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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.

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.