Canonical Commentary ~ Soto’s Excommunication of Fr. Leatherby


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.

In conclusion…

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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