In yet another scandal facing the Catholic Church, Tennesee Bishop Richard Stika resigned in June after allegations that he mishandled sex abuse claims in his Knoxville diocese. Several priests also complained about his behavior and leadership, triggering a Vatican investigation. Although he denies wrongdoing, Stika is now facing at least two lawsuits claiming that he improperly dealt with sexual misconduct allegations and sought to silence the accusers.
In one lawsuit, a Honduran immigrant seeking grief counseling in 2020 said a priest locked her in a room and sexually assaulted her. Although the police and the diocese knew of the accusation, the lawsuit argues, the diocese took no action against the priest and, in fact, obstructed law enforcement. The woman also claimed that the diocese tried to intimidate her by spreading rumors about her and hiring a private investigator to find information to use against her.
In a second lawsuit, a former employee at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville accused a seminary student of harassing and raping him in 2019. The lawsuit argues that Bishop Stika pressured the accuser to remain silent, concealed the abuse, and even dismissed an investigator who was looking into the case. Before Stika’s resignation in 2023, he had been the bishop of Knoxville for 14 years.