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.
Wave of Clergy Sex Abuse Lawsuits
The Tennessee scandal is just one of the latest in a continuing wave of clergy sexual misconduct allegations, arrests, and lawsuits nationwide. Below are some of the major investigations that have made headlines in 2023 alone:
- Illinois: A report by the state attorney general revealed that 451 Catholic clergy sexually abused at least 1,997 children from 1950 to 2019. According to the investigation, church leaders often dismissed or even covered up the abuse.
- Kansas: A report released by the outgoing attorney general identified 188 clergy members suspected of committing criminal acts against at least 400 victims in the state’s Catholic dioceses from 1950-2022.
- Maryland: An investigation into the Archdiocese of Baltimore revealed that 156 Catholic priests and other personnel were credibly accused of abusing at least 600 children over an 80-year period as church leadership covered it up.
Massachusetts Sex Abuse Lawyers
Sexual abuse is an offense that can have life-altering consequences for the victims. Clergy sexual abuse in particular involves a breach of trust and abuse of power, which can shatter a victim’s sense of safety and security. To make matters worse, many religious institutions have tried to handle these cases internally, protecting the perpetrator and silencing the victims.
Today, there is growing recognition of the need to hold individuals and institutions accountable for sexual misconduct. Several high-profile cases of clergy sex abuse in recent years have resulted in convictions and significant settlements for the victims. If you have been abused by a clergy member, you deserve acknowledgment and compensation for the abuse you suffered.
The clergy sexual assault victims’ lawyers at Altman & Altman LLP know that deciding to file a lawsuit against an abuser is never easy. We have the experience and the compassion to handle such cases with the care and sensitivity they require. So contact us today for a free, confidential consultation to discuss your clergy sex abuse case.