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Knoxville diocese accused of concealing sexual abuse investigation


Stephanie A. Richer

Magnús Sannleikur - published on 02/25/22

A lawsuit claims that the Diocese of Knoxville and its Bishop, Richard Stika, not only failed to stop the rape of an employee, but also attempted to cover the incident up.

A nameless accuser is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville and its bishop, Richard Stika, claiming the diocese failed to properly investigate sexual abuse allegations against a former employee who would have been raped by a seminarian. The complaint, filed on Tuesday 21st of this month in Knox County Circuit Court, describes several different instances of sexual harassment and abuse that the claimant said he suffered. It also makes several allegations about Stika “overreaching in an investigation of abuse claims, using information reported last year by a news agency,” as read in Liam Adams’ article for Knox News.

The lawsuit alleges that the claimant learned of the diocese’s “casually connected and conspiratorial efforts to conceal their involvement in his sexual abuse” when The Pillar published a series of articles on the diocese early last year, some of them per Stika’s own request, who demanded “the whole story” to be told. Stika admitted to The Pillar that he had removed an investigator from a 2021 diocesan enquiry into the 2019 rape allegation, “because the investigator was ‘asking all these questions.’”

The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 22 under the name of “John Doe” to protect the victim’s privacy. However, Knox News found that the documents make it clear that “the person filing the lawsuit was a former musician and dedicated Diocesan employee.”

According to the 46-page document, the Diocese hired a seminarian who was reportedly a friend of the Bishop. The lawsuit claims the seminarian raped Doe on Feb. 5, 2019, at Doe’s home. After the incident, the seminarian sent the victim a written apology but continued to sexually harass him at work. The lawsuit also alleges that Stika and the Diocese made efforts to intimidate the victim to not come forward, and that they falsely spread rumors about him, saying that Doe, and not the seminarian, was the perpetrator.

You can read more about this case here.

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