by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
There is always a back story which explains the real event which is reported. What follows is a report by Giuseppe Pellegrino regarding the excommunication leveled by Bishop Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento, California, in the United States, against Father Leatherby, a priest whom he has been persecuting for 2 years without cause, for the crime of being the relative of a deacon in the same Diocese who blew the whistle on a sexual pervert in the priesthood. Bishop Soto was nominated by Pope Benedict XVI.
The back story is that Bishop Soto traces his episcopal lineage back to the same Rampolla del Tindaro as Jorge Mario Bergoglio. And that explains the real motivation in the act. After the article by Pellegrino, I will publish the documents, and then a short canonical commentary of my own.
Bishop Soto of Sacramento Excommunicates Priest for Refusing to Accept Pope Francis
Fr. Jeremy Leatherby Condemned for Offering Mass “In Union With Pope Benedict”
By Giuseppe Pellegrino
A Catholic priest in Sacramento, California has been excommunicated by his bishop for refusing to recognize the validity of the papacy of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, also known as Pope Francis.
In a letter of August 7, 2020, Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento has announced that “Fr. Jeremy Leatherby has placed himself and others in a state of schism with the Roman Catholic Church [and] incurred a latae sententiae excommunication” for having “instructed [the faithful] against the legitimacy of His Holiness, Pope Francis.” Furthermore, Bishop Soto condemns Leatherby for having “substituted the Holy Father’s name with the name of his predecessor, and omitted my name” in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass.
Beginning in March 2020, during the coronavirus ban on the Mass that was imposed by Bishop Soto and every bishop of the United States, Leatherby had been offering Masses each week for over 300 people in private homes. In a public statement “To the Priests and Faithful of the Diocese of Sacramento and beyond” issued on August 6, 2020, Leatherby explained his reasons for bringing the Sacraments to the faithful over the course of Lent and Easter 2020:
In a state of emergency, even laicized or “former” priests can, and perhaps even are morally obliged to, offer the sacraments for the faithful. During this pandemic, I couldn’t permit them to go without the foundational source of all healing, grace and salvation, [the Holy Eucharist]. … At first, I brought the Sacred Hosts that I consecrated in private Masses to one home after another. Soon, it was all day, every Sunday, driving all over town to bring people the Bread of Life. Finally, in order to provide for everyone, I had to celebrate public/private Masses in homes. Ultimately, 350 people a weekend were attending. However, I have celebrated [these Masses] in union with Pope Benedict, not with Pope Francis. Many who have joined me hold, like I do, that Benedict remains the one true Pope.
Bishop Soto contacted Leatherby by phone and letter earlier this summer, but Leatherby did not reply. In a private letter sent to Leatherby on August 3, 2020, Soto warned the priest: “Your actions have placed you and others in grave moral danger. Listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, in whose name I speak with fraternal solicitude.” In addition to calling Leatherby to repent and cease any sacramental ministry, Soto’s August 3 letter also ordered him: “You must assume a life of prayer and penance under my direction.”
In his statement, Leatherby acknowledges that the sentence of excommunication “is consistent with my relationship with Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis), with whom I cannot morally, spiritually or intellectually, in good conscience, align myself.” Leatherby names Bergoglio’s idolatry, syncretism, and violation of the Church’s constant tradition about sacramental reception as reasons he is “unable to consider myself in ecclesial communion with him.” Leatherby also succinctly explains the reason he still considers Benedict XVI to be the one true pope:
Further, and more importantly, I find it indefensible to hold that Pope Benedict’s declaratio of 2013 fulfills the requirements for a valid act of resignation from the papacy, according to canon law; thus, I continue to regard Benedict as retaining the Office of Peter, as mysterious as that might be.
Leatherby was removed from ministry in 2016 following an allegation of misconduct, but has been left in canonical limbo for over four years by Bishop Soto. In his August 7 letter, Bishop Soto stated: “The events by which [Fr. Leatherby] has excommunicated himself are unrelated to these previous allegations and the ensuing investigation. These are two separate issues.”
Leatherby said his refusal to remain in ecclesial communion with Jorge Bergoglio is the result of much prayer and discernment:
If I were to go before God on the day of judgment and not have taken this step, I would be afraid of the consequences. I would be a coward for not standing up for what I believe to be true and what I know many priests and even bishops are grappling with, some of whom believe what I believe in the privacy of their consciences. If this is true, perhaps it is time for all of them to similarly come forward? When all is revealed, if I am mistaken, I will humbly repent of my sin and error, for I love the Holy Roman Catholic Church. I have sought to give my life for her and only want to die in her bosom.
Leatherby’s statement indicates that he will seek “a dispensation from the clerical state” in “the church over which Bergoglio reigns.”
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Personal Letter of Bishop to Fr. Leatherby (with address of Fr. Leatherby has been redacted)
Public Letter of Bishop Soto announcing the Excommunication:
by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
The Most Rev. Jaime Soto became Bishop of Sacramento, California by accepting the nomination as such by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 29, 2008. He became a Bishop in 2000 by being nominated Auxiliary Bishop in Orange, California, by His Holiness Pope John Paul II It was on that occasion he took the Rampolla Bishop, Todd David Brown as his principal consecrator, and thus pledged himself eternally to the faction of Rampolla del Tindaro, the rival of Pope Pius X, and leader of the Masonic Political faction in the Church.
The facts of this case, which I know personally, are that a relative of Father Leatherby, more than 2 years, discovered and denounced a priest of the same diocese for sexual perversion and violation of his promise of celibacy. But this priest was a close friend of the Bishop, so in retaliation he suspended both Deacon and priest. Father Leatherby was subsequently accused of vague things, and when his canon lawyer attempted to have more information was refused all correspondence. The charges made by his bishop were left in the air, and the Bishop suspended him by an administrative procedure without a day in court. This is allowed in the new Code of Canon Law of 1983, but cannot be done without real reason.
This does not surprise me, because the Bishop is already notorious for covering up gay sexual abuse of minors, as Church Militant has reported. (Featured image is from that report). I quote from that report the parts which regard our story, here:
The renewed calls for Bp. Soto’s resignation stem from his suspension of Fr. Jeremy Leatherby, a well-loved priest in Bp. Soto’s diocese of Sacramento. Father Leatherby has been waiting over two years for either a hearing or the results of the investigation into claims he had an inappropriate relationship with an adult woman. Bishop Soto has refused to allow this hearing or even tell Fr. Leatherby who his accuser is.
Multiple sources told Church Militant this allegation was made shortly after his father, Deacon David Leatherby, approached a parish administrator to help a housekeeper who caught a parish priest in bed with another priest. This woman was so frightened after being confronted by the priest that she moved out of Sacramento and asked Deacon Leatherby for help.
As regards the excommunication which Bishop Soto has attempted, it is clearly without foundation in the Code of Canon Law. Yes, canon 1364 imposes excommunciation latae sententiae for the delict of schism. But the crime of schism is defined as separation from other members of the Church. To separate yourself from someone who is a heretic or schismatic, cannot therefore be cause for excommunication. Furthermore, to name Pope Benedict XVI in the canon, without naming Bergoglio, can scarcely be claimed to be a schismatic act, because Pope Benedict XVI is the pope, since he never renounced in accord with Canon 332 §2, and is still called Pope by the whole Catholic world. Even Bergoglio calls him “the Pope”, as he did in Spanish during the World Youth Day in Panama. And even Bergoglio names Benedict XVI in the Canon of the Mass, daily. Also, one cannot be considered a schismatic unless a mens rea is proven. A mens rea is a mind intent upon the crime. If someone names a Pope in the Canon, who was canonically elected, he certainly has no such intention. It is obvious that he simply wishes to profess his communion with the Church differently. But in the case of a dispute over who is the true Pope, and there is a controversy over fact or law, then neither side in the controversy, has a desire to commit the sin of schism, nay, they rather dispute the facts and laws, not the principle of communion with the Church or Apostolic See.
Obviously, if you bishop has suspended you for no reason on trumped up charges and refuses correspondence with your canon lawyer, he can scarcely claim you are schismatic for refusing to communicate with him. He is acting like an abusive father, and everyone has the right to refuse communion with such a man.
Furthermore, a priest cannot be suspended a divinis permanently for relations with a woman, unless he sires a child by her or formally participates in obtaining an abortion of his own child, or contracts a civil marriage with her. In all other cases, even of consummated acts against the 6th commandment, a punishment is due and a way to rehabilitation is required. To refuse any action canonically for 2 years establishes that the Bishop had no canonical grounds for the suspension. The priest should have made an appeal to the Vatican in the first 90 says, but appears to have been badly advised. For procedural issues alone, it seems that his suspension would have been vacated and should be annulled by the Vatican.
Therefore, in my opinion, by these letters it is established with canonical certitude that the Bishop must be held to be suspect of the crime of refusing communion with Father Leatherby and of having incurred excommunication latae sententiae for the sin of schism, since he has clearly and intentionally and with malice of aforethought chosen to refuse communion with Father Leatherby and publicly calumniate and libel his reputation, all of which are also grave sins and crimes in Canon Law.
Finally, the Bishop errs in saying that a Mass offered in a private chapel is a public act. Only masses offered in public oratories are public in the canonical sense. The Bishop is confusing the canonical term with the civil term. Also, the location of a tabernacle in a private chapel is not a canonical crime, it is merely the requirement of liturgical practice. It is only the establishment of a Tabernacle as a permanent fixture, where the Sacrament is conserved, and in which the Sacrament is conserved, which requires permission from the local pastor. And if the Bishop does not know the location of the chapel, or has not verified the parish in which it is housed, he can scarcely say that seeing it in a YouTube video constitutes any sort of canonical deviation at all.
I conclude by asking all to pray for the Bishop. He is clearly simply trying to defend his own sin, and ignoring any habit of self reflection. On the other hand, Father Leatherby is acting against the COVID-19 heresy, which has been embraced by the Bishop wholeheartedly, and is providing the sacraments to the Faithful, who have the divine right to receive them from any priest, when their legitimate pastors apostatize from their ministry. And for that, a priest cannot be punished, since the salvation of souls is the highest law, as the last canon in the code of Canon Law reminds us and the Bishop.
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