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Abuse Allegations Launched at Former Judge Memorial Priest

Abuse Allegations Launched at Former Judge Memorial Priest

Posted - Feb. 18, 2003 at 5:37 p.m.



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News Specialist John Hollenhorst reportingA lawsuit filed today makes shocking allegations of sexual abuse 30 years ago by a Catholic priest at Salt Lake's Judge Memorial High School.

The sex scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church from coast to coast hit home today in Utah.

A priest, who was also a teacher, allegedly sexually abused two brothers -- one of them at gunpoint.

What will undoubtedly make this story especially painful for Catholics is that it allegedly fits a national pattern. Higher-ups supposedly knew young people were at risk and swept it under the carpet.

First we should emphasize: this case goes back to a different era at Judge Memorial, when there was a different cast of characters.

Father James Rapp was a man of the cloth. And a high school science teacher.

But lawyer Larry Keller says his investigation of Father Rapp shows something else.

"That the man was a monster. He sexually abused and took advantage of young children. We believe he raped and sodomized one of our clients at gunpoint," Keller says.

One alleged victim was well known at Judge Memorial in the early 1970s. Ralph Colosimo was a star athlete and student body president.

"He was someone who was looked up to by other students. We believe Rapp sought him out intentionally as a victim," Keller says.

Keller says Father Rapp repeatedly forced sex acts on Colosimo. Later, the priest also began abusing Ralph's 10-year-old brother, Charlie Colosimo. The abuse took place in movie theaters, at the Colosimo family home, and at a home for priests where alcohol was allegedly served frequently to students.

"It was both seductive and violent. I can tell you that Ralph Colosimo found himself fighting this guy off constantly. Every time he was alone with him, he had to fight him off. Literally," Keller says.

Besides Father Rapp, Keller's lawsuit names three former officials at Judge as defendants: former principal Thomas O'Neill, former vice-principal Ivan Cendese and former guidance counselor Francis Gross.

The lawsuit says they knew of allegations against Father Rapp as early as 1969, two years before the Colosimo brothers were abused. He says they reported it to the priest's religious order, but did nothing further.

"They swept it under the carpet," Keller says.

Father Rapp went on to other religious assignments. A similar lawsuit erupted in Michigan.

In Oklahoma, a mother went to Father Rapp's residence and caught him in a sex act with her son.

"He molested at least two boys there, was convicted and sent to two 20-year prison terms," Keller says.

Another defendant, the Catholic Diocese, issued a written statement. It says the diocese "learned for the first time" about alleged abuse to one victim in "November of 2000," and the other in 2002.

The diocese offered "pastoral care" and reported the allegations to state officials.

A lawyer for the Diocese describing the situation as "horrible" and "tragic" said, quote, "We've got to try to figure out where the information" about Father Rapp was, "and why it didn't get to where it should have."

The victims decided recently to pursue the case, their lawyer says, because therapy convinced them the abuse had inflicted lifelong psychological and emotional scars.

They also believe there are other victims, and they hope the lawsuit will motivate them to come forward.

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