Rhode Island priest suspected of sharing child porn on church WiFi

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Rhode Island priest suspected of sharing child porn on church WiFi

A Roman Catholic priest in Rhode Island was arrested after being found with child pornography at a church where he lives and serves as pastor, authorities said.

James Jackson, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Providence, was busted Saturday by an Internet Crimes Against Children task force after investigators identified child porn being shared via the church’s internet connection, state police said in a statement Sunday.

Jackson, who lives at the church, was taken into custody after a court-authorized search warrant was executed at St. Mary’s and its rectory, state police said.

“Father Jackson was identified as the owner of digital media allegedly involved in the possession and transfer of child pornography and child erotica,” the agency said in a statement obtained by The Post.

A judge ordered Jackson held on $5,000 bail on charges of possession and transfer of child pornography, as well as possession of child erotica. He was unable to post that amount and was taken to a prison intake facility, state police said.

Jackson will appear in court at a later date. It’s unclear if he’s hired an attorney who could speak on his behalf. If he does post bail, the accused priest is barred from having contact with minors and cannot access the internet, state police said.

Father James Jackson at the pulpit
The Rev. James Jackson was ordered held on $5,000 bail.
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Jackson has already been removed as the church’s pastor and prohibited from performing the duties of a priest following Saturday’s bust, the Diocese of Providence said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with law enforcement and the attorney general to ensure the safety of children,” diocese officials said.

“The use of child pornography is a serious crime and a grave sin,” Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin said. “The charges against Father Jackson are very disturbing to all and must be taken very seriously.”

Jackson joined the diocese in August from the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, a clerical society headquartered in Switzerland. Prior to that appointment, he had been assigned by the fraternity outside Rhode Island, the diocese said.

“We, the FSSP, are shocked and saddened by news of Father Jackson’s arrest and the serious allegations against him,” the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter said in a statement on its website. “We had no reason to believe [Jackson] was engaging in any inappropriate behavior, let alone criminal conduct.”

Jackson passed a background check and had a “sterling record of priestly service” before starting at the Diocese of Providence, the FSSP said.

“Like all those accused of crimes, [Jackson] 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,” the statement continued.

St. Mary’s Church is adjacent to two middle schools and an elementary school, the Boston Globe reported. The church has been entrusted to the care of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter since 2018, according to the newspaper.

Jackson faces up to 21 years in prison if convicted on all charges, state police said.

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