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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A video of a recently excommunicated priest amorously speaking to an unidentified woman is causing others to come forward with more information on his pattern of sexual abuse.
In a statement published on Friday, Bp. Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California declared Fr. Jeremy Leatherby excommunicated for rejecting Francis' papacy.
"By his words and actions, Fr. Leatherby has incurred a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication," reads the statement. The statement explains that Leatherby "has violated my instructions by offering Mass and teaching publicly to a number of the faithful. He has instructed them against the legitimacy of His Holiness, Pope Francis."
Bishop Soto clearly distinguishes between Leatherby's excommunication and an "on-going canonical process concerning other alleged behaviors by Fr. Jeremy Leatherby in violation of priestly promises."
Not long before Bp. Soto's statement, Fr. Leatherby accidentally sent to an unintended recipient a video of himself addressing a woman as "baby doll" and "my girl," as well as telling her six times, "I love you."
"Can I tell you something, though?" he asks rhetorically in the video. "I love that, without mascara, that you are still strikingly beautiful. I love that. I love it, like, a lot ... a lot a lot. I loved it earlier when I saw you and you didn't have it on and I loved it all night long."
Bishop Soto suspended Leatherby in 2016 over allegations of sexual impropriety with a woman. But despite the suspension, Leatherby continued to celebrate illicit Masses and hear invalid confessions.
Up until his death in 2018, Fr. Leatherby's grandfather, David Leatherby Sr., maintained his grandson's innocence.
Leatherby Sr. suggested the suspension was related to an incident with David Leatherby Jr. — his son and Fr. Leatherby's father.
At the time, Leatherby Sr. said a housekeeper had approached David Leatherby Jr., a deacon, claiming the housekeeper had caught a pastor in bed with another priest.
Deacon Leatherby Jr. allegedly approached a diocesan administrator with the story, but was received unfavorably. Ostensibly, two days later, Dcn. Leatherby was removed from doing deliverance ministry and Fr. Leatherby was suddenly facing claims of sexual misconduct with a woman.
But in a letter to priests published on Saturday, Fr. Leatherby claimed he admitted to violating boundaries with his accuser from the very beginning, something he initially lied about when the scandal first broke.
"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," he said, never elaborating on those boundary violations.
Since the incriminating video surfaced, many who know Fr. Leatherby, including one of his victims, have come forward with new information on what they say is his pattern of sexual abuse.
That victim, using the alias "Jessica," told Church Militant that Leatherby began grooming her when he became pastor of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Sacramento. He picked up on her desire for holiness as a revert to the Faith and offered to be her spiritual director. She was amazed that a priest with a reputation for piety and a penchant for preaching had befriended her.
Leatherby would often tell Jessica of her specialness and that the two were a gift from God to one another. He would always insist their relationship was pure like that of certain saints and people in the Bible. But as time went on, his behavior became increasingly impure.
Leatherby began touching Jessica inappropriately. One time, he took her by the hand and said, "I want to consecrate our love to the Lord."
Another time, he had Jessica compose a vow of obedience to him and take the vow in a pseudo-ceremony.
Leatherby used his reputation for piety in conjunction with his status as a priest to manipulate and control. Though Jessica says she never noticed anything occult-like, details of her abuse are sordid, disturbing and include varying degrees of sacrilege.
With her permission, Church Militant confirmed treatment for this abuse with Jessica's therapist. That therapist further vouched for her sanity and good name, as did some of Leatherby's former parishioners. A few of those former parishioners told Church Militant they have encouraged some of Leatherby's other victims to come forward, but fear of repercussions inhibits them.
Sources informed Church Militant that Leatherby preys on vulnerable married women, using their desire for holiness and other information learned in the confessional to manipulate them.
Addressing his excommunication, Leatherby said in his letter to priests, "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," he continued. "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."
Jessica shares her story with the hope other victims of Leatherby come forward. Assured of strict confidentiality, they can contact Kathy Conner, Chancellor of the diocese of Sacramento, at (916) 733-0207.
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