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Richard Stika

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Richard Frank Stika
Bishop Emeritus of Knoxville
ChurchCatholic Church
AppointedJanuary 12, 2009
InstalledMarch 19, 2009
RetiredJune 27, 2023
PredecessorJoseph Edward Kurtz
OrdinationDecember 14, 1985
by John L. May
ConsecrationMarch 19, 2009
by Justin Francis Rigali
Joseph Edward Kurtz
Robert Joseph Shaheen
Personal details
Born (1957-07-04) July 4, 1957 (age 66)
Alma materSt. Louis University
Kenrick-Glennon Seminary
MottoIesu confido in te
(Jesus, I trust in you)
Styles of
Richard Frank Stika
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleBishop

Richard Frank Stika (born July 4, 1957) is an American prelate of the Catholic Church who served as the third bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville in Tennessee from 2009.

Stika resigned as bishop of Knoxville in 2023 at the request of Pope Francis. He had been accused of covering up the rape of a diocesan employee by a former seminarian, among other allegations of misconduct and mismanagement.[1][2]


Early life[edit]

Richard Stika was born on July 4, 1957, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Frank and Helen (née Musielak) Stika; his father was of Czech heritage and his mother Polish.[3] The third of four children, Richard Stika has two brothers, Lawrence and Robert, and Joseph was later adopted. He was baptized at St. Francis de Sales Church on July 21, 1957, and attended Epiphany of Our Lord School in South St. Louis.[4]

Stika attended St. Augustine Minor Seminary High School[a] in Holland, Michigan, for one year. During a 2023 interview, Stika said that he was sexually abused by an Augustinian priest while at that school.[6] He transferred to Bishop DuBourg High School in St. Louis, graduating in 1975. Stika then studied at St. Louis University, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in business in 1979. Stika then entered Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury, Missouri, where he earned a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in 1981 and a Master of Divinity degree in 1985. Cardinal John Carberry ordained Stika as a deacon on May 1, 1985.[4]


Stika was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop John L. May on December 14, 1985, for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.[4] After his ordination, Stika served as an associate pastor of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves, Missouri, until 1991. In 1991, He was appointed spiritual director of the Catholic Youth Organization chapter in the archdiocese and associate director of the Office of Vocations. Stika was named in 1991 as an associate pastor at St. Paul Parish in Fenton, Missouri. The next year, he was assigned to Cathedral of St. Louis Parish as an associate pastor, holding that position until 1994.[4]

From 1994 to 2004, Stika served as chancellor of the archdiocese. During this period, he also served as private secretary and master of ceremonies to Archbishop Justin Rigali (from 1994 to 1997), vicar general and vicar for religious (from 1997 to 2004), and as a member of the College of Consultors (from 1997 to 2009). Stika coordinated Pope John Paul II's visit to St. Louis in 1999.[4]

Named vicar for priests in 2002, Stika served as both pastor of Annunziata Parish in Ladue, Missouri, and episcopal vicar for Child and Youth Protection from 2004 to 2009.[4]

Bishop of Knoxville[edit]

On January 12, 2009, Stika was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville by Pope Benedict XVI.[7] He was ordained on March 19, 2009, by Rigali, with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Bishop Robert Shaheen serving as co-consecrators, at the Knoxville Convention Center in Knoxville.[8] Stika selected as his episcopal motto: Iesu Confido In Te ("Jesus, I Trust in You").[9]

Possessing bi-ritual faculties, Stika was able to celebrate the West Syriac Rite Holy Qurbono according to the recension of the Maronite Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the pope. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. He is a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.[3] He is a close friend of Cardinal Rigali and considered the latter's protégé.[10][11]

Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart[edit]

In September 2014, Stika initiated fundraising to construct a new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville,[12] He dedicated it on March 3, 2018.[13][12]

Questions concerning the funding of the cathedral arose in 2021. Some diocesan priests and employees alleged that Stika took funds from diocesan education and employee benefit funds, including loan money from the US Paycheck Protection Program, to pay the $36 million cost for the cathedral. One anonymous priest said "we are nearly bankrupt... there's just not going to be cash there."[14]

Criticisms of leadership as bishop[edit]

In April 2021, an official of the Congregation for Bishops stated that the Vatican had received about ten accusations against Stika under the auspices of the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, which covered procedures for allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. The official said that the Vatican would probably task Archbishop Kurtz with investigating the allegations.[15]

In 2021, 11 diocesan priests, wrote to the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. They requested that the Vatican provide the diocese with "merciful relief" from Stika's leadership. The priests wrote that:[16]

Our experience of our appointed bishop varies among us, but the undersigned do share a common awareness that the past twelve years of service under Bishop Stika have been, on the whole, detrimental to priestly fraternity and even to our personal well-being.


On May 13, 2023, The Pillar reported that Vatican officials planned to request Stika's resignation as bishop of Knoxville. This followed an investigation of administrative mismanagement and cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations against a former seminarian.[17]

Pope Francis accepted Stika's resignation on June 27, 2023.[18] Despite criticism of his leadership and recent sexual lawsuits, Stika stated that his resignation was purely health-related.[19] It was also noted that he suffered from diabetes for decades and had experienced a heart attack, heart bypass surgery and a diabetic coma that resulted in vision loss in one eye.[19]

Handling of clerical sexual abuse[edit]

On April 16, 2010, Stika revoked the ministerial privileges of Reverend William Casey. He had been accused of rape and sexual abuse by a young altar boy. When confronted by Stika and other diocesan officials, Casey admitted his guilt.[20] Casey was convicted in July 2011 of first-degree sexual misconduct and two counts of aggravated rape and sentenced to prison.[21] The Vatican laicized Casey on January 10, 2013.[22]

In 2017 Stika planned to ordain as a priest a transitional deacon of another diocese who had been dismissed from formation because of sexual misconduct allegations. This was over the objections of Knoxville priests and psychological experts. The deacon's own bishop refused to excardinate, or transfer, him to the Diocese of Knoxville, and the seminarian was not ordained.[23]

Stika was accused of "bullying" a woman who reported possible grooming and sexual abuse by a priest of his diocese in 2017.[24]

Reverend Anthony D. Punnackal, a visiting priest from India, was accused in April 2022 of "one count of sexual battery and one count of sexual battery by an authority figure" during a grief counseling session. The diocese is alleged to have mishandled that claim as well.[25]

Wojciech Sobczuk[edit]

In 2018, Stika invited Wojciech Sobczuk, a Polish seminarian, to study in the diocese on the recommendation of Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz. In February 2019, an organist at Sacred Heart Cathedral complained to Stika that Sobczuk had raped and sexually harassed him. In response to these complaints, Stika allegedly accused the organist of raping Sobczuk.[2][26] Shortly after the alleged rape in Knoxville, Stika sent Sobczuk to study for the priesthood at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. Stika also recommended the two men keep in contact using Snapchat, a social media app in which messages disappear after being sent.[27]

While attending St. Meinrad, Sobczuk received special treatment from Stika and lived in the bishop's home when not at the seminary. In December 2019, Stika arranged for Sobczuk to miss more than a week of classes to accompany Stika on his ad limina visit to the Vatican. Between mid-2018 and 2020, Stika earmarked $4,000 of diocesan funds as cash gifts for Sobczuk The diocese also paid his phone bill and reimbursed him nearly $30,000 in expenses for travel, car repairs, and other personal expenditures. Sobczuk also received monthly stipends that ranged from $600 to $1,000, three to five times higher than the typical seminarian's stipend.[28]

In February 2021, the organist sued the diocese.[26] His lawsuit also mentioned that the Jesuit Order had previously expelled Sobczuk due to allegations of sexual misconduct at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan.[29] St. Meinrad dismissed Sobczuk in March 2021 after receiving allegations of sexual misconduct from their own seminarians. These included groping and tickling other seminarians, sending them explicit Snapchat messages, and watching one seminarian undress through a window.[28]

In response to the rape allegation against Sobczuk, the diocesan review board appointed a retired law enforcement officer to conduct an investigation. Stika then dismissed the investigator for "asking all these questions".[30] Stika appointed a replacement investigator who only interviewed Sobczuk before closing his investigation.[31] The second investigator never interviewed any of the seminarians at St. Meinrad who had accused Sobczuk of harassment and assault.[citation needed]

After Sobczuk returned to Knoxville, Stika continued to classify him as a seminarian to protect his immigration status.[31] Sobczuk moved into the episcopal residence and in September 2021 accompanied Stika on a 10-day vacation in the United States.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The school operated from 1949 to 1977.[5]


  1. ^ "Vatican to ask Stika for resignation". The Pillar. May 13, 2023. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  2. ^ a b "Legal Complaint: John Doe vs Richard F. Stika" (PDF). Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  3. ^ a b "Most Reverend Richard F. Stika, D.D." Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville. Archived from the original on May 6, 2015. Retrieved June 25, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Bishop Stika's Curriculum Vitae". Diocese of Knoxville. Retrieved November 7, 2023.
  5. ^ Hayden, Jim (August 13, 2012). "St. Augustine Seminary graduates bring spirit of history to reunion". Holland Sentinel. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  6. ^ "Stika after resignation: 'I myself was a victim of abuse'". The Pillar. June 27, 2023. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  7. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 12.01.2008" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  8. ^ Williams, Rebecca D. (March 19, 2009). "New Knoxville bishop: 'I pledge to be a good shepherd'". Knox News. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  9. ^ "Coat of Arms". Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville. Archived from the original on October 14, 2006. Retrieved June 25, 2009.
  10. ^ Palmo, Rocco (October 22, 2005). "Isn't it Rich?". Whispers in the Loggia.
  11. ^ Palmo, Rocco (January 12, 2009). "Rich It Is -- Western "Rome" Meets East Tennessee". Whispers in the Loggia.
  12. ^ a b McWilliams, Dan (March 5, 2018). "Catholics celebrate nation's newest cathedral, growth of church in South". The Boston Pilot. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  13. ^ McRary, Amy (May 3, 2018). "Reverence, awe — and humor — open East Tennessee Catholics' $30.8 million cathedral". Knox News. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  14. ^ Flynn, J. D. (May 22, 2021). "Bishop Stika wants 'the whole story' ahead of Vatican investigation". www.pillarcatholic.com. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  15. ^ "Stika facing likely 'Vos estis' Vatican investigation". www.pillarcatholic.com. April 23, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  16. ^ "Knoxville priests asked nuncio for 'merciful relief'". Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. May 3, 2022. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  17. ^ "Vatican to ask Stika for resignation". May 13, 2023. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  18. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 27.06.2023" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. June 27, 2023. Retrieved June 27, 2023.
  19. ^ a b Graham, Ruth (June 27, 2023). "Knoxville Bishop Resigns Amid Turmoil". New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2023.[dead link]
  20. ^ "Diocese of Knoxville bars priest accused of abuse". www.knoxnews.com. Retrieved January 10, 2022.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Breeding, Kacie (July 13, 2011). "Former Kingsport priest Casey found guilty of aggravated rape, sexual misconduct". timesnews.net. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  22. ^ "Former priest William Casey laicized". East Tennessee Catholic. January 28, 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  23. ^ "Stika accepted deacon accused of misconduct; Knoxville priests criticize 'pattern' of leadership". www.pillarcatholic.com. April 29, 2021. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  24. ^ "Stika 'bullied' Catholic over mishandled allegations, woman claims". www.pillarcatholic.com. March 12, 2022. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  25. ^ "Gatlinburg priest, diocese sued after alleged sex assault during grief counseling session". WTVC. April 23, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  26. ^ a b Flynn, J. D. (February 23, 2022). "Stika lawsuit: What's next for the Knoxville diocese?". www.pillarcatholic.com. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  27. ^ "Ex-church worker in Tennessee claims in lawsuit he was raped by seminarian". NBC News. February 23, 2022. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  28. ^ a b "Stika said assault claim was 'boundary issue' for seminarian to whom he gave thousands". www.pillarcatholic.com. April 27, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  29. ^ "Stika, Knoxville diocese, sued for alleged rape cover-up". www.pillarcatholic.com. February 23, 2022. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  30. ^ "Knoxville bishop replaced investigator in seminarian probe". www.pillarcatholic.com. May 17, 2021. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  31. ^ a b Flynn, J. D. (February 23, 2022). "Stika lawsuit: What's next for the Knoxville diocese?". www.pillarcatholic.com. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  32. ^ "Vatican verdict looms for Knoxville bishop". www.pillarcatholic.com. September 22, 2021. Retrieved August 2, 2022.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Bishop of Knoxville
Succeeded by
Sede Vacante