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Former Catholic priest faces long prison sentence for decades old charges

Michigan Attorney General's office

A former Catholic priest has pleaded “no contest” to criminal sexual conduct charges in Michigan.

The charges stem back to the 1980’s when James Rapp worked at Lumen Christi High School in Jackson.

In 2013, two victims came forward with their allegations against Rapp, who was already serving time on similar charges in Oklahoma.

Eventually, more victims came forward.

“This man was in a position of trust within his church and used that position to take advantage of innocent kids,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in a written statement, “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.”  

In 2015, a total of 19 counts of criminal sexual conduct were filed against Rapp. 

In all, Rapp faces sentencing in April on 6 counts, including multiple counts of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. As part of the plea, the other 13 counts will be dismissed.

The 75 year old Rapp could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.

An advocate for the victims of sexual abuse involving priests is praising local law enforcement and Michigan prosecutors for their handling of the Rapp case. 

"These days, police and prosecutors are often more aggressive and creative about pursing child predators, even in older cases," says David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, adding that more law enforcement officials should follow this example and consider going after even elderly child molesting clerics.

Clohessy also has a word for victims. 

"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,"  Clohessy said in a written statement.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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