Questioning Knoxville diocese’s handling of abuse cases | Featured letter

Knoxville News Sentinel [Knoxville TN]

March 22, 2022

By David Clohessy

When you string together all that’s alleged or known about Diocese of Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika and the purported seminarian who is now accused of sexually assaulting a church employee, it paints a pretty damning picture.  

None of these facts or allegations, in isolation, is of course conclusive proof of wrongdoing. But taken together, they sure don’t pass the smell test. 

A young Polish Catholic man moves to the U.S., and no explanation is offered. He joins the Jesuits. He’s apparently kicked out because of sexual misconduct allegations.  

Then, a bishop brings him to Knoxville and presents him as a seminarian even though he’s not yet in seminary.  

When he does attend seminary out of state, he is reportedly ousted for the same reason: sexual misconduct accusations. 

After the alleged crime in Knoxville, Stika reportedly gives the accuser an unexpected and unexplained gift. He sets up a meeting between the accuser and the accused, according to the lawsuit.  

The bishop has a hand-picked committee of Catholics who are charged with looking into situations like this. That committee hires an investigator.  

But the bishop admits he fired that investigator. Even worse, Bishop Stika publicly proclaims that he believes the accused is innocent and lets the alleged predator live in his house. 

And reportedly, Stika tells some people that the alleged victim is in fact the abuser.  

Let’s be clear: some of this is unproven, but included in a new lawsuit. Some of it is fact. Some of it has been admitted by Stika himself. From any perspective, however, it’s worrisome to say the least.

For years, before moving to Knoxville, Stika dealt with clergy sex abuse cases here in St. Louis. We found him secretive, reckless and disingenuous. We were shocked and disappointed when he was promoted. We’re not, however, shocked by this troubling Knoxville case. 

We beg anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered clergy sexual misdeeds or cover ups in eastern Tennessee to come forward to police, prosecutors, therapists, and support groups like ours, rather than to church figures like Stika and his staff. Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

David Clohessy, a former Tennessee resident, is volunteer director, Missouri Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, St. Louis, Missouri 63143