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Catholic priest Phil Jacobs given Sooke post to avoid kids, court hears

Dec 11 2012
Father Phil Jacobs: Resigned after Ohio allegations were made public in 2002. 

Father Phil Jacobs: Resigned after Ohio allegations were made public in 2002.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , timescolonist.com

A Catholic priest charged with four counts of sexual offences against three former altar boys at St. Joseph the Worker’s parish in Saanich was first appointed to the parish of St. Rose of Lima in Sooke because it would limit his access to children.

That admission was heard Monday at Father Phil Jacobs’s judge-alone trial in B.C. Supreme Court. Jacobs, 63, who was parish priest at St. Joseph’s from 1997 to 2002, is charged with sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference with a person under 14 and sexual touching. The incidents are alleged to have occurred between September 1996 and June 30, 2001. 

Jacobs, a tall man with receding grey hair and a trim beard, sat in the prisoner’s box as prosecutor Clare Jennings read the admissions into the court record.

The admissions show allegations of sexual misconduct were made against Jacobs when he was ministering in the Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. No criminal charges were laid or civil suits filed as a result of the Ohio allegations.

In early 1995, Father Ken Olson of Port Alberni wrote a letter to then Bishop Remi de Roo of the Diocese of Victoria asking him to hire Jacobs. That March, Jacobs wrote to de Roo to discuss a position in Victoria. In April, Jacobs wrote again, asking to be hired for a trial year.

In August 1995, Jacobs was appointed parish administrator for St. Rose of Lima. According to the admissions, de Roo appointed Jacobs to the parish because it had no school with young children.

“The idea was to occupy Philip Jacobs’ time with his studies and limit his access to children,” the admissions read.

When de Roo hired Jacobs, he entrusted supervision and monitoring to a committee composed of Monsignor Michael Lapierre and two other priests, now dead.

After two years, Jacobs was moved to St. Joseph’s parish, beside St. Joseph’s school. De Roo recalled that it was on the advice of his committee, say the admissions.

When the Ohio allegations were made public in 2002, Jacobs resigned. He was arrested Aug. 4, 2010, at Victoria International Airport and charged in connection with the Saanich incidents.

On the stand Monday, Lapierre testified that he monitored Jacobs and met with him at least once every two weeks. Lapierre testified that he did not know details of the Ohio allegations.

“I believe the issue was inappropriate behaviour,” said Lapierre.

“With whom?” asked Jennings.

“A young person, I think.”

Lapierre said he did not discuss what happened in Ohio with Jacobs, and did not have any conversations about Jacobs being alone with young people.

Ken Leason, who was principal of St. Joseph’s school for 30 years, testified that Jacobs was enthusiastic, charismatic and committed to improving the culture of the parish.

During one of their first conversations, Jacobs told Leason he did not relate well to young children and was not interested in being at the school without a specific agenda, said Leason.

Jacobs’ manner with young children was forced and embarrassed, said Leason. But children in Grade 6 and 7 really liked him, he said.

In the summer of 2000, Jacobs told Leason he was being dogged by allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the U.S. and asked him to write a letter of support, which Leason did. Leason said he got the impression the allegations were false.

Leason was aware Jacobs had started a youth group and set up space in the rectory for the group.

During cross-examination by defence lawyer Chris Considine, Leason testified that during school masses, students were never alone with Jacobs in the sacristy.

The trial continues.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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