Saanich priest had to keep self in check, court hears

Warning: This story contains graphic details.

Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings peppered Father Phil Jacobs with questions Wednesday, hammering away at his alleged sexual activities.

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The 63-year-old Jacobs has been charged with four offences linked to boys, including two counts of sexual interference involving a person under 14, one count of sexual assault and one count of touching a young person for a sexual purpose.

The charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred from September 1996 to June 2001.

Jacobs served as parish priest at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Saanich from 1997 to 2002.

Since taking the stand Monday afternoon, Jacobs continued to use a firm, confident tone to deny the charges against him.

Jacobs, who came to Greater Victoria in 1995 — first taking a position at Sooke’s St. Rose of Lima Parish before his post at St. Joseph — was asked in detail about decades-old incidents in which he convinced two male youths in his native Ohio to take instruction from him on how to masturbate. That led to him going to therapy, he said, and the realization that he had to control his “compulsion” to do such things.

He said he came to the understanding that his compulsion had “parameters” he needed to keep in check, such as seeking to get a young person alone.

“I knew that I would have to be a different kind of priest in my interaction with young people than I had before,” he said.

He acknowledged that his actions with the two youths in Ohio “was clearly an abuse of my power and authority.”

Jacobs said that when he ended up doing parish work in Victoria, he was determined not to be a “pied piper” with children following him around, but to have a more official persona.

Jennings sought to connect the Ohio events with an instance at St. Joseph in which Jacobs admitted to bringing up the subject of masturbation with an adolescent boy and asking him to flex his penis.

Jacobs said he realized he was in an area that he should not be in and needed to back away.

“I was dangerously close to that ‘edge.’ ”

Under further questioning, Jacobs denied the suggestion that he had purposely touched a boy’s genital area during a one-on-one study session, or that he touched another boy’s groin while in a small room in the church.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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