Deceased Knoxville Priest, Bishop Accused of Sexual Abuse
July 23, 2019
A Tennessee man has sued the Diocese of Knoxville, claiming he was sexually abused by a priest and bishop while serving as an altar boy in the 1990s.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Michael Boyd filed the suit in Knox County on Thursday.
It claims Boyd was abused by Father Xavier Mankel and Bishop Anthony O’Connell. Both have since died. O’Connell later resigned after admitting inappropriate conduct with minors in other dioceses.
The suit also says music teacher William Lovelace tried to get Boyd to touch him inappropriately. The diocese has suspended Lovelace with “a presumption of innocence” until the allegations are investigated.
Boyd previously met with Bishop Richard Stika about the allegations against Mankle. In a letter issued to local Catholic leaders on Friday, Stika said diocese officials turned over materials given them by Boyd to an independent investigator.
“The result of that independent investigation concluded that there was no finding of credible evidence to support the allegiants,” Stika wrote.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they were sexually abused, but Boyd’s attorney said he has agreed to be identified.
The suit says Mankle’s abuse of Boyd began in 1991 when he was a fourth grader at Sacred Heart Cathedral School and continued for about 2 1/2 years. The abuse stopped after Boyd grew strong enough to “fend off Father Mankel and other visiting priests,” the lawsuit states.
Boyd seeks a jury trial and an unnamed amount of damages. The suit says the abuse caused Boyd to “experience severe psychological injuries, and emotional harm” that included loss of his faith, “mood swings, intimacy problems, emotional disconnection in relationships, anxiety, rage and the loss of enjoyment of life.”
In an emailed statement, diocese spokesman Jim Wogan said, “We ask that respect be given to all parties named in the lawsuit and that those accused be afforded the presumption of innocence until the merits of the lawsuit can be determined.”