MI--Predator priest admits guilt; Victims respond
For immediate release: Monday, Feb. 29, 2016
We're grateful that an ex-priest has pled guilty to more child sex crimes. We hope this news will prod others that he has hurt to come forward. (See attorney general’s news release below.)
Fr. James Francis Rapp has already been convicted on other child sex charges and is imprisoned. So it would have been easy for law enforcement to look the other way when more victims surfaced.
But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed more child sex charges against him for molesting kids at Jackson Lumen Christi Catholic High School in Jackson in the 1980s.
Once a child molester is convicted, many people who could be helpful get complacent. They assume his sentence will stand, his appeals will fail, and he’ll be kept away from kids for many years. But often, child molesters – especially clerics – get top notch defense lawyers, exploit legal technicalities, and escape with little or no jail time. Then, when other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers find this out, it’s too late for them to really make a difference.
So we’re glad Schuette was prudent, pro-active and successful here. Now, the odds that Rapp will ever walk free are even slimmer. And more of his victims feel vindicated.
There are two important lessons. First, these days, police and prosecutors are often more aggressive and creative about pursing child predators, even in older cases. (The old adage “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” fits here.) More law enforcement officials should follow Schuette’s example and consider going after even elderly child molesting clerics.
Second, no victim, witness or whistleblower should ever assume ‘it’s too late’ to seek justice. It’s our job to share what we know and suspect about possible child sex crimes. It’s the job of law enforcement to determine whether anything can be done. If we stay silent, we’re helping those who commit and conceal child sex crimes.
So if you saw, suspected or suffered any crimes or cover ups related to Fr. Rapp, it’s time to find the courage to speak up, so that the vulnerable can be protected, the wounded can be healed and the truth can be exposed and so that cover ups are deterred.
Besides Michigan, Fr. Rapp worked in five other states: Oklahoma, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York and Utah. Bishops in each of those states should also aggressively reach out to anyone else who saw, suspected or suffered his crimes.
NOTE – Rapp belonged to the Toledo-based Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Inc.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Schuette: Former Priest Pleads No Contest To 19 Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges in '80s Abuse Cases
James Rapp was previously convicted of similar crimes in Oklahoma
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 29, 2016, MEDIA CONTACT: Andrea Bitely Megan Hawthorne 517-373-8060
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced former priest James Francis Rapp, 75, has pleaded no contest to 19 child sexual abuse charges, stemming from his time as a priest and teacher at Jackson Lumen Christi High School in the 1980s.
“This man was in a position of trust within his church and used that position to take advantage of innocent kids,” said Schuette. “I applaud the victims for coming forward and am pleased that justice is finally being served for those who were robbed of a normal childhood by this man.”
“I praise the work of Jackson County Sheriff Detective Sergeant Tim Schlundt and the staff of Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office for their tireless work on this case, said Jackson County Sheriff Steve Rand. “Hopefully, this will provide some comfort to the victims or these crimes.”
Rapp was charged in January 2015 with the following 13 felonies in Jackson's 12th District Court:
Three counts of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prison; and,
10 counts of Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Rapp was charged with another six felonies in June 2015, after the investigation revealed additional victims. Those six charges were:
Four counts of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prisoon; and,
Two counts of Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Rapp will be sentenced in 4th Circuit Court in front of Judge Susan Beebe on April 29, 2016 at 1 p.m.
In spring of 2013, more than 30 years after the alleged crimes occurred, two of Rapp's victims reported the alleged sexual abuse to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, who then launched an extensive investigation revealing several more victims. Charges were filed against Rapp in January and June 2015.
Jackson County was not the first place Rapp held a teaching position. He was ordained in 1959 and over the next 40 years held multiple teaching assignments across the country. In addition to teaching at Jackson Lumen Christi High School (1980-1986), Rapp taught in Philadelphia (1959 – 1961), Salt Lake City (1968 – 1973), and in Lockport, New York (1979 – 1980). Following Rapp's resignation at Jackson Lumen Christi, Rapp served as a priest and teacher in Naperville, Illinois (1987 – 1990) and Duncan, Oklahoma (1990 – 1998).
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