Tennessee Priest Allegedly Sexually Abused Child and Offered Him to Others
By David Gee
July 24, 2019
A Tennessee priest with a previously clean record has now been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a young boy for years — and offering him up to other clergymen.
The alleged victim, Michael Boyd, is suing the Diocese of Knoxville, saying that longtime priest Xavier Mankel (above) took advantage of him as a child. Boyd’s lawsuit also says he was abused by Bishop Anthony O’Connell, who founded the diocese.
Making matters worse, Boyd claims Mankel offered him up to visiting priests for “inappropriate sexual conduct.”
While the diocese is the only named defendant, the 20-page lawsuit claims the former altar boy was repeatedly abused in the 1990s by longtime Knoxville priest Xavier Mankel and at least twice by Bishop Anthony O’Connell.
O’Connell, who died in 2012, is the best-known figure named in the suit. He became the first bishop of the Knoxville diocese when it was formed in 1988. Ten years later, he became bishop in Palm Beach, Florida. He resigned in 2002 after admitting inappropriate conduct with minors in Missouri decades earlier and before he was in Knoxville.
Naming O’Connell wasn’t as surprising as it could have been, then, but it’s worth noting that the most serious allegations are against someone with a previously clean record on child sex abuse issues.
The suit alleged that Mankel, a priest for 56 years, was Boyd’s main predator. Naming Mankel as an abuser is likely to shock many Knoxville Roman Catholics. He hasn’t been named on lists of priests accused of abuse that have been released by Catholic authorities or survivor support groups.
Mankel, who died in 2017 at age 81, was a Knoxville native and a Catholic institution for decades. His positions included serving as pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral from 1987-1997.
He helped found the Knoxville diocese, serving as its first chancellor and vicar general. He was later appointed monsignor.
But wait. There’s more. A music teacher was also implicated in the lawsuit.
The suit also contends William Lovelace, then a Sacred Heart music teacher, tried to get Boyd to “touch him inappropriately” during a guitar lesson.
Lovelace is still employed, but the diocese announced it has suspended him from his job at two unnamed East Tennessee Catholic schools.
Whether there’s enough evidence of abuse remains to be seen, but it’s not often that an alleged abuse victim agrees to have their name printed in association with such a lawsuit. It invites backlash. But Boyd seems ready to pursue this, even if the most damning allegations are against people who are now dead.
If the lawsuit is successful, though, the Church will have to pay a hefty price and explain to the public how such abuse was allowed to go on for so long.
One thing is certain: it’s hard for these allegations to actually shock us anymore.