The parents of a youth who was sexually assaulted by a Roman Catholic priest filed suit yesterday in D.C. Superior Court against the priest and Archbishop James A. Hickey, claiming that the church was negligent for not detecting the priest's sexual problems that led to the assaults.

The suit said that Hickey, as head of the Roman Catholic Church in Washington, should have known that the Rev. Peter M. McCutcheon had sexual problems and abused alcohol, and should have removed McCutcheon from service at two suburban Washington parishes.

McCutcheon, 34, pleaded guilty in Prince George's Circuit Court last December to five counts of child sexual abuse and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The charges involved three teen-age youths, none of whom was a member of the parishes where McCut-cheon worked. McCutcheon also admitted in court that he had a drinking problem.

McCutcheon is incarcerated at the Maryland Reception Diagnostic and Classification Center in Baltimore, where he is receiving special counseling.

McCutcheon was assigned to St. Peter's parish in Waldorf from 1980 to 1982, and to St. John the Baptist de laSalle in Chillum in 1983 and 1986.

The suit said that McCutcheon's sexual problems dated to his initiation as a seminarian at the College of Saint Mary's in the late 1970s.

Hickey and the archdiocese failed to establish guidelines that would enable them to identify sexual deviants within their control to prevent incidents of sexual abuse from occurring, the suit said.

The suit asks for compensatory and punitive damages of $6 million from Hickey and McCutcheon.

No one at the Archdiocese of Washington could be reached for comment about the lawsuit.