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  Records Show Priest's History of Molestation Judge Allows Public Release of Information

By Bobby Ross Jr.
Daily Oklahoman [Oklahoma City, OK]
June 4, 2002

A former Roman Catholic priest sentenced in 1999 to 40 years in prison for molesting two Duncan boys was diagnosed 13 years earlier with "fixated ephebophilia," a sexual attraction to adolescent boys, medical records show.

At that time, the Rev. James Francis Rapp acknowledged a history of "sexual contact... with several youths spread out over 20 years," wrote Dr. Frank Valcour, medical director of the Saint Luke Institute, a private Catholic psychiatric hospital in Maryland.

"These sexual disorders are apparently not curable but manageable, much the way alcoholism is an incurable but manageable condition," Valcour concluded. "In any case, it is important that Father Rapp not be in the presence of youths without another responsible adult there."

Rapp's medical record was among more than 140 pages of previously confidential documents ordered unsealed by a district judge last week.

Valcour's October 1986 diagnosis came four years before the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City approved a Toledo, Ohio-based religious order's appointment of Rapp to serve as pastor at Assumption Catholic Church in Duncan.

Rapp, 61, pleaded no contest in October 1999 to two Stephens County molestation charges. Sentenced in December 1999 to two 20-year prison sentences, he is serving time at the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena.

Before his 1991 transfer to Duncan, Rapp was accused of molesting two students at a 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.

Archdiocese of Oklahoma City officials said they were unaware of Rapp's problems when he moved to Duncan in 1991.

The unsealed court records show they were informed of his background in 1994 when two civil lawsuits were filed in Jackson, Mich.

In an April 1994 letter, Lansing, Mich., Bishop Kenneth J.

Povish warned Oklahoma City Archbishop Eusebius Beltran of the pending legal action.

"We fear that more victims are going to emerge from the Jackson high school alumni," Povish wrote. "In light of these developments, I am obliged to alert you to the potential dangers of Father Rapp continuing in the ministry in the archdiocese."

A June 1994 letter indicates the Saint Luke Institute provided Beltran with Valcour's medical report on Rapp at that time.

Rapp remained as pastor at the Duncan church for nearly five more years, until allegations surfaced in May 1999 that he repeatedly had abused a troubled teen-age boy named Dennis Wayne Ballard. In a secret settlement last year, the archdiocese and the religious order agreed to pay Ballard more than $ 5 million, the Washington Post reported last month.

After learning about Rapp's past, Beltran sent a letter to the Rev. James Cryan, provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, denying that either he or retired Archbishop Charles Salatka were informed of Rapp's background. Beltran said Salatka was told Rapp had undergone counseling but understood the reason was "unspecified emotional difficulties."

In the May 1994 letter, Beltran said he would not suspend Rapp but wanted him directed to an approved therapeutic center to undergo a new professional evaluation. Depending on the evaluation's results, Beltran said, he would decide on Rapp's future in Duncan.

The court records do not indicate whether Rapp underwent such an evaluation, or whether Beltran followed up on his letter. The Rev.

Edward Weisenburger, archdiocese spokesman, declined comment Monday, citing ongoing litigation in an Oklahoma County civil case.

Shy as a teen-ager, Rapp dated a bit in high school but "was very fearful and apprehensive of becoming sexually involved with girls," according to the medical report.

Ordained in 1967, Rapp took a five-year leave of absence starting in 1973 because of "some conflict with his superiors," Valcour reported. The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales reinstated him in 1978, and he worked in a variety of teaching assignments before he was hired to oversee building maintenance at Lumen Christi High School.

"He's a priest with all this education, and they're bringing him in to be in charge of maintenance," plaintiffs' attorney William Rappleye said in a hearing in one of the Michigan civil cases.

"If you're going to bring somebody in with a known history of this type of conduct, where do you put him? You put him away from the kids."

Later, Rapp began working with the wrestling team and was accused of improper sexual activity with a 15-year-old team member.

Sent to the Saint Luke Institute for evaluation, Rapp did not deny the allegation.

"Father Rapp's first sexual contact with youngsters occurred slightly less than 20 years ago," wrote Valcour, who recommended in-patient treatment for Rapp at a facility designed to work with priests.

Rapp underwent treatment from October 1986 to June 1987 at the House of Affirmation in California. The Rev. Bernard Bush, an official with the House of Affirmation before it closed, said he knew Rapp well and thought he benefited from treatment.

"I can assure you that he was very highly motivated and worked hard in his program," Bush wrote in a June 1994 letter to Beltran.

"We considered him to have had a very successful outcome of treatment."

Cryan told Beltran in an April 1994 letter the religious order had "no reason to believe that there has been any improper conduct since 1986. And frankly, we are quite happy with all that Jim has tried to accomplish both personally and pastorally."

Last week, Comanche County District Judge Allen McCall ordered records in Rapp's criminal case unsealed at the request of the Washington Post. McCall presided over Rapp's criminal case after Stephens County judges recused themselves.

The Post argued that clergy sexual abuse of minors has become the focus of intense public concern and that the public has an interest in the functioning and operation of large religious organizations.

Weisenburger said Monday the archdiocese favors full disclosure of still-sealed records in two Oklahoma County civil lawsuits.

"We have been advised by counsel that any current discussion of this matter could result in court-imposed sanctions, even if the court records ultimately are released," Weisenburger said in a written statement. "Accordingly, until the court's order is lifted, we cannot comment further on these matters."

 
 

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