Knoxville Catholic Diocese, Bishop Stika accused of rape cover-up in lawsuit

The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 22 under the name of “John Doe.”
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 3:06 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2022 at 11:40 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A lawsuit filed in Knox County alleges that the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville and its Bishop, Richard Stika, failed to stop the rape of an employee then attempted to cover the incident up.

The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 22 under the name of “John Doe” to protect the man’s privacy, according to the person’s lead counsel at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC. However, it is stated that the person filing the lawsuit was a former musician and dedicated Diocesan employee. According to the 46-page filing, the Diocese employed a seminarian who was reportedly a friend of the Bishop. The lawsuit claims the seminarian raped Doe on Feb. 5, 2019 at Doe’s home. After the incident, the filing states that the seminarian sent the plaintiff a written apology after the incident but continued to sexually harass him at work.

The lawsuit alleges that Bishop Stika and the Diocese attempted to intimidate the man to not come forward about the allegations after learning of the incident. The plaintiff also stated that they falsely spread rumors about him, saying that Doe was the perpetrator and not the seminarian.

“The lawsuit alleges that Bishop Stika and the Diocese of Knoxville sought to intimidate and destroy the reputation of a survivor of rape to protect the church and a friend of the Bishop,” said Patrick A. Thronson, an attorney in the Janet, Janet & Suggs Sexual Abuse Division who is representing John Doe. “As the complaint alleges, the Diocese and Stika not only failed to protect John Doe from rape, but also scuttled a church investigation into the incident, and spread malicious and defamatory rumors that Doe, not the rapist, was the aggressor.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese said that they were aware of the lawsuit on Tuesday evening.

“Bishop Stika was notified of the filing Tuesday evening,” the spokesperson told WVLT News. “Our attorneys are reviewing the allegations, and the Diocese will have no further comment on the details or merits of the lawsuit at this time.”

The filing accused both the Diocese and Bishop of defamation, negligence, negligent supervision and retention, negligent training, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

It was asked in the filing that Doe be awarded “fair and reasonable damages, including compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by the jury.”

Read the full filing below: