Some unfazed by local allegations
May 2, 2002
Jamie Satterfield, News-Sentinel staff writer
LENOIR CITY -- Maybe allegations of sexual impropriety by a Catholic priest would have shocked residents here in years past, but not anymore.
"It pretty much seems to be happening nationwide, every day it seems," resident Todd Sorum said. He said he was "not surprised" that allegations have surfaced locally.
Sorum, like many Lenoir City residents contacted Wednesday, was saddened by news that Stephen Charles LaPrad, 52, a former priest at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church on Harrison Road, faces a sexual battery charge.
"Nothing shocks me anymore," Mary Simpson, 59, said Wednesday. "I'm just glad I've got my children raised. Of course, now I've got to worry about my grandchildren."
LaPrad is charged with sexual battery in a presentment returned by a Knox County grand jury last month. He is accused of unwanted sexual contact with a young man last November at a Knoxville health club. The victim is not a member of the Lenoir City church where LaPrad served as priest. LaPrad has resigned from his position with St. Thomas.
The incident comes at a time when a new, larger building for the St. Thomas church is under construction. No one was at either the current church or the new building construction site Wednesday.
Jason Cox, 24, a native of Lenoir City and a member of Calvary Baptist Church, said he was angered by the sex scandal rocking the Catholic priesthood in the United States because of the damage it does to the Christian faith.
"I think it's terrible, especially it being somebody in charge who is supposed to be faithful and uphold the church rules," Cox said.
Simpson, who said she used to attend a Baptist church but is no longer active in it, agreed.
"I can see where it would influence people who have never gone to church," she said.
Sorum is one of those people.
"I believe in a God," Sorum said. "But I don't believe in organized religion. This just shows, churches have these rules that even (their leaders) can't follow."
Sorum believes the Catholic Church should allow priests to marry.
"You can kind of see the reasons why this keeps happening," he said. "I think they ought to let priests live a little more normal lifestyle."
Ken Gentry, 32, who operates an automotive shop in Loudon County, said he finds allegations of sexual misconduct by priests inexcusable.
"That's as low as you can get," Gentry said. "Priests, ministers, they're supposed to set the standard for the community."
Jamie Satterfield may be reached at 865-342-6308 or [email protected]