Jackson was present at the rectory when investigators arrived to execute the search warrant, the affidavit states. The priest “was given his Miranda rights and asked to speak with an attorney after learning that detectives were there to investigate offenses related to child pornography,” the affidavit states.
Jackson was charged Oct. 30 by state authorities with possession of child pornography, transfer of child pornography, and child erotica prohibited, according to the Rhode Island State Police.
In Rhode Island, the charge of “child erotica prohibited” is defined as the production, possession, display, or distribution of “any visual portrayals of minors who are partially clothed, where the visual portrayals are used for the specific purpose of sexual gratification or sexual arousal from viewing the visual portrayals.”
Jackson has not made any public comment about the charges against him. Once it learned of Jackson's arrest the Diocese of Providence moved quickly to strip him of his position as pastor of St. Mary’s restrict him from public ministry.
News of Jackson’s arrest has shaken the relatively close-knit FSSP community.
Prior to his Aug. 1 arrival in Providence, Jackson spent 15 years at the FSSP apostolate at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Littleton, Colorado. Jackson is the author of “Nothing Superfluous,” a book about “the rich theological meaning behind the art, architecture, words and gestures of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Rite of St. Gregory the Great.”
Dave Counts, a St. Mary’s parishioner, described experiencing a “rollercoaster” of reactions to Jackson's arrest.
Counts told CNA that he has spoken to many people who know Jackson better than he does who insist the popular priest is innocent of the charges. Counts also said that he has a degree in computer science and understands how easily computers can be hacked to plant incriminating evidence against someone.
On the other hand, he added, the information contained in the affidavit is deeply disturbing.
“And either way, as a Catholic I will be praying for our church. I will be praying for Father Jackson, because either way it's horrendous, right?” said Counts, 38.
“If he was framed it’s the most horrendous thing you could do to a priest, really. It’s a complete character assassination to the point where even if his name is [cleared], he probably will never fully recover,” he said. “And if it's true, then it’s one of the most horrendous things he could do.”
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Meanwhile, supporters of Jackson have donated tens of thousands of dollars on his behalf.
The traditionalist Catholic media organization Restoring the Faith Media started an online fundraiser “to help discover what actually happened with Fr. James Jackson, FSSP.” Comments on the fundraiser include testimonies to Jackson’s piety, as well as prayers for Jackson.
“We have known Fr. Jackson for MANY years and he was a spiritual advisor for many of those. A crime of this or any sort is inconceivable for our dear priest and friend,” one comment reads.
“Praying for your proof of innocence, exoneration and restoration of your stellar reputation,” another supporter wrote.
According to Restoring the Faith Media, at least 50% of funds raised will go toward “forensic computing and private investigation,” and the remainder will go to his legal defense.
The organization’s “TRUTH for Fr. James Jackson, FSSP” fundraiser raised more than $50,000 in the first five hours after its launch. The four largest donations, totaling $16,000, were all from anonymous donors.