Lawsuit: Knoxville Diocese didn't properly investigate sex abuse claim

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville and its bishop have been named in a lawsuit alleging that sexual abuse allegations against a former employee weren't investigated properly.

The complaint filed Tuesday in Knox County Circuit Court details multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abuse that a then-employee of The Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville lodged against a then-assistant to Bishop Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika, news outlets reported.

The lawsuit claims that Stika overreached in his response to the abuse complaint. It says the diocese hired an outside consultant to investigate the claims, but the bishop replaced the initial investigator with someone who only interviewed the former assistant and not the employee who made the allegation, according to the lawsuit.

Stika was notified Tuesday evening of the lawsuit and attorneys are reviewing the claims, diocesan spokesperson Jim Wogan said in a statement.

"The diocese expects the process to be fair and thorough and looks forward to the opportunity to vigorously defend itself if this matter moves forward," Wogan said.

The alleged abuse took place in 2019.