A Catholic high school in Arlington filed suit yesterday against the Virginia High School League, which regulates athletic and other contests among its members, asserting that limiting the league's membership to public high school violates the Catholic school's constitutional rights.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria by the Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School also names as defendants 26 principals of public high schools in Northern Virginia that are members of the league.

The league, according to the suit regulates athletic, literary and debating contests among its member schools. Some private schools are allowed to compete in some statewide competitions but are barred from competing in football, basketball and baseball, the suit states.

O'Connell High applied for league membership last February, according to the suit, but was turned down because it is not a public school.

O'Connell High's revenues have been "seriously hampered," the suit says, because the Catholic school can not compete against local public

The attorney for the league said he has not yet received a copy of the suit and also Would have no comment.

The suit claims that "the individual's choice of non-public education denies him the right to compete in regional and state contests, thus placing him in a less favorable position than a public high school student in receiving recognition for his athletic ability, which ultimately places him in a less favorable competitive position to receive scholarships, professional bonueses, and other emoluments presently offered gifted athles."

The suit also says that the national Federation of State High School Associations, of which the Virginia High School League is a member,contains only four state associations that bar nonpublic school from membership.