A former student at St. Joseph’s Catholic School testified he emailed Father Phil Jacobs in 2002 asking for an explanation after Victoria media reported allegations that Jacobs had sexually abused teenage boys in the U.S.
Jacobs, 63, who was parish priest at St. Joseph the Worker in Saanich 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.
The former student, whose identity is protected by a court order, testified Wednesday that Jacobs never touched him sexually. But he felt at risk during a conversation with Jacobs while the two were sitting on the couch in the rectory.
He was about 13 at the time, he testified.
“I don’t remember how the conversation started, but he asked ‘;Have you ever masturbated before?’ I replied that I had,” he testified.
“Then he asked if I felt the need to do it more than once a day. I said I didn’t.”
The witness testified that Jacobs told him, “ ‘;The penis is a muscle. I want you to flex that muscles three times with me.’ So I did.”
He assumed Jacobs was doing the same thing with him, he testified. Then their conversation was interrupted by the phone or the doorbell.
When details of Jacobs’s past — including allegations he sexually abused his own cousin — were published in the media, the witness sent Jacobs an email.
“They sounded similar to what had happened to myself,” the witness told Justice Miriam Gropper. “I was confused. I wanted an explanation. I wanted to hear why he’d done it. Why did he put himself in that situation? Why did he allow that conversation to happen?”
Jacobs, who had by then resigned his position as parish priest and left Victoria, wrote back a few days later.
“Please know that whatever conversation I had with you was never, never, never, intended to lead to the place where things went with my cousin,” wrote Jacobs.
Three days later, in a second, longer email, Jacobs told the witness that his experience of life between the ages of 13 and 15 was not good.
“One big part of that was that no one felt comfortable explaining things about sex to me,” Jacobs wrote. “My friends and cousins knew lots and I ended up being embarrassed over and over again. So when I became an adult I had this wrong-headed idea that I should be the ‘;big explainer’ … in a screwed up way I thought I should help the person be ‘;in the know’ so as not to get embarrassed as I did.”
Jacobs wrote that, shortly after he started his “explaination” of sex, all the saliva went out of his mouth as his unconscious mind told him this was the last thing he should be talking about.
“Yes, it crossed a boundary and it was wrong. I am sorry and I need to ask your forgiveness. I wanted to fill in the communication gap in your life.”
The witness also testified about an incident at the rectory after he’d done some yardwork. Jacobs asked him if he wanted to have a shower. When the witness said he did, Jacobs took him to his bedroom, which had an adjacent bathroom.
“When I was down to my underwear, he threw me on the bed, picked me up, tossed me and tickled me,” he testified.
The teen took off the rest of his clothes, got into the shower and closed the door behind him. When he came out, Jacobs commented, “It’s really good you feel comfortable with your body in front of people,” the witness recalled.
Looking back now, the behaviour was not appropriate, the witness said.
“A 13-year-old is very confused. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel.”
Defence lawyer Chris Considine asked the witness if he was moved by Jacobs’s comprehensive email.
“I don’t know if I was moved by it. I was looking for answers.”
“You forgave him?” Considine asked.
“Yes and no. These things were awkward,” he replied.
The witness testified that he continued to confide in Jacobs about personal and family matters for several years after Jacobs left the parish.