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Vatican accepts early resignation of 65-year-old Bishop Stika of Knoxville, Tenn.

Resignation comes a year and a half after Vatican-ordered investigation of sexual abuse cover-up and financial mismanagement

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, 65, has resigned from pastoral governance of the diocese. Pope Francis accepted the resignation on June 27 and also appointed Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville, Kentucky, as apostolic administrator of Knoxville until a new bishop is appointed and installed.

Bp. Stika
The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. At 65, Bishop Stika is resigning 10 years before reaching the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope.

In a statement sent to media, Bishop Stika, who was the longest-serving bishop in Eastern Tennessee, said he has “been dealing with life-threatening health issues most of his adult life” including Type-1 diabetes since 1980. He said he made his decision in May, “during a time when our Scripture readings, found in Acts of the Apostles, focused on the turbulent growth of the Church.”

“Reading Scripture is good,” he said. ” It reminds us that the Church isn’t perfect — it’s human, but it continues to grow in goodness, thanks be to God.”

In an interview with Knoxville’s CBS affiliate after his resignation was announced, the bishop said he himself is a victim of clergy sex abuse, which occurred when he was in high school. In a June 24 Facebook conversation now getting attention because of his resignation, he said he was abused by John Murphy, a former Augustinian priest, “while I was a freshman at a seminary high school. 1971.”

According to a June 3 story in the Chicago Sun-Times, Murphy, who served with the Augustinians in the Chicago Archdiocese, was accused in lawsuits two decades ago of sexually assaulting numerous children.

A May 13 report by The Pillar stated that the resignation of Bishop Stika was forthcoming in light of a Vatican-ordered investigation of sexual abuse cover-up and financial mismanagement. The article cited unnamed sources “close to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops,” who indicated that Pope Francis came to a decision on the embattled Tennessee bishop in April.

Appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, Bishop Stika has been the diocese’s longest-serving ordinary, but his tenure has been a troubled one.

The bishop has been accused of sheltering and financing a former seminarian who allegedly raped a parish organist. In May 2021, Bishop Stika confirmed to The Pillar he had removed an investigator appointed to the case by the diocesan review board, saying the former law enforcement professional was “past his prime” and declaring the former seminarian's innocence. The organist has since filed a lawsuit against Bishop Stika and the diocese.

The bishop allegedly used diocesan funds to cover the former seminarian's tuition at Saint Louis University, where he enrolled following his dismissal from the seminary, according to a Knoxville News-Sentinel article.

A separate lawsuit filed in April 2022 accuses Bishop Stika of failing to discipline a Carmelite priest who was arrested in January 2022 for sexually assaulting a grieving parishioner who had sought spiritual counseling two years earlier.

Along with claims of mishandling abuse investigations, the bishop has been dogged by multiple complaints of financial mismanagement, particularly with regard to the building of Knoxville’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

“I recognize that questions about my leadership have played out publicly in recent months,” Bishop Stika, who will be 66 July 4, said in his statement June 27. “I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that some of this has weighed on me physically and emotionally. For these reasons, I asked the Holy Father for relief from my responsibilities as a diocesan bishop.”

In a statement on June 27, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski said “I am familiar with the allegations against Bishop Stika, and I believe he is making the correct decision for himself, the Church and the Diocese.”

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Vatican accepts early resignation of 65yearold Bishop Stika of Knoxville Tenn 8761

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