As a friend and former parishioner of Father James Jackson, FSSP over the past 15 years or so, I feel no need to rush to his defense against the contemptible charges being made against him for the simple reason that no defense is truly necessary. This is a priest beyond reproach who, for reasons only known to God, has been entangled in a bizarre and suspicious cyber-sting operation which smacks of a deliberate frame-up either by corrupt officials, a malevolent hacker who took offense at something this priest wrote or said, or a combination of both. Nor would Fr. Jackson be the first innocent person to be accused or convicted of child porn possession and distribution. Today there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people whose lives have been ruined by similar accusations. A Nov. 8, 2009 NBC News / Associated Press investigative article bears this fact out. It begins “Of all the sinister things that Internet viruses do, this might be the worst: They can make you an unsuspecting collector of child pornography.” The piece goes on to report the ease with which malignant viruses can capture an unsuspecting user’s PC and load it with porn. (the complete article can be found at http://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna33778733)
Are we to believe that somehow, 12 years later, this problem has abated even as major corporations and vital pipelines have been hacked and compromised by malicious malware? If Yahoo, Target, and Colonial Pipeline, employing legions of cyber-security experts, cannot prevent such breaches, are we also to believe that someone with a minimal literacy in computers, such as a Fr. Jackson, would be invulnerable to malicious hackers? His case has all the earmarks of the recent Cardinal George Pell travesty in Melbourne, Australia: a patently false accusation and prosecution, apparently orchestrated by corrupt Vatican insider Cardinal Angelo Becciu, himself now disgraced and under indictment for financial fraud. And although ultimately exonerated by Australia’s high court, Pell’s slandered reputation will never be restored.
So before rushing to judgment over such ludicrous accusations, as most of the media has already done, I would beg my readers to view the classic 1953 Alfred Hitchcock thriller I Confess starring Montgomery Clift. Clift’s character is Fr. Logan, a priest accused of murder who cannot exonerate himself without breaking the seal of confession. Consequently, he must watch the ruin of his reputation, face criminal prosecution, and the wrath of a hostile mob. Perhaps we are now being treated to a case of art imitating life, because there is an uncanny physical resemblance between Clift’s Fr. Logan and the real Fr. Jackson that we who know him well have come to love. I wish more Catholic media reporters would reflect on the sins of both slander and detraction before jumping to rash conclusions, but Mr. Dan Dougherty addresses that issue better than I could which is why I have included his recent letter as an addendum, below.
The Fr. Jackson I know is a quiet, thoughtful, and very humane individual whose real desire was to be a contemplative monk. In fact he has spent a year or so in a monastery in France before God called him into an active priestly ministry. Although naturally reserved, he loved playing rugby and became a Marine Corps chaplain before finally joining the traditional Latin FSSP community in 1996. Fr. Jackson is a hard-nosed realist who possesses a truly contemplative soul that longs above all for God. His writings show it, his sermons demonstrate it, his gracious and courteous manners around all sorts of people manifest it, and above all his great love of beauty all indicate how his life is totally ordered to union with the Divine Will.
Such a man does not suddenly turn, after 66 years, to a trifling, soul deadening amusement like pornography. One does not suddenly acquire such a degrading habit at that age. I work with the Road to Purity, a recovery program designed to help people caught up in pornography and sexual addictions, and if such a propensity had been there all along it would have surely manifested itself long before this point. Father Jackson is not naive about human nature. He wrote with real insight about priestly life in his weekly parish bulletins. For instance, “Without the faith (I mean real belief in God) and the pursuit of the interior life, celibacy just creates a class of professional bachelors who are still saying Mass and doing baptisms, but are overcome with isolation and even depression… They naturally turn to the natural for consolation,” he warned. “And with that turning from God, there is hell to pay.”
These are the measured words of someone with a rich interior life, fully aware of the corrupt McCarrick culture infesting the modern Church, so one must ask, what is the real story behind this Kafka-like turn of events? Are we witnessing just another burlesque script from the same authoritarian bureaucrats and media lackeys who have been feeding us Russian collusion, a false pandemic, and now imposing medical tyranny? My perspective is that Fr. Jackson is being targeted for the crime of pointing out unpopular truths: whether it be calling out “psychosexually dysfunctional” priests or challenging an emasculated priest-class he calls “professional bachelors” or leading a prayer rally against a Satanist black mass in Salem. All these things will earn you great enmity in the world. After all, if his foes can take down a high ranking prince of the Church like Cardinal Pell, how difficult would it be to target some lowly unknown pastor in Providence, R.I.?
But at a deeper level we must realize that the priest acts in persona Christi – in the person of Christ, and it was Christ himself who was falsely accused, condemned, and led to crucifixion. “If the world hates you remember that it first hated me.” (Jn 15:18) The faithful priest must therefore be prepared for immolation in the world which is exactly what I see when I behold the sad, pensive expression in Fr. Jackson’s eyes from the police mugshot. “Like a lamb led to slaughter, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Is 53:7) That, to me, represents the true essence of our Fr. Jackson – a willing victim suffering vicariously for his beloved flock.
In the end, Fr. Jackson will be vindicated, perhaps not in the eyes of the world but in the court that truly matters – the eternal judgment seat. Falsely accused, falsely judged, and wrongfully treated is, for his faithful priest, a sign of God’s special love and providence. Please keep him in your prayers, and also those who are persecuting him. We are living in a time of white martyrdom, and Fr. Jackson is not alone among the many faithful priests today who are likewise being “led to the slaughter” simply for speaking the truth.
Francis J. Pierson + a.m.d.g.
Addendum: Letter of Dan Dougherty to Church Militant below
First off I will state my unyielding support for the cleaning up of the corruption in the Church. The work of convicted clerical predators has been covered up for far too long and has done severe damage to the Roman Catholic Church. Although justice will certainly be administered in the life to come, the victims still here on earth deserve as much of it as God mercifully sees fit. Shedding light on the abuse by priests especially where children are involved is certainly necessary especially in this day and age. However, the coverage by Christine Niles and Church Militant on the events surrounding Fr. James Jackson leave much to be desired and have been lacking in balance, impartiality, and, dare I say, justice.
By your own accounts the accusations against Fr. Jackson have not come from alleged victims or family members of victims claiming to have been abused by him, which would certainly warrant some level of credibility and rightful concern, but by the same FBI which Church Militant has been decrying for months for election tampering, targeting concerned parents, and conducting investigations against political opponents. Not to mention the initial reports and actions of the Providence Police Force which has proven multiple times to have collaborated in political and civic corruption. All of a sudden, these are the people who can do no wrong and are completely sensible and justified in their actions against Fr. Jackson. These reports show an inconsistency in presenting the facts to your audience and undercut your own credibility. Even if he received a guilty sentence how are we supposed to take it seriously when you’ve shown the authorities involved to be corrupt?
The article and subsequent updates on the story continue to take a very slanted position on the unfolding events as neither Niles nor Church Militant bother to even consider that this could have been a set-up against the priest. Your claims that this is unlikely and the hard drive totally unhackable are laughably unfounded and show both a lack of research as well as an unfair predisposed supposition. This indicates that Niles and/or CM are unwilling to consider him as anything other than guilty and are instead more concerned with making headlines, online hits, and garnering publicity as much as possible; a position I would expect more from CNN and other mainstream news outlets than a Christian institution. This position is further cemented by Niles’ online tweets stating that if she didn’t try to expose an FSSP priest more than the ones from the SSPX she would get chewed out by her critics.
Truth should be the objective here, not the opinions of critics and thus in this case cannot be considered true journalism, but rather slander. No exceptions concerning his guilt are considered, no facts indicating his innocence are worth examining. Not even a prayer asked for his soul, no matter the outcome. Despite her many claims of only pursuing truth, Niles refuses to incorporate anything that may even hint that Fr. Jackson is anything but guilty, such as the fact (covered by other Catholic media I might add) that the hard drive and the offending material found on the rectory computer were accessed and files were shared while Fr. Jackson was out of town. Not one mention. As far as Church Militant is concerned, he is guilty before he has even had a trial. Adding insult to injury, Christine Niles in particular has gone to excessive lengths to cut down and undermine any attempts to voice a concern or opinion that may contradict her own.
The article itself featured on the Church Militant website is poorly done in its presentation. Many readers cite its confusing report and vague language. A major concern is the article’s description of the pornographic videos. No amount of “graphic content warning” warrants incorporating the details of heinous behavior on a self described Catholic website. Whether a warning is there or not, presenting descriptions of the images is almost as sinful as simply posting the pornography on your site, and we all have Christine Niles to thank for putting those awful images into the head of every reader. Shame on you. The hubris and unprofessionalism exhibited here is staggering; not to mention your hasty judgement.
One last thing that illustrates the biased approach of Niles and CM is how quickly the comments of those willing to defend him are dismissed. Explain to me how your audience is supposed to take the word of those trying to condemn the man, having never even met him, over the word of those who are familiar with his character? I have known Fr. Jackson for over fifteen years and, while I have had my differences with him, I witnessed him to be a good, kind, and fair man. I may not be ready to pronounce him a living saint like many in your audience, but he was certainly on the right path when last I looked. His writings and sermons, which seem to mean nothing to you, offer a pretty good glimpse of both his
character and the state of his mind. During his work as a pastor in Colorado he did nothing of this nature that would give his flock cause for concern. Predators of the sort you describe cannot hide their base nature for that length of time and under such intense scrutiny. If he was mixed up in something like this, it would have drawn attention eventually, but there were no such slip-ups. Ever.
The timing itself of the investigations and arrests are extremely suspicious. No sooner had Fr. Jackson assumed the role in his new parochial home than he was drawing attention to himself for unusual behavior. I don’t buy it. How is it that an addicted pervert draws the attention of the police, FBI, and Homeland Security of the nefariously shady Boston/Providence area when he had just passed a criminal background check with flying colors and boasted a stellar record in every parish he had previously been assigned to? Are the law enforcement and federal agents in Colorado more incompetent than the ones embroiled in crimes on the north-east coast?
I pray that true justice be done. IF he is indeed culpable then he deserves every ounce of abuse you and the mainstream media are throwing at him and then some. I’m sure God will see to that, but in the meantime, consider the consequences of your own reports if he is found blameless. In the event that he is exonerated, I expect a full retraction from Church Militant. Whether you can restore his good name and reinforce the Faith of those whom you have directly shaken, I can’t say, but eternity can hold nothing good for those who attack good priests. And we blame the world, the flesh, and the devil for the damage done to Holy Mother Church.
In any event, because of your mishandling of the situation, you will lose viewership. You can count on that. Mine, my family’s and friends’, not to mention many of the sheep whom he has faithfully shepherded.
God Love you.