Priest Arrested, Accused in Teen's Molestation

By Pat Gilliland and Ron Jackson
Daily Oklahoman [Oklahoma City, OK]
May 12, 1999

Duncan — A Catholic priest was arrested early Tuesday in Stephens County and charged with two counts of lewd molestation in a case that involves a minor.

The Rev. James Rapp, 58, pastor at Assumption Catholic Church in Duncan since 1991, was released on $ 10,000 bond.

"This is a sad situation for the community and certainly for the church," Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford said. "Father Rapp is well known around town and well-thought-of as well."

Ford said he became aware of the allegations Monday after his department received a telephone call from a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

The Rev. Edward J. Weisenburger, vicar general and spokesman for the archdiocese, said the allegation came from the mother of a teen-age boy Monday.

Ford said the woman's son, 17, alleges he first was sexually abused by Rapp as a fourth-grader at age 10 and was abused by the priest as late as last year.

"We were given two other names (of potential victims) to contact," Ford said. "But we haven't spoken with them yet."

Weisenburger said that because of the seriousness of the allegations, Rapp will not be allowed to serve as a priest while the investigation continues. The Rev. Marc Clifford, associate pastor, will fill the post.

Duncan attorney Jim Kee, representing Rapp, said, "At this time, there is a strong presumption of innocence. At this time, I think that things look good for the father."

Police took Rapp into custody about 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Rapp later met privately with Stephens County District Attorney Gene Christian, Ford said.

Christian could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Rapp's preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 15.

Associate District Judge William Buxton, who set Rapp's bond, has disqualified himself from the case.

A special judge has not been assigned.

Kee said Rapp was widely known and well liked in the Duncan community.

Weisenburger said most state priests are affiliated with the archdiocese. But some, including Rapp, belong to religious orders.

Rapp belongs to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, based in Toledo, Ohio. Officials of the order did not return telephone calls Tuesday.

The order furnishes two priests who serve Duncan and missions in Marlow, Rush Springs and Ryan. The Oklahoma City archbishop approves the assignments.

Weisenburger said the allegation is a source of great concern and sadness for the archdiocese.

"Nevertheless, we are committed to dis- cern the full truth of this matter, to extend pastoral care to any who may have been harmed, and to cooperate fully with the police in their investigation," Weisenburger said in a statement.


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