Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Salt Lake Catholic Diocese

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Salt Lake Catholic Diocese

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A judge has dismissed a sex-abuse lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, saying Utah brothers Ralph and Charles Colosimo waited too long and failed to show there was any compelling legal reason to bring their case to trial.

Third District Judge Paul G. Maughan on Friday said in a memorandum decision that both were aware of the purported abuse and could have reported it at the time.

Maughan also wrote that the Colosimo brothers could not prove that the principal defendants -- including top officials of Utah's Catholic diocese and Judge Memorial Catholic High School -- knew the Rev. James F. Rapp was a pedophile and did nothing to stop him.

The Colosimos in February filed an $80 million lawsuit claiming they were abused by a Roman Catholic priest in the 1970s.

Typically, the statute of limitations in such abuse cases would expire four years after the alleged victim turned 18.

"Although it is convenient to say that this information was concealed and would not have been provided had it been asked for, the fact remains that the plaintiffs had a duty to file their action within the limitations period when they knew they had been injured by their teacher and priest, James Rapp," the judge wrote.

Maughan dismissed the lawsuit "with prejudice," meaning it can't be refiled.

Rapp now is serving a 40-year prison term for molesting an Oklahoma boy.

Defense attorney Matthew McNulty said Friday that the "diocese abhors in any form or allegation as to child abuse, and stands ready to provide counseling, spiritual or otherwise, to victims of child abuse.

Larry Keller, the Colosimos' attorney, said the brothers may consider an appeal.

"We respect the judge's decision, but are extremely disappointed that (the case) was thrown out on a technicality," Keller said, referring to the statute of limitations.

"We believe our clients deserve an opportunity to allow a jury of their peers to decide if the Diocese of Salt Lake and the order of priests that James Rapp belonged to should bear some responsibility for their injuries," Keller said.

In the lawsuit, Ralph Colosimo, 49, claimed Rapp had repeatedly abused him sexually when he was a student at Judge in the early 1970s. Charles Colosimo, who is seven years younger, said Rapp had become a family friend when Charles was a student at St. Ann's Catholic Grade School and abused him from 1972 through 1975.

Ralph Colosimo also claimed that he had repressed the memory of the abuse until his 1998 divorce, when he began to remember and "draw a connection between (it) and the damage it had done to his life." Charles Colosimo, 41, made no claim of repressed memory.

Maughan wrote, however, that it was "compelling that (Ralph Colosimo) does not claim that he repressed all memory of all instances, just all memory of many instances. The plaintiffs' pleadings demonstrate that Ralph was aware of some, if not many, instances of the abuse when they occurred."

Maughan rejected Keller's argument that his clients did not realize they had a case until May 2002, when they saw a Washington Post story about Rapp's long history of abuse.

Maughan also discounted Keller's introduction this week of a 1962 Vatican document, reported as a recent discovery by CBS News on Aug. 6, which purportedly directed church officials to conceal and deny any sexual abuse by clergy. The judge said the document was unauthenticated and hearsay, and so could not be considered.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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