Knoxville Bishop Threatened to Resign Over Former Seminarian Accused of Rape, Priest Says

Knoxville priest Bishop Richard Stika threatened to resign over former seminarian Info
Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika told a diocesan priest in 2021 that he would resign before allowing a former seminarian accused of raping a church employee to return to Poland, according to an email obtained by Knox News.

The priest reported Stika’s comments in a May 2021 email to a Louisville priest investigating the diocese. Knox News is not naming the priests to protect them from retaliation.

Stika’s threat came after the diocese began investigating the seminarian, who had recently been expelled from an Indiana seminary over harassment complaints. Stika halted that probe by firing the investigator, then authorized $50,000 in diocesan funds for the man’s education at St. Louis University, Stika’s alma mater.

The seminarian had lived with Stika and former Cardinal Justin Rigali, Stika told priests in 2021, helping care for Rigali. “If I had been living by myself, I would not have asked him to come live with me,” Stika said.

The employee filed suit against the diocese in February, claiming the seminarian raped him. Knox News calls him John Doe. The diocese demanded he be identified; in court filings, Stika admitted telling priests Doe “groomed” the seminarian and was “the predator.”

Stika spokesperson Jim Wogan did not dispute the priest’s account but declined comment on “private conversations.” The diocese did not respond to requests for comment.

The Pillar, a Catholic news site, first reported the seminarian’s expulsion. In March 2021, the diocese began probing his alleged rape of the Knoxville employee.

Two months later, the priest emailed Louisville’s Paul Beach, visiting to aid “our difficult situation.” He wrote Stika threatened to resign rather than send the seminarian back to Poland.

“What is very telling to me during that meeting was that he threatened to resign as a bishop over this seminarian,” the priest wrote. “He did not want to send him back to Poland.”

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