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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Richard Stika and his Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, are being sued by a former parish organist.

The organist maintains that he was raped by a Knoxville seminarian and alleges that the bishop covered up his claims  by interfering with a diocesan investigation into them.

The Pillar reported that a lawsuit was launched against Stika and the Knoxville diocese on February 22, accusing the prelate of scheming to conceal “sexual misconduct and sexual abuse” allegedly perpetrated by former seminarian Wojciech Sobczuk, which “was meant to quiet and subdue complaints of sexual abuse and prevent valid legal filings,” the lawsuit claims.

The organist, who filed under “John Doe” to protect his identity owing to the sensitive nature of the allegations, claims that Sobczuk raped him at his home in 2019 and “sexually harassed” him “on numerous occasions at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville, TN.”

Both the diocese and the bishop stand accused of covering up the alleged abuse, as well as failing in the commitment of the diocese to protect its parishioners and employees by directing abuse complaints to the competent authority. Stika has also been accused of turning the accusations against the supposed victim, the bishop allegedly having told “numerous individuals” that it was Doe who raped Sobczuk and not the other way around.

The seminarian formerly trained with the Jesuits in Poland and later transferred to the Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Michigan after being removed from the Jesuit novitiate “for sexual misconduct,” according to the lawsuit.

Stika invited Sobczuk to the Knoxville diocese in 2018 after he left the community, later accepting Sobczuk as a diocesan seminarian and inviting him to live in his residence with him and retired Cardinal Justin Rigali.

Doe alleges that the former seminarian raped him on February 5, 2019. The alleged victim contacted police on February 25, according to the lawsuit, but refrained from filing charges after the officer told him he “would lose his job, and it would be a he-said/she-said situation.”

The Pillar reported that complaints against Stika regarding interference with an investigation into Doe’s 2019 claims surfaced in 2021, at which time the bishop told the publication that he removed investigator George Prosser from the case.

According to Stika, the reason for replacing Prosser, the retired inspector general of the Tennessee Valley Authority appointed to examine Doe’s case by the diocesan review board, was that he was “asking all these questions” as part of his investigation.

Stika claimed Prosser’s behaviour was not fitting for the investigation since he questioned “chancery personnel and seminary administrators,” The Pillar wrote. All the while, the bishop maintained Sobczuk’s innocence, saying that he “knew in [his] heart” that the seminarian was not guilty.

The bishop admitted to “fighting in the diocese rumors about Wojciech,” explaining that he did so “because I know he is innocent.”

“And if there’s anything, maybe I’m like a dog with a bone. I really believe somebody has to stand up for people when you think they’re innocent,” said Stika. He replaced Prosser with retired policeman Chris Manning, who interviewed Sobczuk as part of his investigation but did not speak to other credible witnesses, which satisfied the bishop.

Clergymen of the diocese reported Stika’s intervention to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, which subsequently launched a Vos estis lux mundi investigation into events. The result of the investigation has not yet been released.

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Please read the latest from LifeSiteNews about the text of the Act of Consecration which was just released by the Vatican: 'BREAKING: Text of Pope Francis’ consecration of ‘humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine’ released'

PETITION UPDATE (3/23/22):

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25.

On March 15, the Holy See Press Office wrote:

On Friday 25 March, during the Celebration of Penance at which he will preside at 17.00 in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The same act, on the same day, will be carried out in Fatima by His Eminence Cardinal Krajewski, Apostolic Almoner, as envoy of the Holy Father.

This unexpected and monumental announcement comes after the Catholic bishops of Ukraine issued an urgent and heartfelt plea to the Holy Father on Ash Wednesday, asking that he make the consecration as Our Lady of Fatima had requested. The bishops wrote:

Responding to this prayer, we humbly ask Your Holiness to publicly perform the act of consecration to the Sacred Immaculate Heart of Mary of Ukraine and Russia, as requested by the Blessed Virgin in Fatima.

May the Mother of God, Queen of Peace, accept our prayer: Regina pacis, ora pro nobis! In July 1917, Our Lady of Fatima gave the three visionaries this message, asking for the explicit consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart:

To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.

Our Lady of Fatima then repeated the request in 1929, when she appeared to Sr. Lucia saying:

"The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father to make, and to order that in union with him and at the same time, all the bishops of the world make the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, promising to convert it because of this day of prayer and worldwide reparation."

While Pope John Paul II made an “entrustment-consecration” of the world, including Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 1984, he deliberately avoided making the explicit mention of Russia as Our Lady had requested.

Following the announcement that Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine, LifeSiteNews is now asking the Pope to ensure that the consecration is performed precisely as Our Lady of Fatima requested. In order to fulfil the request Our Lady made, the Pope must "order" the "bishops of the world" to make the consecration of Russia "in union with him and at the same time."

Along with this, the day of consecration must be a "day of prayer and worldwide reparation."

The importance of the specifications made by Our Lady was noted by Sr. Lucia. Having seen a copy of Pope John Paul II’s consecration text prior to the 1984 “entrustment-consecration,” she said “That consecration cannot have a decisive character.”

Then in 1985, following Pope John Paul II’s "entrustment-consecration," Sr. Lucia observed that:

"There was no participation of all the bishops, and there was no mention of Russia." She was then asked, "So the consecration was not done as requested by Our Lady?" to which she replied: "No. Many bishops attached no importance to this act."

With Pope Francis’ proposed consecration only days away, LifeSiteNews is urging him to fulfil the request of Fatima, to "order" the bishops to join him in making the consecration and to make the day one of “prayer and worldwide reparation.”

Bishop Athanasius Schneider has also composed a prayer to be said for the consecration of Russia, in the manner Our Lady asked for:

O Immaculate Heart of Mary, you are the holy Mother of God and our tender Mother. Look upon the distress in which the Church and the whole of humanity are living because of the spread of materialism and the persecution of the Church. In Fatima, you warned against these errors, as you spoke about the errors of Russia. You are the Mediatrix of all graces. Implore your Divine Son to grant this special grace for the Pope: that he might consecrate Russia to your Immaculate Heart, so that Russia will be converted, a period of peace will be granted to the whole world, and your Immaculate Heart will triumph, through an authentic renewal of the Church in the splendor of the purity of the Catholic faith, of the sacredness of Divine worship and of the holiness of Christian life. O Queen of the Holy Rosary and our dear Mother, turn your merciful eyes to us and graciously hear this our trusting prayer.

Amen.

+Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana

 

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PETITION UPDATE (3/2/22) -

The Ukrainian Catholic bishops have specifically asked Pope Francis to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, according to the request of Our Lady of Fatima.

Here is a link to their Ash Wednesday letter: http://kmc.media/2022/03/02/yepyskopy-ukrayiny-prosyat-papu-prysvyatyty-ukrayinu-ta-rosiyu-sercyu-mariyi.html

Please WATCH the new John-Henry Westen show about this momentous event: https://www.lifesitenews.com/episodes/ukraines-catholic-bishops-ask-pope-francis-to-consecrate-russia-to-the-immaculate-heart-of-mary

Then, please read LifeSiteNews latest story on this amazing development: 'Ukraine’s Catholic bishops ask Pope Francis to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary'

______________________________________________________________

The great drama now is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. How far will it go, how will the West and especially the U.S. respond, and will China now be tempted to attack Taiwan? These questions are on everyone’s mind, including fear that it might lead to a far greater war.

It is hard to know exactly what to say other than Russia’s invasion must be condemned. And, that the world must now pray for peace.

Keeping those things in mind, LifeSite now proposes to resurrect this petition - now, more urgent than before - asking Pope Francis to reconsecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Please SIGN and SHARE this important petition to Pope Francis, imploring him to reconsecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the same way that Our Lady of Fatima asked in 1917.

We humbly ask Pope Francis to use the following wording:

“In accordance with Our Lady’s request at Fatima, I, Pope Francis, consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in union with all the bishops of the world.” 

And then:

“I also consecrate Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in union with all the bishops of the world.”

The bishops’ wording should be:

“In accordance with Our Lady’s request at Fatima, I, _______________, consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at the same time as, and in union with, Pope Francis.”

Speaking in Rome only 5 years ago, Cardinal Raymond Burke called on the Catholic faithful to “work for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary” in fidelity to the request by Our Lady of Fatima. 

The Cardinal explained:

"Certainly, Pope Saint John Paul II consecrated the world, including Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 1984. But, today, once again, we hear the call of Our Lady of Fatima to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart, in accord with her explicit instruction."

This call, whether in 1917, or 1984, or in 2017, is EVEN MORE relevant today!

Pope Saint John Paul II himself wanted to name Russia explicitly in his Consecration, but in the end yielded to pressure not to from advisors. Cardinal Josef Cordes, former president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, confirmed this fact on May 13, 2017, based on his own conversation with the sainted pope.

However, after several years of confusion, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published "The Message of Fatima," on June 26, 2000, in which we learn that Sr. Lucia confirmed that the Pope's consecration was, in fact, done according to Our Lady's wishes (emphasis added):

Sister Lucia personally confirmed that this solemn and universal act of consecration corresponded to what Our Lady wished ("Sim, està feita, tal como Nossa Senhora a pediu, desde o dia 25 de Março de 1984": "Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984": Letter of 8 November 1989). Hence any further discussion or request is without basis.

But, Cardinal Burke explained why a consecration including Russia is so important:  "[It] is at once a recognition of the importance which Russia continues to have in God’s plan for peace and a sign of profound love for our brothers and sisters in Russia."

For those who may object to calling for the reconsecration of Russia, on the basis that it has already been done, Cardinal Burke recalled the words of Pope St. John Paul II who, in 1982, during his consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart noted: “Mary’s appeal is not for just once. Her appeal must be taken up by generation after generation, in accordance with the ever new ‘signs of the times’. It must be unceasingly returned to. It must ever be taken up anew.”

Burke, former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, gave his address in the month of the centenary of Our Lady of Fatima’s first apparition to the three shepherd children.

Thank you for SIGNING and SHARING this urgent petition to Pope Francis, urging him to reconsecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and imploring God to quell the hostilities.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

'Russia’s invasion is an opportunity to recall the message of Our Lady of Fatima' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/russias-invasion-is-an-opportunity-to-recall-the-message-of-our-lady-of-fatima

'Russia attacks Ukraine: explosions in multiple cities as troops move across borders' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/russia-launches-attack-on-ukraine-explosions-in-multiple-cities-as-troops-move-across-the-border/

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Stika claimed that he and the cathedral rector launched their own investigation into the allegations in 2019—a claim that is rejected by the lawsuit—finding the accusations against Sobczuk “baseless” before sending him to St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.

Before Sobczuk finished his second year at St. Meinrad, he was again dismissed from studies following allegations of sexual harassment, The Pillar reported. Although aware of the allegations both before and during his time at St. Meinrad’s, Stika accepted Sobczuk back to his residence at the diocese after being dismissed, the lawsuit explained. There the bishop gave Sobczuk a “staff position” and “an office in the diocesan chancery.”

Stika was also accused of intimidating Doe after sending an unexpected gift – an expensive missal – just two days after the alleged rape.

The court document states that “Doe had never had a substantive conversation with Stika, and the missal was inscribed and given mere days after he was raped,” a gesture which “frightened” him. “He reasonably interpreted the gift of the missal and the inscription as a threat not to disclose what had happened to him.”

The lawsuit claims that Stika’s characterization of Doe as the assailant and Sobczuk as the victim of rape was “defamatory” and “exposed him to wrath, public hatred, contempt, and ridicule, and deprived him of the benefits of public confidence and social interaction.”

“Stika’s statements were particularly outrageous and harmful to Plaintiff because Plaintiff was raped by Sobczuk,” the court document reads.

LifeSiteNews reached out to the Diocese of Knoxville for comment but was unable to reach anyone before publication.

Although accepting a seminarian who had been dismissed over sexual misconduct allegations into his diocese and inviting him to share living quarters, Stika appeared to be concerned about safety when it came to Mass. He enforced strict rules on liturgical celebrations and the reception of Holy Communion in his diocese during the coronavirus crisis.

Stika’s Twitter account has since been purged, with all tweets now deleted.

An appeal against the bishop’s decision to limit reception of the Eucharist to the hand only was rejected by Archbishop Arthur Roche, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in November 2020.

“The decision to suspend the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue was difficult for me and I understand the concern some of our clergy and laity had regarding my actions,” Stika said at the time. “However, we were in the early stages of this pandemic and dealing with much uncertainty. I felt I had the authority to make a conscientious decision for the safety of everyone – the laity and our clergy.”

Many clerics spoke out against bans on receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, including Bishop Athanasius Schneider who defended the ancient practice as not only more reverent, but more hygienic than by hand.

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