Archdiocese, Order Settle Lawsuit for $ 5 Million, Newspaper Reports

Daily Oklahoman [Oklahoma City, OK]
May 22, 2002

In a secret settlement last year, the Oklahoma City Archdiocese and a Toledo, Ohio-based Roman Catholic religious order agreed to pay sexual molestation victim Dennis Ballard more than $ 5 million, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

As a troubled teen-age boy, Ballard was repeatedly molested by the Rev. James Rapp, who served as priest at Duncan's Assumption Catholic Church from 1991 until his arrest in 1999, the Post reported.

Rapp, 61, pleaded no contest in October 1999 to two Stephens County 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 at Helena.

Garvin Isaacs, an attorney for Ballard, and the Rev. Edward Weisenburger, archdiocese spokesman, refused to confirm the Post's report, saying a judge sealed court records in the case. The newspaper did not disclose the source of its information.

Before his transfer to Duncan in 1991, Rapp was accused of molesting two students at a Catholic high school where he taught religion and coached wrestling, The Oklahoman reported earlier this month.

According to the Post's story:

Just after Easter 1994, Archbishop Eusebius Beltran of Oklahoma City received a letter from a church official in Michigan, saying Rapp was about to be sued for allegedly molesting a teen-age boy in Michigan a decade earlier. It was an incident, the church official wrote, that had led Rapp's superiors to send him to a well-known treatment center for sexual disorders in 1986.

Soon afterward, Beltran sent a letter to the head of Rapp's religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. He said his archdiocese had never been informed of the priest's troubled sexual history with children before hiring him in 1991. Beltran listed a series of conditions for Rapp to remain in Oklahoma, one of which was that he be re-evaluated and the evaluation be given to Beltran.

The Rev. James Cryan, the Oblates provincial in Toledo, did not act on the demands; there is no evidence that Beltran followed up on them either. A month later Beltran received a copy of a prior medical evaluation of Rapp stating it is "very important" that Rapp not be around children without supervision, but the archbishop left the priest in his job. For the next five years, Rapp remained pastor of the Duncan church.

The Post said it had reviewed sealed records from the lawsuits, including internal correspondence of church officials on Rapp, the priest's confidential medical and personnel records, and depositions from senior church officials.

Documents describe Rapp's sexual problems as going back to 1959, before he was ordained, the newspaper said. By 1969, when he was teaching at a high school in Salt Lake City, students began to complain about inappropriate behavior. He never denied the numerous allegations against him, according to those papers seen by the Post.


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