KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A former Catholic Diocese of Knoxville employee is suing Bishop Richard Stika and the diocese over an alleged rape coverup.
In the 46-page lawsuit filed Tuesday afternoon in Knox County Civil Court, a former employee claims a diocese seminarian raped him at his home in February 2019. The employee filed the lawsuit under the name “John Doe.”
The lawsuit alleges that Bishop Stika and the diocese sought to intimidate the plaintiff into remaining silent and scuttled the investigation into the incident. Stika is accused of sending the plaintiff an expensive missal, a Catholic prayer book, two days after the alleged rape.
Nearly three weeks after the alleged rape, the plaintiff contacted the Knoxville Police Department to report the event.
“The officer he spoke with said that if (the plaintiff) filed a report, the church would come after (him), (he) would lose his job, and it would be a he-said/she-said situation,” the lawsuit states. “Discouraged and fearful of the church – and unable to cope economically with the consequences of losing his job – (the plaintiff) did not file a report.”
No criminal charges have been filed against Bishop Stika, the diocese or the seminarian.
The lawsuit accuses the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville and Stika of defamation; negligence; negligent supervision and retention; negligent training; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
A spokesman for the diocese said late Tuesday night they are aware of the lawsuit.
“We were made aware of the filing this evening. Our attorneys will review the allegations, therefore the diocese will not comment on the merits of the lawsuit at this time,” said a spokesman for the diocese.
The lawsuit seeks “fair and reasonable” damages and a jury trial, including compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by a jury. The plaintiff is represented by John Spragens of Spragens Law PLC in Nashville, as well as Patrick Thronson of Janet, Janet & Suggs LLC in Baltimore, Maryland.