Yet Another Catholic Priest in Knoxville Under Investigation for Sexual Abuse

Yet another case of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Knoxville has been made public, the latest in a string of scandals to befall Tennessee’s youngest diocese. We hope that this news will cause parents and parishioners to demand more transparency and accountability from Church leaders in Knoxville.

According to news reports, Fr. Antony D. Punnackal has been both indicted criminally and sued civilly on allegations that he sexually harassed and abused an adult female parishioner in 2017 while working at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Gatlinburg. We applaud this brave victim for coming forward and believe that her actions will help protect other parishioners in Knoxville and beyond.

This news comes as Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville is already facing a Vos Estis investigation for his role in impeding investigations into sexual abuse in his Diocese. The fact that yet another priest from Knoxville has been indicted on charges related to sexual abuse clearly demonstrates that there is a problem that needs to be cleaned up. We hope this latest news will encourage Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slattery III to investigate the ongoing cases of abuse and cover-up happening throughout his state.

"Again, we are all victims of a cover-up by the Catholic Church in Tennessee," said Susan Vance of the Tennessee chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "When will the lies stop and the cover-up by the Diocese be exposed? Adult sexual exploitation and assault appears to be on the rise in the Church and needs to be addressed. Bishop Stika needs to resign."

CONTACT: Susan Vance, SNAP Tennessee ([email protected], 865-748-3518), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, 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

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