Catholic Church Responds to Child Abuse Lawsuit

Catholic Church Responds to Child Abuse Lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City has asked a judge to dismiss a $5 million sexual abuse lawsuit against the church, saying the statute of limitations has run out.

Filed Feb. 19, the lawsuit alleged that James F. Rapp, a priest who worked at Judge Memorial Catholic High School from 1968-73, sexually abused two Salt Lake schoolboys during 1970 and 1971.

Charles Matthew Colosimo, now 41, and Ralph Louis Colosimo, now 49, said they were repeatedly assaulted while the diocese, which oversees Judge High School, did nothing about it.

The suit named as defendants the Salt Lake diocese; Rapp's religious order, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales; the Judge High School Board of Trustees; Rapp, and several former Judge employees.

The brothers seek $5 million in compensatory damages on eight charges and $10 million in punitive damages.

Rapp, who left Judge three decades ago, is serving a 40-year sentence in Oklahoma for child sexual abuse that occurred while he was a priest at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Duncan, Okla.

In the lawsuit, the brothers contend Judge High School officials in the late 1960s had received "multiple complaints" about Rapp touching students inappropriately and requesting sexual favors.

"I believe it fits the same kind of pattern the Catholic Church hierarchy has used in dealing with sex abuse cases throughout the country," said Larry R. Keller, attorney for the Colosimos.

In the first response filed Monday, the Catholic diocese's attorney, Matthew McNulty, questions why the Colosimo brothers didn't come forward sooner.

"The diocese and the trustees do not seek to minimize the horrific nature of the allegations," the church response said. "Nonetheless, the claims in the complaint are approximately three decades old, and should have been brought long ago when evidence as to and memories of events were fresh."

The four-year statute of limitations began to run when Ralph became an adult in 1971. Charles Colosimo, Ralph's younger brother, turned 18 in 1979. He brought forward no complaints until this year.

The church also contended that neither the Judge board of trustees nor the Salt Lake Diocese should be defendants. The board didn't exist at the time of the alleged abuse.

Further, the church response said that since Rapp's conduct was far outside the scope of his employment, the diocese should not be a defendant in the suit.

The Utah Supreme Court has held that an employer or supervisor cannot be held liable for an employee's sexually abusive actions.

The priest's conduct "arose from (Rapp's) own personal impulses, and not from an intention to further his employer's goals," according to the lawsuit.

Keller said he will file his next response by the end of April.

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

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