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Knoxville priest, ex-bishop accused of sexual abuse in lawsuit

Michael Boyd said in the suit that he was abused while he was at Sacred Heart School in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Blount County man said he was sexually abused by a Knoxville priest and a former bishop. He also accused the Catholic Diocese in Knoxville of covering up his abuse.  

In a lawsuit filed last week in Knox Co. Circuit Court, Michael Boyd claims the abuse happened in the early 90s when he was serving as an altar boy and grade school student at Sacred Heart School.

Boyd--now in his late 30s--said now-dead Priest Xavier Mankel and former bishop Anthony O'Connell, also deceased, were among his abusers. 

The suit says it began when he was changing out of his altar boy robes and escalated into what the suit says Father Mankel called "love therapy" and later "touch therapy." 

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"This is horrific what has been done to this young man," Susan Vance of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said. She went with Boyd to file a police report documenting the abuse in September. 

"That was a cathartic moment for him because he was finally, finally speaking the truth," she said. 

The suit says then-bishop Anthony O'Connell also engaged in "inappropriate touching and sexual contact" with Boyd. 

O'Connell, who died in 2012, admitted to molesting boys while he was a school principal in Missouri before coming to Knoxville. 

Also named in the suit, William Lovelace, who the Diocese has now suspended as a music teacher at two of its schools. 

Boyd claims Lovelace tried to get him to "touch him inappropriately."

Boyd said in the suit told multiple adults at the abuse at the time, but was told to keep quiet. He also claims that he was threatened with “multiple adverse consequences" if he spoke out at the time. 

In statement, Bishop Richard Stika said the church contacted authorities when presented with the allegations. 

He also said its independent investigation "concluded there was no finding of credible evidence to support the allegations." 

But Vance says it's true and a first step toward accountability. 

"What you see here today in this lawsuit is the beginning of the truth being told, finally," she said. 

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