The blog I posted on the final day of Father Phil Jacobs’ trial, after hearing Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings’s compelling summation, suggested she had carried the day on the touching with sexual intent charges, whereas on the explicit sexual assault charge in the case of the boy I call boy one, this would depend on which—Jacobs or the boy, the judge decides to believe actually happened (nothing, if you believe Jacobs, several instances of reciprocal genital touching, if you believe boy one)
With the other two boys, however, there is little disagreement over what Jacobs did. The issue is whether he had sexual intent when he touched them.
On reflection, I would say that Jennings did not convince me (though she may well have convinced the judge) that Jacobs had the specific sexual intent that she built much of her case around—that is, that Jacobs touched them in relatively non-sexual ways (tickling one boy, for example, on the ribs) with the immediate purpose of softening them up, or grooming them, for later, more explicit sexual actions, with the ultimate intent of at least duplicating his misdeeds in Ohio, which involved persuading two boys to masturbate in his presence.
In a way she was buying into Jacobs’s own view of his past sexual misbehaviour, which was that it was carved in stone. If left to its follow its course, it would always end with him witnessing a boy’s first masturbation to orgasm, thus playing out his actions when he himself was 15, and teaching younger boys to masturbate for the first time.
So well-established was this “template” or “script” as Jacobs called it in the trial, that it could not only end in only one way, it could also proceed in only one way. Therefore, because he never did follow through on his Ohio modus operandi and take any of the boys camping overnight alone with him, and their induce them to masturbate in front of him, Jacobs instructed the judge, he could not have been grooming them for that Ohio end.
There are several things wrong with both Jacobs’s and Jennings’s reasoning, which any member of the 12 step movement could have explained.
First, it is axiomatic among 12 steppers that addiction evolves, or , as Sexaholics Anonymous puts it, “progresses.” A high school addiction to pornographic magazines can progress to a university addiction to movies and a working life addiction to prostitutes. Similarly, an alcoholic can progress from beer to wine to scotch, and, in a pinch, regress. In the view of Alcoholics Anonymous, the addiction is to alcohol, though many a drunk, in the grips of their compulsion, convince themselves they are addicted only to hard liquor, so it is fine for them to drink some beer. (I spent some time in the emergency room with one such unfortunate).
In the view of Sexaholics Anonymous, the addiction is to lust—understood as either the particular cocktail of brain chemicals generated by sexual desire, or as the pleasure those chemicals stimulate. That is why the addiction progresses. The initial “charge,” or pleasure payoff, diminishes with repetition, so that the addict must ever seek new, different, more extreme, activities to recapture the original payoff. The compulsion is not, as Jacobs’s would have the judge believe, to the particular goal of his inner child’s “script,” but to lust itself.
This means he was making two misstatements, either innocently or deliberately: first, contrary to his own insistence, his script could change, and could easily have progressed to more abusive behaviour if it had not been checked by exposure, firing from his job, and therapy.
Second, the absence of steps along the way towards the ultimate goal—steps such as going camping overnight—do not preclude that ultimate “goal.”
Jennings also seemed to arguing much of the time that Jacobs`s touching of the boys should be understood chiefly as grooming. But remember, what appears as Jacobs’s goal—even to him—was merely an artificial construct: lust was the real goal. It is my belief that Jacobs was simply turned on by the presence of boys in their early teens, a common enough thing that it has a name, hebephilia. Just being around them would be appealing, being alone with one would be arousing. A hebephile wouldn`t need to have any long-term purpose. The alcoholic who loves scotch but has always disdained beer may well slip from his recovery in AA by drinking beer, deluding himself that , because he never liked it, and because he does not intend to move on to scotch later, he cannot be lapsing. Just so, Jacobs may not have any plan to lead either boy two or boy three on to a solo camping trip, there to watch them masturbate. He may well, as he insists, have set himself a boundary he was determined not to cross. (and he may well have possessed the strength of character to not cross it, acting out his addiction entirely on the safe side of the boundary.
The trouble is, when the brain chemicals associated with sexual pleasure are generated, they impair judgement in measurable ways (such as, reduced production of chemicals that improve judgement, i.e, serotonin). Those boundaries begin to mist over. Thus Jacobs`s series of inappropriate actions, notably the shower room and tutoring incidents, demonstrate seriously impaired judgement. Lust will do that, because, in my view, God designed us in such a way, that either our sexual or romantic desire will overcome our reasonable inhibitions over time and lead us to procreate. (God also designed us to rule our passions with our reason and our consciences, however, and, clearly that is an ideal that fallen mankind frequently falls short of)
This also means that Jacobs could well have been acting with sexual intent not only with his tickling of one boy and his prodding of another, but every time he patted any boy on his fully-clothed shoulder or played “drunken camel“ at the pool.
Jacobs comes across as a supremely self-confident man, and one who clearly thought he knew better than the Catholic church on matters sexual. Though he admitted it was wrong of him to give boys solo advice about masturbation, it was only wrong because of his past behaviour, of how he used this advice giving to groom boys for his ultimate goal. He never admitted that he was wrong in his belief that masturbation itself was okay, contrary, as the Church teaches.
Under orders from his initial diocese, Jacobs was treated by psychotherapists who, I suspect, were no friends of the 12 steps. There is a school of thought that denies there is such a thing as a behavioural addiction. (they admit to substance addictions). In fact, my wife the sex therapist tells me the American Association of Sex Educators and Therapists is in the throes of a debate over this very subject. Such therapists believe, as Jacobs appeared to believe, that the mere understanding of his “script“ and its cause was enough to set him free. But the 12 stepper knows differently. Jacobs shouldn`t have been around boys at all, in fact, any more than an alcoholic should be given a job in a tavern, which the Diocese of Victoria appeared to understand when they hired him as a priest but soon appeared to forget. They did nobody any favours when they sent him to St. Joseph`s parish.