Documents contradict Knoxville diocese's timeline of knowing about sexual abuse allegations against priests and teacher

After months of publicly discrediting and denying sexual abuse allegations against prominent priests and a diocesan employee, documents obtained by the Times Free Press suggest the Diocese of Knoxville may have known about those allegations for almost a year before suspending the accused employee.

In December, the diocese settled a July lawsuit by East Tennessee resident Michael Boyd alleging he was repeatedly sexually abused by Monsignor Francis Xavier Mankel, Bishop Anthony O'Connell, visiting priests and diocesan employee William Michael Lovelace. The abuse allegedly occurred between 1991 and 1995 when Boyd was a preteen student at Sacred Heart Cathedral School in Knoxville.

Information gathered from a variety of documents — including a copy of the lawsuit, a police report, multiple diocese releases and Boyd's 18-page, handwritten statement given to police— create a timeline that contradicts the diocese's claims of not knowing about abuse allegations made against Lovelace until summer 2019.

The documents point to Lovelace being identified in the summer of 2018 and being allowed to have contact with children for another school year.

The diocese maintains its position made in previous statements and its timeline of events, said Jim Wogan, communications director for the diocese.

In August 2018, Boyd went to the diocese with the allegations after learning Lovelace was again working for the diocese as a music teacher. With the support of the state chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Boyd filed a report with the Knoxville Police Department in September 2018, although the criminal statute of limitations for the alleged crime had passed. Around this time, the diocese said it hired an "independent and highly qualified criminal defense attorney" to review Boyd's claims, according to multiple statements released by the diocese.

The diocese said it turned over all the materials Boyd gave it to the investigator. What materials the diocese had remains unclear. No one from the diocese talked with Boyd about the allegations, Boyd said in an interview. The investigator hired by the diocese also never questioned Boyd, he said.

Asked about this, Wogan said the diocese's investigator spoke with Boyd before Jan. 11, 2019, but, because Boyd had an attorney at the time, the investigator said they could not talk unless the attorney was present. There were no other conversations between the investigator and Boyd, Wogan said. The diocese has said repeatedly in statements the investigator, who was not named, found no credibility to Boyd's claims.

When Boyd filed his lawsuit nearly a year later, in July 2019, the diocese said the lawsuit contained "additional information, including the name of an employee of the diocese, not part of the original allegations." In another release two months later, the diocese said there were multiple new names and allegations. However, all of the names and allegatio...

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