From NCR:

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard Stika, the embattled leader of the Diocese of Knoxville, following a tumultuous two-year period in which the diocese was subject to a Vatican investigation and multiple lawsuits over its handling of abuse cases.

The Vatican made the announcement in its daily bulletin on June 27 and did not list a reason for the resignation, nor did it name an immediate successor. At age 65, Stika — who has led the East Tennessee diocese since 2009 — is a full decade younger than the standard retirement age of 75 for Catholic bishops.

For years, questions have swirled around his alleged cover-up of abuse, diocesan finances, morale among priests and the overall administration and management of the diocese.

In an interview with NCR earlier this year, Stika defended his 14-year record in Knoxville, which he maintained had seen an uptick in new parishes, seminarians and donations.

“I see growth, I see financial stability, I see vocations, and I see happiness,” he said at the time.

But testimonials on the ground often painted a different story.

In 2022, 11 Knoxville priests wrote to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican’s representative to the United States, appealing for “merciful relief” from Stika’s leadership of the diocese. In two separate lawsuits, the diocese is accused of allegedly obstructing investigations into clergy sex abuse and intimidating people who reported they were abused. And at the end of 2022, the diocese was subject to an apostolic visitation to assess the leadership of the diocese.

Read on.