Tennessee Catholic Bishop Likely to Be Under Vos Estis Investigation

The leader of Tennessee’s youngest diocese is likely facing an investigation by Catholic officials from the Vatican due to allegations that the bishop worked to impede investigations into cases of sexual misconduct. While we are glad that these allegations are being investigated, we hope that secular officials will be looking into the situation as well to determine if any criminal charges should be filed.

According to sources, Bishop Richard Stika from the Diocese of Knoxville, TN, is facing a likely Vos Estis investigation over complaints about how he handled allegations of sex abuse levied against a local seminarian. It is extremely concerning to learn that Bishop Stika kept the accused seminarian in formation despite knowing of the multiple complaints against him. This situation is a "no win" one made worse by a powerful prelate’s refusal to crack down on sexual abuse and harassment.

As troubling as the bishop's meddling in an investigation is, we are also troubled by the secrecy around the identity of the seminarian who has had multiple complaints against him. The lack of a name or photo to go with the allegations leaves parents and parishioners in the dark and less able to protect children and the vulnerable. We know that informed communities are safer communities, and two decades ago bishops pledged to be “open and honest” when it comes to cases of clergy abuse. Rather than being "open and honest," it appears to us that Catholic officials in Knoxville are trying to cover up possible crimes.

We hope this story encourages anyone who has seen, suspected, or suffered abuse in Knoxville to come forward and make a report to local police and prosecutors. A Vos Estis investigation will take time and is no guarantee that action will be taken, or that the results will be made public. Rather, it has consistently been secular authorities that have forced Catholic officials to let go of their secrets, and we suspect the same will be true in this case.

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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