To My Brother Priests,
On Monday, August 3, 2020, I received the sentence of excommunication from Bishop Soto, which has now been publicly declared to all of you. Before elucidating where I stand in relation to the Church, which I will do toward the end of this letter, there are matters that I would like to address and want to bring closure to. Almost four and a half years ago, on March 17, 2016, I was placed on leave on account of allegations from an adult woman. I hereby attest that I have admitted from the beginning that I violated boundaries in ways with that woman, which is why up until the present day I have cooperated with the juridical process for the accusations to be adjudicated. Sadly, I have never had the opportunity to apologize to that woman, because I was forbidden from having any form of communication with her. I have wanted to do so from the commencement of my leave. To her I say: Please, when you read this letter, know that I have been, and am, profoundly sorry. I sincerely apologize to you, and I ask for your forgiveness. I know there will be no communication between us, but, in your heart, I hope you will forgive me for the hurt that I have caused you, and I pray that from this moment forward we can both let this rest.
The last several years I have waited and waited and waited for an opportunity to defend myself against the charges brought against me. I have been told that I would finally be heard “next week,” “the week after,” “next month,” “next….” for nearly four years. All to no avail. I have watched these years vanish, lingering on the fringes of society, feeling like an outcast, wanting to get on with my life. I have been denied that right all along, while in the meantime rumors have swirled about and my name and reputation have been marred, perhaps irreparably. I have awaited my day in court, because, while acknowledging that I had done wrong and erred in ways, I also categorically deny and want to refute a number of the allegations brought against me. Some are of such a nature that I cannot bring myself to believe that she even claimed them. I have wondered if she, like me, never had her testimony audibly recorded, had no eye-witness present to verify what was said, lacked the proper taking of notes by the interviewer, and never signed off that she affirmed the words of her statement. On top of all of that, a testimony that I never validated, with misreported and erroneous information, was verbally leaked by diocesan personnel into the public. In any event, irregardless of all of that, I expected that the Church would handle the situation in a way that true justice demands – expeditiously! – for all involved, not just myself and my accuser, but for the parish I was pastor of, for the Diocese of Sacramento, and for the Church universal. What great harm could have been prevented…
I take this opportunity also to apologize to my beloved parishioners and the school families of Presentation and the Dominican Sisters. You all were and are so dear to me. I never was able to say “goodbye” formally. I am so sorry for any confusion and division that resulted from my actions. Please know that I really and truly sought to lay down my life for you and to be a good and faithful shepherd, and I apologize for the ways that I failed. I extend those words to the entire diocese and to anyone in particular who may have been negatively affected or hurt during my years of actively priestly ministry. I give you my word that my intentions were always good, though I too am weak and sinful, a fallen human being with plenty of faults.
The last four and a half years of my life have been unbelievably painful. I have lived largely in isolation and tremendous loneliness. I have been stripped of virtually everything. It has been like living in a prison without bars, yet the captivity is real. I have been in bondage until my case is heard and wrapped up, and I can be freed to go on living. You might compare it to a married man being ripped away from his spouse, children, profession, and essentially his identity, all in one moment. You want reconciliation. You want healing. You wait in a perpetual state of unknowing and uncertainty, with no light at the end of the tunnel. The days, weeks and months pass interminably. This hopelessness sets in. You are continually told that, “It’s going to end soon. It’s going to end soon,” and yet the nightmare never ends, to the point where you no longer want to go on. You would prefer to die, because you aren’t sure how much more you can endure.
That is the point at which I had arrived several months ago. I was on my way out of the priesthood, planning on laicization, to establish a new beginning. The state of existence that I had lived through was not a healthy one, and after so much time I had to be honest with myself that it was unlikely that I would ever be restored to active priestly ministry. Besides, there is a small contingent of people who accuse me of all sorts of sins and pathologies, who I don’t think would ever be silent until I depart. I assure you, if those individuals were correct, those pathologies would have been detected at the Saint John Vianney Treatment Center in Downingtown, PA, which I was required to attend for five months after being placed on leave. The staff there dissected every aspect of my life and person. That handful of detractors who are out to destroy me are most definitely mistaken in their assessment of me. If I was guilty of what they surmise, I would absolutely not have waited all these years for a hearing. I would have walked away immediately. I could have avoided any potential, future malice and slander. They think they are drumming up new stories and information about me, but they are wrong. I have been one-hundred-percent transparent about my entire past with the diocese. I have revealed everything. They have it all. Those who are plotting my demise, please leave me alone. I have served my time. I have suffered grievously all these years. I have atoned for my sins. You are spreading one side of a story that you don’t know the truth about. What you are doing should have been done privately, not publicly. You are jeopardizing people’s lives and futures.
I have remained silent all these years. I have been placed under pontifical seal so that I cannot speak about my case. I will now never be able to argue my side of the story and events. Believe me, there is another side. I could expose much, but have refrained all this time. I don’t need or want to ruin other people’s lives, marriage or families, even at the cost of my own. But I guarantee you that I have solid evidence that severely undercuts and disproves the venom being spewed about me. Would I really have stuck around if I was culpable of the wickedness of which certain people are speaking? Wouldn’t I have run away quickly if I was the villain they allege?
So, why haven’t I left after all this time? Why not cease the drama and heartache of it all? As I said above, I was about to. Most priests in my situation, and there are far more than one might realize, don’t get beyond the two-year mark. It’s practically unbearable for so many reasons. However, when I was going to call it quits, covid hit, and the sacraments were banned virtually throughout the world. The faithful were denied that which is most essential – even more essential than food or drink. They were denied the Eucharist, the Bread that without which one does not have life within him. I knew, canonically, that what was being done violated the law of the Church. The faithful, who request them and are in a proper state, have a right to receive the sacraments always. I couldn’t stand by and watch as what I believe to be the greatest denial of Christ, since His very own crucifixion, was taking place. If the Eucharist is the source, center and summit of the Catholic Faith, how could it be kept from believers? How could bishops and priests tell people that they are not allowed to receive Jesus?!? What father would deprive his children their daily bread? It goes entirely against our faith and tradition. So, I emerged to provide the sacraments for people, particularly since it was (and still is, I believe) a national “state of emergency.” 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.
That leads me back to where I began, with the excommunication. 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, the Masses for the last few months, I have celebrated 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’s sentence of excommunication again me is consistent with my relationship with Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis), with whom I cannot morally, spiritually or intellectually, in good conscience, align myself. Bergoglio’s act of idol worship in Saint Peter’s Basilica in October of 2019, his consistent promotion of religious syncretism, and his violation of the Church’s constant sacramental tradition regarding the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried, among other things, has left me unable to consider myself in ecclesial communion with him. 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. Therefore, I do not regard Bergoglio as the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Frighteningly, I believe he may be the head of the “counter church” about which Venerable Fulton Sheen prophesied, or “the anti-church” spoken of by Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II), or the “parallel church” written about recently by Archbishop Vigano.
Yes, I deservedly incur excommunication if Bergoglio is indeed the valid Successor of Peter, and I am guilty of causing great division within the Mystical Body of Christ. However, I could not in good conscience do otherwise. 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.
No longer being in union with the church over which Bergoglio reigns, at this time I am seeking a dispensation from the clerical state in that church. I no longer want to be affiliated with it through canonical ties. Of course, I remain a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, and I intend to seek to live out my priestly promises independently.
Please pray for me, my brothers, as I will continue to intercede for all of you.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Fr. Jeremy Leatherby