A chance encounter in Rome led a Minnesota woman to seek spiritual solace from a San Diegan studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood, Jacob Bertrand.
She received his prayers — and a sexual relationship that Bertrand later described as “the second holiest sacrifice next to Jesus and Mary on Calvary.”
In a Minnesota courtroom Monday, Bertrand was sentenced to 10 years probation and a $1,000 fine for criminal sexual conduct. He was also ordered to complete an assessment as a sex offender and then undergo any recommended therapy.
Bertrand violated a Minnesota statute that forbids sex between members of certain professions and the people they counsel.
In 2009, while a deacon studying in Rome, Bertrand met a woman who was studying spirituality — and, she told Bertrand, hoped to find a husband. They began to meet every Wednesday for what Bertrand called “holy conversation,” which sometimes dwelled on Bertrand’s sexual history.
In June 2010, Bertrand and the woman both flew to San Diego, where he was ordained. A month later, while visiting her in Minnesota, he initiated several sexual encounters with her, once during a private Mass celebrated in the basement of the woman’s parents’ home.
Returning to San Diego, Bertrand repeatedly contacted her and urged her to keep their relationship secret.
“The devil tempts me to think that you will tell someone,” he said during a December 2011 telephone call, “and ruin my ministry.”
She complained to church officials in Minnesota in 2012 and 2014, the latter complaint being forwarded to the San Diego diocese. In April 2016, she went to the police and made a criminal complaint.
Bertrand was indicted in Minnesota in October 2016. This January, he pled guilty to the single charge of criminal sexual conduct.
For the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, Bertrand served in four parishes: St. Rose of Lima in Chula Vista (2010-2013), Santa Sophia in Spring Valley (2013-2015) and St. Vincent de Paul in Mission Hills and St. John the Evangelist in Hillcrest, (both 2015-2016).
He also gave talks to college students at San Diego State University’s Newman Center.
In August 2016, he took a leave of absence.
“Father Jacob is not expected to return to active ministry,” Kevin Eckery, a diocesan spokesman, said Monday.
Bertrand faced maximum penalties of 15 years in prison and $30,000 in fines.
Full story at San Diego Union-Tribune.