Assignment Record – Rev. James E. Jacobson, s.j.

Summary of Case: James E. Jacobson was ordained a priest of the Portland Province of the Society of Jesus in 1959. He lived and worked in remote Alaskan villages until 1976, when he went to Berkeley, California for what was to be a year-long sabbatical. His stay in the area was extended another three years, during which time he did community organizing in Oakland. He returned to Alaska in 1979 intending to organize native Alaskans, but was soon assigned to a chaplaincy at the state penitentiary in Salem, Oregon. His role there lasted until he was removed in 2005. Documents show that Jacobson's superior and a Fairbanks bishop knew of "serious moral concerns" about Jacobson in 1967, including that he had fathered two children. Neither Jacobson, the Jesuits nor the diocese took responsibility for Jacobson's offspring. In 2005 he was accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting two native Alaskan women, one in 1965 and the other in 1975. Both women gave birth to sons. DNA tests showed in 2005 that the children were Jacobson's. He was subsequently removed from ministry and sent to live in a Jesuit residence in Spokane. In a 2006 lawsuit Jacobson was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in 1967, in a remote Alaskan village. His accuser said she told two Jesuits at the time of the abuse, who did nothing in response. In 2007 Jacobson admitted to fathering four children, sexual involvement with seven Alaskan village women, and to visiting prostitutes during trips to Anchorage and Fairbanks.

: 1959


Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State/Country Position Notes


San Francisco archbishop was John Joseph Mitty

1960 Alma College Los Gatos CA Theology student  


Seattle archbishop was Thomas Arthur Connolly (1950-1975).

1961 Manresa Hall Port Townsend WA Jesuit Tertianship  


Vicariate Apostolic of Alaska/Fairbanks bishop was Francis Doyle Gleeson, s.j. (1948-1968).

The Fairbanks diocese was established August 8, 1962.

1962   Chefornak AK 1/1 Chifornak was a station of St. Joseph's in Tununak, Nelson Island.



1965 St. Joseph's

Nelson Island, Tununak

• In a 2005 lawsuit Jacobson was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a Bethel, Alaska area village in December 1965. The woman gave birth to the priest's son in August 1966. Jacobson was moved out of the area after the woman became pregnant, according to the lawsuit.

1962 1965   Nightmute AK   This was a station of St. Joseph's in Nelson Island, Tununak.
1962 1965   Chefornak AK   This was a station of St. Joseph's in Nelson Island, Tununak.
1965 1966 St. Catherine Mission Chefornak AK 1/1  
1965 1966   Nightmute AK   This was a station of Chefornak.
Sept. 1966 July 1967 St. Michael St. Michael's AK 1/1 The 1967 Directory indexes Jacobson as at St. Catherine Mission, but he is not listed as there in the Fairbanks diocesan pages. This assignment is per Alaskana Catholica, by Louis L. Renner, s.j.
Sept. 1966 July 1967   Stebbins AK   This was a station of St. Michael's.
Sept. 1966 July 1967   Unalakleet AK Air Force auxiliary chaplain This was a station of St. Michael's.

July 1967

bishop was John Joseph Thomas Ryan (1966-1975).

August 1970 Holy Family


• Jacobson was accused in a 2006 lawsuit of raping a 16- year-old girl three times during the winter and spring of 1967. His accuser said the abuse occurred in a church building, and that Jacobson used restraints and forced her into oral sex and vaginal intercouse. She said he also threatened her.


2/2, 1/4

Copper Valley School principal and Jesuit Superior.

Copper Valley School was a Jesuit run boarding school affiliated with Holy Family.

Jacobson's accuser said she told two Jesuits about the abuse, who did nothing. She also said she told a village elder who told her not to say such things about a priest.

In a 1967 letter to the Portland Provincial, Alaska Jesuit Superior, Rev. Jules Convert, said "very serious moral charges" were coming out of Nelson Island about Jacobson. He said a Fairbanks bishop investigated but determined the accusations stemmed from politics and grudges. The letter also said a "good Catholic woman" reported that there were two children on the island fathered by Jacobson. Per the Fairbanks diocese, Convert is accused of having sexually abused at least 37 children during his almost four decades in Alaska.

August 1970

Fairbanks bishop was Robert Louis Whelan, s.j. (1968-1985).

June 1976 Little Flower of Jesus

Hooper Bay

• Jacobson was accused in a 2005 lawsuit of sexually assaulting a woman in February 1975, in a the church rectory of a Bethel, Alaska area village. The woman gave birth to Jacobson's son in November 1975. Per the lawsuit, Jacobson was moved to Oregon after the woman became pregnant.

AK 1/1  
August 1970 June 1976   Scammon Bay AK   This was a mission of Little Flower of Jesus in Hooper Bay.
August 1970 June 1976   Cape Romanzof AK air force auxiliary chaplain This was a station of Little Flower of Jesus in Hooper Bay.

June 1976

Oakland bishop Floyd Lawrence Begin (1962-1977), followed by John Stephen Cummins (1977-2003).

1977   Berkeley CA sabbatical This assignment is per Alaskana Catholica, by Louis L. Renner, s.j.
1977 1979   Oakland CA   Jacobson is not indexed in the 1977, 1978 or 1979 Directories. Per Renner's book, he stayed in the Oakland diocese to learn community organizing, returning to Alaska in 1979. He was sent after a few months to Oregon.


Portland archbishop was Cornelius Michael Power (1974-1986), followed by William Joseph Levada (1986-1995). Levada was replaced by Francis Eugene George, o.m.i. (1996-1997), who was succeeded by John George Vlazny (1997-2013).

2005 Oregon State Penitentiary Salem OR chaplain The 1998-2004 Directories index Jacobson also as at Santiam Correctional Institution and Mill Creek Correctonal Facility, both in Salem.


Spokane bishop was William Stephen Skylstad (1990-2010), followed by Blase Joseph Cupich (2010-).

2012 Regis Community Spokane WA  

The Regis Community is a retirement home for Jesuits. Jacobson was transferred to the Regis Community in 2005 after the results of DNA tests showed that he fathered two children in Alaska. In 2007 he admitted that he had fathered four children while in Alaska.


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1960-2012)

Our Lady of the Snows Parish, Hooper Bay, Alaska: 1928-2003, Editors Note: This Article Is Indebted to a Considerable Extent to Writings by Father Louis L. Renner, S.J., Alaskan Shepherd, June-July 2003
Priest Assaulted Women, Fathered Children, Suit Says, Allegations: Jesuit James E. Jacobson Is Accused of Sexual Abuse, By Lisa Demer, Anchorage Daily News, October 14, 2005
Suit Claims Priest Raped Women, By Mary Beth Smetzer, Fairbanks News-Miner, October 14, 2005
Local Diocese Startled by Suit, By Mary Beth Smetzer, Fairbanks News-Miner [Alaska], October 16, 2005
Sex-Abuse Suits Embroil Jesuits in Northwest
Lawsuits the Oregon-Based Province Faces Scores of Cases, Many Involving Priests in Alaska, By Ashbel S. Green , The Oregonian [Oregon] , November 14, 2005
Jesuits Say Half of Alaskan Claims Not Theirs, By Ed Langlois, Catholic Sentinel [Alaska], November 17, 2005
Another Sex Abuse Claim Filed against Jesuit Priest, By Mary Beth Smetzer, Fairbanks News-Miner [Alaska], February 15, 2006
Priest Faces Lawsuit for Child Support. Jesuits Say in Court Papers They Are Not Obligated to Pay, By Lisa Demer, Anchorage Daily News [Alaska], February 7, 2007
Local Jesuit Priest Sued by Children for Unpaid Child Support, KHQ, February 16, 2007
Former Priest Being Sued for Child Support, By Jill Burke, KTUU, February 17, 2007
Priest Admits Fathering Kids, Jesuit: Testimony Reveals from 1961-1976 He Had Four Children, Visited Prostitutes, By Lisa Demer, Anchorage Daily News [Alaska], March 3, 2007
Judge to Rule in Mid-March on Motions in Priest Lawsuit, Associated Press, carried in KGW [Oregon], March 3, 2007
Priest Seeks Shield of Poverty Vow, Child Support - Two Men Fathered by the Retired Jesuit in Spokane Seek Restitution, By Ashbel S. Green, The Oregonian, March 6, 2007
Retired Alaska Priest Admits Promiscuity, By Megan Baldino, KTUU, March 27, 2007
Church Settles Abuse Claims, By Mary Beth Smetzer, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner [Alaska], March 29, 2007
Jesuit Abuse Settlement Aims to Heal, $50 Million: Religious Order's Head Says Church Failed Victims in Alaska, By Lisa Demer, Anchorage Daily News, November 20, 2007
'Absolute Power', Decades of Abuse by Roman Catholic Priests and Volunteers Still Taint Eskimo Villagers in Rural Alaska, By Tony Hopfinger, Newsweek, January 14, 2008
Bankruptcy Reorganization Documents for Fairbanks Diocese, January 25, 2010
Alaskana Catholica: A History of the Catholic Church in Alaska, by Louis L. Renner, s.j.

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Jacobson's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on March 16, 2014.