A priest from California was charged Friday in the Twin Cities with engaging in sexual activity with a woman for whom he was conducting mass in Mendota Heights, authorities said.
Jacob Andrew Bertrand, 33, of San Diego, was charged in Dakota County District Court with third-degree criminal sexual conduct during a religious advice meeting and third-degree criminal sexual conduct during ongoing meeting for advice.
“Any time you have someone in a position of trust and responsibility that is taking advantage of that, you have a tragic situation,” County Attorney James Backstrom said Friday. “And that is what we are alleging that happened here.”
According to the criminal complaint, in July 2010, Bertrand, an ordained priest from San Diego, visited a Mendota Heights woman he had met in 2009 in Rome while they were studying spirituality and he was a deacon. In June 2010, the woman and Bertrand had flown to San Diego for his ordination as a priest.
At one point during his trip to Minnesota, Bertrand and the woman engaged in a private mass in the basement of her Mendota Heights home, where they also had sexual contact.
After the ceremony, Bertrand told the woman “they had ‘fulfilled the second holiest sacrifice next to Jesus and Mary on Calvary,’ ” according to the complaint. He also told her that it was so “mystical” they should not talk about it to others.
“The victim, who is now 30 years old, reported the sexual contact to Mendota Heights police in April after she reported it to officials with the Catholic Church in 2012 and 2014,” the complaint read.
She told police that after the two met in Rome they developed a relationship and he later “mystically proposed” to her.
Around the same time, “while Bertrand was praying in church, Bertrand told the victim that ‘the Lord’ had imprinted a vision in his mind of the victim naked and straddling him,” the complaint continued.
The woman told officials of the Catholic Church in 2012 and 2014 about the sexual contact. In 2014, the report was forwarded to the San Diego Diocese for investigation.
In a letter he sent the victim in 2014, Bertrand apologized “for the many injustices and scandals to your faith caused by the fault that lies on me.” He wrote that he prayed for “release from any demonic attachments that were leading me into such a folly and were keeping me from protecting you as a true priest should have.”
In November 2014, Bertrand told his parishioners in a bulletin that he had undergone a psychological evaluation and was taking a leave of absence at a residential program. A few months later, he was reassigned to a new church within the San Diego Diocese and is still serving there, the woman told police.
Bertrand is in Minnesota but currently not in custody. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.