MO--Member of Toledo-based church group is sentenced
For immediate release: Saturday, April 30, 2016, 2016
Yesterday, a serial predator priest - who for years belonged to a Toledo-based Catholic group – was sentenced to 40 years for crimes in Michigan. For the safety of kids and the healing of victims, we hope he stays behind bars for as long as possible.
We're grateful that Fr. James Francis Rapp was charged again, pled guilty to more child sex crimes.
Fr. Rapp has already been convicted on other child sex charges and is imprisoned in Oklahoma. 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, the truth can be exposed and cover ups can be deterred.
Besides Michigan, Fr. Rapp worked in five other states: Oklahoma, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York and Utah. Since for decades he was part of the Toledo-based Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, we strongly suspect he also spent time in Toledo.
We strongly Bishops in each of those states – especially Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas, Lansing Michigan Bishop Earl Boyea, and the head of the Salt Lake diocese, Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw - to use their vast resources to aggressively reach out to anyone else who saw, suspected or suffered his crimes.
(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)