Tennessee Catholic Bishop Accepted Deacon Removed from Seminary after Allegations of Sexual Misconduct for Parish Ministry

For years, Catholic bishops have said to anyone who will listen that the clergy abuse scandal is "in the past" and that lawsuits and headlines today deal with "historic" cases. The actions of prelates like Knoxville’s bishop are proof positive that those claims are wrong and that the abuse scandal will continue because of the arrogance and lack of care shown by diocesan leaders today.

Bishop Richard Stika’s actions are an example of how the clerical culture continues to endanger children and the vulnerable today. By placing the accused deacon in ministry with the intent to move ahead with his ordination as a priest despite the allegations of abuse made against him, Bishop Stika actively chose to flaunt Church policy and best prevention practices. It seems very clear to us that zero tolerance means something very different to Bishop Stika than it does to the public.

The fact that Bishop Stika’s decision was met with resistance in his own diocese is a good thing, but further demonstrates that the scandal will only be over when prelates who enable abuse are removed from positions of power. Despite the warnings from psychological experts and other priests, Bishop Stika arrogantly intended to ordain this accused deacon to the priesthood. 

Clearly, Catholic families in Knoxville need to be wary because the bishop obviously does not appear to care about safe environments for child or adult parishioners. This decision by Bishop Stika should be met with immediate action by Pope Francis. We believe that Bishop Stika should be fired immediately. Once he has been removed, Church officials should ensure that he is investigated by police and charged with a crime if he covered up abuse or committed it himself. 

Since the year 2000, about 2700 Catholic priests have been "outed" for abusing thousands of children. Each month, on average, two priests or staffers are arrested. Because only one in ten clerics ever get arrested due to the effectiveness of the Catholic Church’s “playbook” at keeping crimes hidden, we know that those arrests are only the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully stories like this will bring more survivors forward and help them find the courage to report their abuse to trusted friends, therapists, and law enforcement.

CONTACT: Susan Vance, SNAP Tennessee ([email protected], 865-748-3518), 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 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

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