Saturday, March 3, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Priest admits in deposition to father children

The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A priest being sued for child support has admitted to fathering children, carrying on affairs and hiring prostitutes, according to a deposition filed with the court.

A transcript of the deposition was filed in Superior Court Friday at the end of a hearing conducted to hear several motions in a lawsuit filed by two children fathered by the Rev. James Jacobson, 83, a retired Jesuit priest who worked in Yup'ik villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta for about 15 years, until 1976.

Besides damages, one son is seeking nearly $325,000 in child support and the other is seeking more than $270,000. Other plaintiffs are the mother of one of those men (the other woman has died) and a woman who accuses Jacobson of raping her decades ago when she was 16.

Among motions Judge Peter Ashman will decide this month is whether the statute of limitations on bringing a lawsuit had expired and whether Jacobson's vow of poverty and transfer of earnings and other assets to his religious order, and its obligations to provide for him, can make it liable for unpaid child support.

The defendants are Jacobson, the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, commonly called the Jesuits, and the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks.

Jacobson denied forcing women or girls to have sex but admitted that he had relations with a number of women in rural Alaska, according to the deposition.

During the deposition, Jacobson said he used church funds to hire prostitutes in both Anchorage and Fairbanks when he was principal of the old Copper Valley School near Glennallen, a Jesuit boarding school that closed in 1971.

"Well, it was the Jesuits' money. It was money that was given to me for, you know, the work I was doing," Jacobson testified.

Jacobson's paternity to the two plaintiffs was established through DNA testing and a Bethel judge in May declared him to be the biological father of both John Does. He said he didn't know he had fathered the two until receiving the test results.

Jacobson testified that he didn't recall having sex with one of the women who had his child but because of the test results, didn't doubt it happened.

However, he disputed the woman's claim that he sexually assaulted her.

"I believe -- I know that I didn't force her. I don't remember any particular time that I had a sexual relationship with her, but I'm positive I didn't force her or anybody else."

He said he knew of two other children he had fathered in Alaska besides those in the lawsuit.

One mother didn't keep the child, he said, and he offered to help the other child but was turned away by the mother's parents.

He said he had been celibate since starting his training as a priest in 1949, but began a sexual relationship with a married woman in the Western Alaska village of Cherfornak in 1964.

"It was a mutual thing, kind of a flirtation I guess," Jacobson said during the deposition. She's the late mother of one of his children.

He said he believes he had sexual relations with seven women when he was a priest as various Western Alaska villages, according to the deposition.

Jacobson testified he knew it was wrong but went to confession, sought absolution and believes his sins have been forgiven.

Lawyers for the defendants told the judge Friday that the statute of limitations ran out long ago.

"We're four decades out. I'm a little bit reminded of the character in the Alice in Wonderland that went, 'I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.' Well we are late. We're very late," said Fairbanks attorney Robert Groseclose, who represents the Fairbanks diocese.

But the plaintiffs' lawyer, Chris Cooke of Anchorage, said Jacobson left Alaska in 1976, but return briefly in 1979 -- thus setting aside the normal deadline for filing a civil suit.

Plus, Cooke said, there's the question of whether plaintiffs from rural Alaska villages could be expected to know decades ago that a lawsuit was even an option.

After leaving Alaska, Jacobson worked as a paid chaplain in a prison in Oregon from 1979 to 2005. He currently lives in a Jesuit home in Spokane, Wash.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company


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