Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Diocese of Knoxville

Dioecesis Knoxvillensis
Sacred Heart Cathedral (Knoxville, TN) - exterior.jpg
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral
CoA Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville.svg
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryEast Tennessee
Ecclesiastical provinceLouisville
Area14,242 sq mi (36,890 km2)
- Total
- Catholics (including non-members)
(as of 2011)
63,000 (2.7%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedMay 27, 1988 (34 years ago)
CathedralCathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Patron saintNativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary[1]
Current leadership
BishopRichard Stika Bishop of Knoxville
Metropolitan ArchbishopShelton Fabre Archbishop of Louisville
Vicar GeneralDavid A. Boettner
Diocese of Knoxville map.PNG

The Diocese of Knoxville (Latin: Dioecesis Knoxvillensis) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Catholic Church in Tennessee. It was founded on May 27, 1988 from the eastern counties of the Diocese of Nashville. This diocese covers most of East Tennessee; in addition to the see city of Knoxville, it includes Chattanooga and Johnson City. The Mother Church is the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, located on Northshore Drive in Knoxville. The two oldest churches are Saints Peter and Paul Basilica Parish of Chattanooga and Church of the Immaculate Conception Parish of Knoxville, both founded in 1852.

As of 2020, there were an estimated 70,000 Catholics within the diocese, which covers approximately 14,000 square miles (36,000 km2).[2] The percentage of Catholic adherents within the diocese's borders constitutes the lowest among American dioceses.[3] The Diocese of Knoxville is a suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Louisville.


With a population of 70,000 Catholics, the diocese makes up about 2.8% percent of East Tennessee's total population. The diocese is currently home to 50 parishes and one mission. These parishes are served by 65 diocesan priests, 15 religious priests, 8 extern priests, 77 deacons, 9 brothers, and 45 sisters.[2] Eleven Religious Institutes are represented in the diocese.[4]

Perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament is available at many of the parishes and Masses are celebrated in a wide array of languages. This is chosen so that the spiritual needs of all parishioners are met. These languages include English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, American Sign Language, Polish, and Latin.[citation needed]

With the influx of large numbers of Hispanic Catholics looking for work, the diocese faces many new challenges. If the estimates are correct and there are about 50,000 new Hispanic immigrants in the area, their number nearly doubles the area's current official Catholic population. The clergy and laity of the diocese are working to welcome these new neighbors.[5][failed verification]


Immaculate Conception Church (Knoxville, Tennessee)
Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (Chattanooga, Tennessee)

While the Catholic Church has been a part of life in East Tennessee for over 166 years,[5] the Diocese of Knoxville was founded in 1988.[6] Before the creation, the area was part of the Diocese of Nashville.[6]

Because of his role in the creation of the Diocese, Nashville's Bishop James Daniel Niedergeses, was known as the "Grandfather of the Diocese of Knoxville"[7]

Sexual abuse cases[edit]

On April 16, 2010, Bishop Rick Stika of the Diocese revoked the ministerial privileges of William Casey, a priest who formerly served in the diocese. Casey had been accused of rape and sexual abuse by a young altar boy. When confronted, Casey admitted his crimes to Stika and other diocesan officials.[8] Casey was convicted in July 2011 of first-degree sexual misconduct and two counts of aggravated rape and sentenced to prison.[9] The Vatican laicized Casey on January 10, 2013.[10]

On January 1, 2020, the Diocese settled a sex abuse lawsuit involving a man who claimed two priests in the Diocese sexually abused him as a child in the 1990s.[11][12][13][14] Those accused were Monsignor Francis Xavier Mankel and the Diocese of Knoxville's first Bishop Anthony O'Connell;[11][12] O'Connell previously confessed in 2002 to committing acts of sex abuse before he joined the Diocese of Knoxville as well.[15] The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.[11][12][14][13] Originally filed in the Knox County Circuit Court, both parties involved in the lawsuit agreed to instead settle the lawsuit out of court.[11][12][14][13] Despite denying any wrongdoing concerning the two accused priests, who are both dead, the Diocese agreed to settle due to the financial burden which would have grown by continuing the lawsuit.[11][12][14][13]

In February of 2021, a lawsuit filed against both Stika and the Diocese of Knoxville alleged that Wojciech Sobczuk, a Polish seminarian who Stika had invited to study to become a priest in the diocese, raped and sexually harassed an organist employed by Sacred Heart Cathedral. Prior to becoming a seminarian, Sobczuk had been dismissed from the Jesuits after accusations of sexual misconduct at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary. Shortly following the alleged rape, Sobczuk moved into the bishop's rectory and was sent to St. Meinrad Seminary, being dismissed after multiple other allegations of sexual misconduct there. He remained classified as a seminarian of the diocese, which could be construed as immigration fraud,[16] and returned to living in the episcopal residence. Due to the alleged assault, diocesan officials appointed an investigator, who was dismissed by Stika seemingly for contacting diocesan and seminary officials with questions. The replacement investigator Stika appointed interviewed only Sobczuk before closing his investigation. [16]The lawsuit also alleges that Stika intimidated the victim, attempting to silence him, and also accused the victim of raping Sobczuk.[1] Stika also recommended the two keep in contact via Snapchat, a social media app in which messages disappear after being sent.

Stika has been accused of having "bullied" a woman who reported possible grooming and sexual abuse by a priest of the diocese.[17]

Fr. Anthony D. Punnackal, a priest of the diocese of whom Stika has spoken highly, was accused in April of 2022 of 'one count of sexual battery and one count of sexual battery by an authority figure' during a grief counseling session. [18][19]

COVID-19 response[edit]

Public Masses were suspended on March 20, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 6, 2020, Bishop Stika issued a decree for the resumption of public Masses with protocols to reduce spread of the virus, including directives which prohibit the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue.[20]

Coat of Arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville
CoA Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville.svg
Arms was designed and adopted when the diocese was erected. It was designed by Deacon Paul Sullivan.
The arms of the diocese are composed of a cross in gold (Or) at center with three small red (Gules) crosses on it. The background of the shield that shows behind the cross is divided quarterly into areas of red and blue (Azure). Mountains, a dogwood blossom, river and a railroad trestle are charged in there.
The central cross in gold (Or) is taken from the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II, who established the diocese. Three small red (Gules) crosses represent the three dioceses in the state of Tennessee. Charges in these quarters allude to natural features that dominate the landscape of East Tennessee: mountains, a dogwood blossom, and the Tennessee River. A railroad trestle in the bottom right quarter honors the Irish immigrants who brought the Catholic faith to the area, many of whom worked constructing railroads, especially trestles.


Bishops of Knoxville[edit]

The following is a list of bishops along with their dates of service:

  1. Anthony Joseph O'Connell (1988–1998), appointed Bishop of Palm Beach
  2. Joseph Edward Kurtz (1999–2007), appointed Archbishop of Louisville
  3. Richard Stika (2009–present)

Other priest of this diocese who became bishop[edit]


High schools[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About the Diocese of Knoxville".
  2. ^ a b "About the Diocese of Knoxville". Diocese of Knoxville. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  3. ^ "USA, Statistics by Diocese, by Percentage Catholic [Catholic-Hierarchy]".
  4. ^ "Diocese of Knoxville History". 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Diocese of Knoxville". 2008. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Diocese of Knoxville History". 2008. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  7. ^ "Diocese of Knoxville History 1987-1999". 2008. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  8. ^ "Diocese of Knoxville bars priest accused of abuse". Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  9. ^ Breeding, Kacie. "Former Kingsport priest Casey found guilty of aggravated rape, sexual misconduct". Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  10. ^ Booker, Emily (January 28, 2013). "Former priest William Casey laicized". East Tennessee Catholic. Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d e McRary, Amy. "Diocese of Knoxville settles sexual abuse lawsuit out of court". Knoxville News Sentinel.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Diocese of Knoxville agrees to settle sexual abuse lawsuit out of court". December 31, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c d "Tennessee Catholic diocese settles priest abuse lawsuit". Crux. Knoxville, Tennessee. Associated Press. January 2, 2020.
  14. ^ a b c d WTVC, The Associated Press (January 1, 2020). "Diocese of Knoxville settles priest abuse lawsuit". WTVC.
  15. ^ Ross, Brian; Schwartz, Rhonsa; Schecter, Anna (April 15, 2008). "Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops". ABC News. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  16. ^ a b Flynn, J. D. "Stika lawsuit: What's next for the Knoxville diocese?". Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  17. ^ Pillar, The. "Stika 'bullied' Catholic over mishandled allegations, woman claims". Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  18. ^ WTVC (April 23, 2022). "Gatlinburg priest, diocese sued after alleged sex assault during grief counseling session". WTVC. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  19. ^ "Lawsuit: Knoxville diocese mishandled sex abuse claim". Jacksonville Journal-Courier. April 22, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  20. ^ "Bishop Stika issues directives for resumption of public Masses". Diocese of Knoxville. May 6, 2020. Retrieved May 12, 2020.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°58′22″N 83°56′32″W / 35.97278°N 83.94222°W / 35.97278; -83.94222