation into the Bishop.
In a shocking lawsuit filed in the Knox County Circuit Court on February 22, 2022, the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville and its Bishop faced six different counts including defamation, negligence in supervision and retention, as well as negligence in the training of a diocesan seminarian. Also, among the counts was intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The complaint describes the outrageous behavior of a Knoxville seminarian, Wojciech Sobczuk, culminating in the rape of a diocesan employee called John Doe for the purposes of the lawsuit.
The Pillar has also reported on unrest in the diocese among both priests and the laity over many issues, including the retention of Seminarian Sobczuk even after he was expelled from St. Meinrad Seminary, Rockport, Indiana, where he was accused by three other seminarians of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. Bishop Stika also came under direct criticism for replacing his retiring executive secretary with Seminarian Sobczuk.
We are still assimilating the revelations in the latest article from The Pillar. They are yet another devastating account of the mishandling of sexual assault by Bishop Stika and the Diocese of Knoxville.
Susan Vance, SNAP Leader in Tennessee said in response to the piece, "The devastation of victims of clergy sexual abuse by Bishop Stika reached new heights today. Bishop Stika cannot be trusted to protect the priests-in-training in our diocese or in any other. This is beginning to closely parallel the actions of disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Parishioners should demand that the Vatican remove Bishop Stika immediately."
We will no doubt have more to say as we try to piece together this flagrant disregard for the policies of the Diocese and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This lawsuit and the events described have set into motion a mind-boggling series of revelations. As yet, it appears that Church leadership still contends that they are not at fault. We are disappointed that Knoxville Catholic officials have put their reputations before the needs of victims. We hope Pope Francis will demand accountability under Canon Law and Civil law with an immediate resignation from Bishop Stika for his deceitful, careless, and irresponsible behavior.
CONTACT: Susan Vance, SNAP Tennessee (865-748-3518, [email protected]), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for more than 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)