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  Former Duncan Priest Faced Prior Allegations

By Bobby Ross Jr.
Daily Oklahoman [Oklahoma City, OK]
May 10, 2002

A former priest serving a 40-year prison sentence for molesting two Duncan boys had faced prior allegations of sexual misconduct, court records show.

Before his 1991 transfer to Assumption Catholic Church in Duncan, the Rev. James Rapp was accused of molesting two students at a Roman Catholic high school where he taught religion and coached wrestling.

The allegations prompted Rapp to leave his job at Lumen Christi High School in Jackson, Mich., and undergo about a year of treatment, records show.

When his treatment ended, Rapp was assigned by his religious order - the Toledo, Ohio-based Oblates of St. Francis de Sales - to serve as a priest in Duncan. The Oklahoma City Archdiocese approved the assignment.

After Rapp's arrest, Stephens County investigators subpoenaed church personnel records and uncovered the prior allegations.

Prosecutors took a statement from a former Lumen Christi student, who agreed to fly to Oklahoma and testify against the priest, District Attorney Gene Christian said.

The Rev. Edward Weisenburger, spokesman for the Oklahoma City Archdiocese, declined to comment Thursday, citing advice from attorneys.

Rapp, 61, pleaded no contest in October 1999 to two molestation charges. He was sentenced in December 1999 to two 20-year prison sentences - to run consecutively - and fined $ 10,000 in each case.

He is serving time at the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena.

As the criminal phase ended, the Duncan victims and their families filed civil lawsuits in Oklahoma County District Court.

In those cases, the Oklahoma City Archdiocese and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales have waged vigorous legal battles to protect what they knew about his past, court records say.

"To preserve the separation between church and state, the civil courts are constitutionally precluded from analyzing the inner workings of religious institutions," David C. Johnson Jr., attorney for the Oblates of St. Francis, wrote in an Oklahoma Supreme Court filing.

Representing a Duncan molestation victim and his family, attorneys James M. Frieda and John M. Stuart said, "No amount of constitutional verbiage can characterize church-sponsored child abuse as a sanctioned religious right."

Named as defendants in the 1999 lawsuits were Rapp, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, retired Oklahoma City Archbishop Charles A. Salatka, Archbishop Eusebius Beltran and the Rev. Alfred J.

Russell, former principal of Lumen Christi High School in Jackson, Mich.

Both lawsuits sought in excess of $ 10,000 in damages on seven separate counts of alleged wrongdoing.

A settlement for an undisclosed amount has been reached in one civil lawsuit, court records show.

The other lawsuit remains open with a pre-trial hearing tentatively set for July.

However, a judge sealed information about both cases to protect Rapp in prison.

Both sides' attorneys asked to rename Rapp as "John Doe" in court filings, retired District Judge Niles Jackson said.

Attorneys wanted to protect Rapp from the fate of the Rev.

Robert Bruce Brigden, a former Presbyterian pastor from Alva, Jackson said. Brigden was slain in prison in 1994 while serving time for molesting girls.

 
 

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