Knoxville diocese announces settlement in sexual abuse case

Bishop Richard F. Stika and the priests of the Diocese of Knoxville gather to celebrate the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday in the existing Scared Heart Cathedral. The Roman Catholic Diocese has plans to build a new cathedral.

The Diocese of Knoxville announced this week that it reached a financial settlement in a sexual abuse case filed last summer.

In July, East Tennessee resident Michael Boyd filed a lawsuit against the diocese alleging he was repeatedly sexually abused by Monsignor Francis Xavier Mankel, Bishop Anthony O'Connell, visiting priests and school employee Michael Lovelace between 1991 and 1995 when Boyd was a pre-teen.

In a statement released Tuesday, the diocese maintained its denial of the validity of Boyd's claim and said "further pursuing this matter through the legal system could be time-consuming, costly, and detrimental to its mission of service."

READ MORE: Leading Knoxville priest accused of sexual abuse

Mankel, who died in 2017 at age 81, helped found the Diocese of Knoxville when it was created in 1988. He had served in churches and schools across Tennessee, including in Memphis, Knoxville, Gatlinburg and Lawrenceburg.

O'Connell, who died in 2012 at age 73, served as the first bishop of Knoxville and resigned after admitting to abusing children during his time as a priest.

When Boyd's lawsuit went public in July, the diocese said it suspended Lovelace from his position as a music teacher at two unnamed Catholic schools. Until that point, Lovelace was listed as the church choir director in the Sunday bulletin of Holy Ghost Catholic Church, which is connected to St. Joseph School in Knoxville. Lovelace had been recently hired to teach at St. Mary's School in Oak Ridge.

In September, the diocese announced Lovelace's contract with the diocese was permanently terminated without the opportunity for rehire but denied the termination was connected with Boyd's lawsuit.

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