The rise and fall of Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika

A priest called the East Tennessee bishop’s tenure a ‘yearslong cloud of gaslighting.’ Stika said he did his best.

Staff photo / Bishop Richard Stika, Bishop of Knoxville, speaks in 2020 during the first session of a tribunal to consider canonizing Patrick Ryan, a Catholic priest in Chattanooga in the late 19th century. Ryan died on Sept. 28, 1878, at age 33 while serving the sick in Chattanooga during an outbreak of yellow fever.

One June day in 2021, priests of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville convened in a Gatlinburg, Tennessee, hotel conference room. One of them, perceiving tension in the room, raised his hand.