Suit Claims Priest Raped Women
By Mary Beth Smetzer
October 14, 2005
The latest court filing against the Catholic Church in Alaska alleges a Jesuit priest sexually assaulted two women, impregnated them and left two sons behind.
The allegations of rape and paternity, the latter confirmed by recent DNA tests, were filed Thursday in Bethel Superior Court by two men and the mother of one, listed anonymously as John A. Doe, John B. Doe, and Jane B. Doe. The other mother is deceased. The suit names the Rev. James E. Jacobson, the Fairbanks Catholic Diocese and the Society of Jesus Oregon and Alaska.
Jacobson, who recently retired as a prison chaplain in Oregon and resides at Regis Jesuit House at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., served from 1963 to 1976 in a number of Yupik Eskimo villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region.
The Anchorage attorney for the plaintiffs, Christopher Cooke of Cooke, Roosa & Valcarce law firm, said the two John Does contacted the firm after years of speculation, rumors, gossip and hearsay about their paternity. The DNA tests, taken in August, prove beyond a doubt that Jacobson is the biological father of both men, Cooke said.
The lawsuit alleges that the mother of John A. Doe, now deceased, was sexually assaulted by Jacobson in December 1965, in the priest's quarters in a Yupik village. As a result, she became pregnant and gave birth to John A. Doe in August 1966.
Jane B. Doe, a married woman at the time, claims she was sexually assaulted by Jacobson in the rectory of the village church, and as a result became pregnant, giving birth in November 1975.
Cooke said he was shocked to learn that a priest had sexually assaulted and had sexual relations with women in villages, had children by them and then abandoned them.
"These people grew up very poor," he said referring to the plaintiffs. "In the case of one John Doe, his parents died when he was still in school and relatives took care of him. They turned out to be fine, responsible people, yet they had a tough life; their father and the church did nothing for them."
Ronnie Rosenberg, spokesperson for the Fairbanks Diocese, said she had no knowledge of the lawsuit until media contacted her Thursday evening.
"It's the first I heard of it," she said. "I haven't seen the suit and haven't heard about the allegations and I can't comment on it."
Thursday's filing is the latest in more than 80 complaints Cooke's law firm has raised against the Fairbanks diocese and the Jesuits in Oregon and Alaska. It is the first filed alleging paternity by a priest and sexual assault and misconduct against married women.
The lawsuit asserts that for nearly 40 years, Jacobson, the Catholic diocese and the Jesuits conspired to conceal that Jacobson fathered either male defendant thus depriving them of child support or other economic assistance, as well as denial of training, education, relatives, medical history and subjecting them to severe emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation and loss of faith in God and in the Catholic Church.
The plaintiff trio maintains that the Fairbanks diocese and the Jesuits were negligent in placing and supervising Jacobson while he served in remote villages.
Jane B. Doe said she believes that prior to Jacobson being stationed in the village where she lived the "defendants knew or should have known that Father Jacobson was not celibate and had previously engaged in sexual relations with Alaska Native women in villages to which he was assigned in violation of both church doctrine and Alaska law, and had fathered children by other women."
The lawsuit states that the diocese and Jesuits had knowledge of Jacobson's "inappropriate and illegal behavior" and misrepresented or failed to disclose it to law enforcement authorities.
The suit also alleges that shortly after the mother of John A. Doe became pregnant, Jacobson was moved to another location in Alaska; and shortly after plaintiff Jane B. Doe became pregnant Jacobson was permanently moved from Alaska to Oregon.
In addition, the lawsuit claims that the diocese and the Jesuits were not only aware of Jacobson's inappropriate and criminal behavior and fathering of Native children but that "officers, employees and agents of the defendants concealed and destroyed documentary evidence relating to the misconduct of their priests by discarding, shredding and burning it."
The two John Does are asking for a court ruling based on the DNA testing that Jacobson is their biological father. They also seek family and health information about Jacobson, payment for the DNA testing, damages for past non-support and damages for emotional distress.
Jane B. Doe is asking for damages due to the sexual assault, the resulting pregnancy, the harm to her marriage and other losses as well as punitive damages.
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