Survivor of priest abuse calls for more transparency after Providence priest arrest

WJAR-TV, NBC-10 [Providence RI]

November 1, 2021

By Parker Gavigan

The Rev. James Jackson, 66, a Catholic priest and pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Providence was arrested Saturday by Rhode Island State Police, on possession of child pornography charges.

Police say their investigation by the agency’s internet crimes against children task force (ICAC) led them to St. Mary’s.

Investigators had learned the internet connection at the church was allegedly involved with sharing child porn.

A search warrant was issued at the parish and rectory. Father Jackson was identified as the owner of that digital media, said State Police.

Mike McDonnell represents SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

He was also the victim of abuse by two Pennsylvania priests in 1981.

SNAP, he says, has been tracking the national criminal arrests of clergy and staffers.

“Father Jackson actually makes the third Catholic clergy in a month. We’ve been averaging two arrests of Catholic clergy or Catholic staffers per month this year. Disturbing figures, without a fact, and what’s more disturbing is we hear constant rhetoric from church officials who say this is a thing of the past.”

In the Jackson case, the Diocese of Providence released a statement and said Jackson has been stripped of his priest and pastor duties.

Father James Jackson was arrested on possession of child pornography charges. (RISP)

Bishop Thomas Tobin applauded the efforts of law enforcement in making the arrest and pledged support in the investigation.

“The use of child pornography is a serious crime and a grave sin. The charges against Father Jackson are very disturbing to all and must be taken very seriously. At the same time, I renew my pastoral concern and offer my fervent prayers for the good people of St. Mary Parish during this difficult time,” said Tobin.

Before his Aug.1 appointment at St. Mary’s, Jackson underwent a criminal background check and had a “sterling record” according to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.

“Like all those accused of crimes, Father has a natural human right under both civil and canon law to the presumption of innocence and we will fully cooperate with the law enforcement authorities as they investigate this matter,” said attorney Joseph Gaughan, on behalf of the FSSP.

Mike McDonnell, a representative of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says Jackson isn’t the only clergy to be arrested this month. (WJAR)

Internet and social media posts indicate Jackson previously served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Littleton Colorado, but a clear history of his assignments was not released by the Diocese of Providence.

SNAP is encouraging more information to be shared with parishioners, particularly in Colorado, where Jackson may have served for five-plus years.

“Historically, we have seen failure within the Catholic Church in policing themselves,” said McDonnell.

Jackson was brought to Rhode Island’s state prison and released Sunday on surety bond, said a Department of Corrections spokesperson.

A call to Jackson’s attorney wasn’t returned.

The Catholic priest faces one felony count of possessing child pornography, one felony count of transferring child pornography, and one misdemeanor count of child erotica. He’s due back in court for an arraignment on Nov. 15.