JACKSON, Mich. — A former Roman Catholic priest has been sentenced to at least 20 years in prison for sexual abuse connected to his work at a Michigan high school in the 1980s.
At age 75, James Rapp likely will die in prison. He’s been in prison for similar crimes in Oklahoma, one of many stops as a priest.
Rapp’s victims from Lumen Christi High School spoke for more than two hours in a Jackson courtroom Friday. He pleaded no contest in February to criminal sexual conduct.
Defense attorney Alfred Brandt said Rapp coerced students into having sexual contact while working as a teacher and wrestling coach.
An investigation began three years ago when victims approached the sheriff’s department. Attorney General Bill Schuette says Rapp’s prison sentence “hopefully offers some solace” to victims.
A former member of the the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Rapp was ordained in 1959. He went on to work in Philadelphia from 1959-61; Salt Lake City from 1968-73; Lockport, N.Y., from 1979-80; Naperville, Ill., from 1987-90; and Duncan, Okla., from 1990-98, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s office.
In 1999, Rapp pleaded no contest in an Oklahoma court to two counts of lewd molestation and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. In a secret settlement last December, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Oblates agreed to pay Ballard more than $ 5 million — believed at the time to be the second-largest known settlement for a single victim of a priest.
While serving in Michigan in 1986, records show, Rapp was dispatched for a month-long evaluation to St. Luke Institute in Maryland, a church-sponsored treatment program that has long dealt with priests who abuse children.
He was then sent to the House of Affirmation, a now-defunct treatment center in California for Catholic priests and nuns suffering from emotional problems. No records from his eight-month stay there are available.
But the evaluation from St. Luke was specific:
“The diagnosis of fixated ephebophilia — that is a sexual attraction to adolescent boys — can be made without equivocation. It is clear from Father Rapp’s history that his ephebophiliac behavior extends over many years and with a number of contacts. It is very important that Father Rapp not be in the presence of youth without another responsible adult there.”
Nonetheless, Rapp continued to serve as a priest until his arrest on May 11, 1999, on abuse charges in Oklahoma.