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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, green-lit tens of thousands of dollars in payment for the education and living expenses of a former seminarian accused of rape.
After viewing a letter to St. Louis University in Missouri, Knox News reported that the bishop authorized his diocese to pay $48,258 for Wojciech Sobczuk's 2021–2022 school year costs.
"Bishop Richard Stika's actions when ex-seminarian Wojciech Sobczuk was expelled from St. Meinrad Seminary are shocking. Immediate placement at St. Louis University at the people's expense. This is an outrage," tweeted Susan Vance, head of Tennessee's Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests.
Bishop Richard Stika's actions when ex-seminarian Wojciech Sobczuk was expelled from St. Meinrad Seminary are shocking. Immediate placement at St. Louis University at the people's expense. This is an outrage. https://t.co/klkDH5my8F— Susan Vance (@snaptennessee) May 10, 2023
According to Knox News, "The letter, dated April 12, 2021, is on Office of Bishop letterhead and signed by Stika."
In 2021, Sobczuk was kicked out of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana over complaints of sexual harassment. The rector explained the dismissal in a March 1, 2021, letter to Stika:
One student said the Knoxville seminarian, who is Polish, invited him to his dorm room, told him his American accent was "sexy," and tried to hold his hand, prompting the student to immediately leave. Another student said he was undressing to go to bed when he noticed the Knoxville seminarian gazing at him from his room across a courtyard in the dormitory.
A third student described the Knoxville seminarian's aggressive attempts to touch him during a visit to the Knoxville diocese, and his suggestion that the two sleep in the same bed. The student also said the seminarian asked him about his penis in messages sent through Snapchat.
Stika told priests in 2021 that the former seminarian had been dismissed from St. Meinrad because of "boundary" issues.
"He just wanted to be a priest, and he came to this country ... to be a priest, and his name has been defamed by priests in this diocese, by seminarians, by Susan Vance, who wins the war again," claimed Stika.
Part I of the two-part series Spotlight: Truth-Teller — or Sociopath?
The most serious charge against Sobczuk is the accusation of rape against him by a former diocesan employee, which the bishop was made aware of in March 2021, at the latest — although he may have known far earlier.
Knox News relates:
In one email, dated March 10, 2021, a former review board member wrote a letter to share the allegation with the victim's assistance coordinator for the diocese. On March 19, 2021, review board chairman Carleton "Butch" Bryant emailed the entire board, including Stika, saying it was "imperative" they meet the following week to "consider whether an investigation should be opened and pursued."
The diocese launched an investigation, but Bp. Stika fired the investigator for "asking too many questions." He then replaced him with an investigator more friendly to the bishop, who ended up exonerating Sobczuk.
Stika also told priests in his diocese that Sobczuk was the victim in the rape case, not the perpetrator, leading to a lawsuit for defamation by the alleged victim.
Stika also made the allegedly defamatory claim in an email response to Church Militant on Nov. 11, 2021: "Former seminarian was a victim of one anonymous posting that went viral. It had to do apparently with a man who groomed him. The man was 7 years older."
Church Militant outlines the relationship between Stika and Sobczuk, the rape accusation, and the seeming cover-up by the bishop in the two-part show Spotlight: Truth-Teller — or Sociopath?
The Tennessee bishop was reportedly under Vatican investigation under Pope Francis' Vos Estis Lux Mundi process after multiple diocesan priests filed complaints against Stika.
Earlier this year, Stika asked a judge to seal the records of his Vos Estis case from public view.
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