Vatican Pressures Bishop Into Resignation

Vatican Pressures Bishop Into Resignation

( – A Catholic bishop has been forced out by the Vatican. Pope Francis accepted the senior clergyman’s resignation on Tuesday following a string of complaints. The bishop says he’s stepping down for health reasons; priests in his diocese say he covered up sexual abuse.

On June 27, Bishop Richard Stika, the Bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee, submitted his resignation to Pope Francis. In a statement announcing his departure, Stika said he was resigning because of health issues, including diabetes and heart problems. However, he did add that “questions about my leadership have played out publicly in recent months.”

Stika was Bishop of Knoxville for 14 years, but the last two years of his tenure have been controversial. In 2021, several priests in his diocese protested about his leadership, accusing him of abusing his authority, and asked the Vatican for “merciful relief” — in other words, his removal.

The worst allegation against Stika is that, confronted with two cases of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese in 2019 and 2020, he protected the perpetrators. Both victims have filed lawsuits against Stika. It seems there were problems long before that, though.

In September 2021, a group of Knoxville priests wrote to the Papal Nuncio to the US — the Vatican’s ambassador — and asked for relief “from the suffering we’ve endured these past 12 years.” That’s a clear reference to when Stika took over the diocese. Last year the Vatican responded, sending inspectors to investigate the situation. Now it looks like Stika has been eased out; the Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, will stand in for him until a new bishop is appointed.

Although Stika has resigned, the Vatican hasn’t announced any other action against him. Now he says he plans to work as a priest in St Louis, Missouri — where he was born — but, at the same time, he wants to continue living in the Knoxville bishop’s residence. Of course, the Vatican might not give him either of those options.

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