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Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika Resigns Amid Turmoil

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Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., the Vatican introduced on Tuesday.

The resignation of Bishop Richard F. Stika comes after two years of turmoil within the small diocese in East Tennessee, the place the bishop has been sued for his dealing with of sexual misconduct allegations, and confronted inner criticism of his management extra broadly.

Clergymen within the diocese additionally made unusually direct complaints about him and requested a Vatican consultant final 12 months for “merciful reduction” from his management. The upheaval culminated in a Vatican investigation final 12 months, according to the Catholic publication The Pillar.

A lawsuit filed in 2022 accused him of attempting to impede a diocesan investigation right into a seminary scholar accused of raping and harassing a church musician in 2019. The go well with mentioned that Bishop Stika fired an investigator appointed by the diocese to look into the case, and that the bishop defamed and tried to intimidate the musician. He has mentioned that he by no means lined up sexual abuse.

One other go well with filed in federal courtroom in 2022 accuses the diocese of deceptive the police and in any other case obstructing an investigation into a lady’s accusation {that a} priest within the diocese assaulted her.

In an interview on Tuesday morning, Bishop Stika, 65, broadly disputed complaints about his management and mentioned that he had requested retirement purely for well being causes. He has been diabetic for many years, and has skilled a coronary heart assault, coronary heart bypass surgical procedure and a diabetic coma that resulted in imaginative and prescient loss in a single eye.

“My physique is simply breaking down,” he mentioned. “I really like the diocese, however in some unspecified time in the future you need to acknowledge the truth that well being begins to deteriorate and has an impact on every little thing else.”

Bishop Stika declined to touch upon whether or not he was the topic of an investigation by the Vatican. He mentioned he requested retirement a number of months in the past and acquired approval from the Vatican final week.

“I’ve heard there have been investigations however I don’t touch upon issues I’ve heard rumour about,” he mentioned.

He defended his management of the diocese, citing the opening of latest parishes, the ordinations of latest monks and steady funds.

“There’s all the time individuals who will disagree or agree with selections that you just make, however the diocese is doing very nicely,” he mentioned.

Bishop Stika has led the small diocese since 2009, when he was appointed to the position by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Pillar reported that in 2021, 11 monks within the diocese made an uncommon criticism to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Pope’s consultant to america, asking for “merciful reduction” from Bishop Stika’s management, citing accusations of dishonesty, intimidation and misuse of energy.

“It appears to us that ours is a depressed presbyterate, and has been growing as such for 12 years, as a result of management of Bishop Stika,” they wrote, saying that the implications included their very own psychological well being struggles.

Earlier this week, the diocese of Tyler, Texas, confirmed that the Vatican had additionally opened an investigation there. Catholic officers didn’t provide a proof of what prompted the investigation. Such investigations, referred to as apostolic visitations, are uncommon, formal examinations of management that may be prompted by a variety of potential offenses, together with theological disagreements and monetary mismanagement.

The Tyler diocese is headed by Bishop Joseph Strickland, a combative conservative firebrand who’s important of Pope Francis and identified for weighing in on culture-war disputes throughout the nation.

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