From The Pillar:

A Vatican-ordered apostolic visitation will be conducted in the Diocese of Knoxville next week, several sources close to the diocese told The Pillar.

Sources told The Pillar Friday that Bishops Barry Knestout of Richmond and Michael Burbidge of Arlington have been directed to visit with priests, diocesan officials, and lay Catholics over several days, amid ongoing concern over the leadership of Bishop Rick Stika.

The decision to commission an on-site assessment of the diocese comes more than 18 months after priests in the diocese reported to the Vatican concerns about Stika’s handling of reports against a former diocesan seminarian, who was accused of sexually harassing and assaulting other seminarians and a parish organist.

While the Vatican had previously directed Archbishop Joseph Kurtz to look into allegations against Stika, the visitation of Knestout and Burbidge is believed to be a follow-up to the wide-ranging complaints raised against the Knoxville bishop, and to Kurtz’ initial reports to the Vatican.

Priests told The Pillar they believe the apostolic visitation is likely the result of a September 27 meeting between Knoxville priests and Louisville Archbishop Shelton Fabre.

Fabre attended a presbyteral meeting that day, and met with Knoxville’s priests without Stika in the room.

It was “pretty open and honest, broadly speaking,” one priest told The Pillar.  “No one defended [Stika], it was just people being open, and he seemed pretty genuine about listening to us.”

“A bunch of guys stood up, and told their really hard stories, and Archbishop Fabre seemed like he really heard it,” another priest said.

“We were really listened to,” another told The Pillar.

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