Father John Sappenfield admitted to a relationship with a female church member.
FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Bishop David Choby addressed a Franklin church over the weekend for the first time since removing their head pastor from his duties.
"It's important to me that you hear from me what has happened," Choby said in reference to the removal of Father John Sappenfield, who had been at the church since July 2008.
Choby, the leader of the Diocese of Nashville, spoke to the congregation before each of three weekend masses.
According to Choby, Sappenfield admitted to "abuse of a professional relationship" with an adult female at St. Philip.
The Diocese of Nashville defines that violation as an act of sexual misconduct between a cleric and an adult in the congregation.
"[Father Sappenfield] realized that he had engaged in behavior that would make it impossible for him to continue here as the pastor," Choby said.
The Bishop acknowledged that the incident has been "painful for you as a parish. It's painful for me. Father Sappenfield and I were together as a pastor and associate pastor, so I know him well and I certainly intend to assist him in every way I can."
Choby asked the church to pray for everyone involved in the matter.
Although he was removed from his duties at St. Philip, Father Sappenfield has not been removed from the priesthood, according to Bishop Choby.
He continues to be a priest in the Diocese of Nashville, which spans all of Middle Tennessee.
In a statement, the Diocese of Nashville said that Sappenfield will have no active priestly ministry.
Bishop Choby told the parishioners at St. Philip that he will announce a replacement pastor at some point in the future.
Several church members declined to talk to News 2 on camera but said despite Father Sappenfield's transgressions, he remains in their prayers.