Heir Apparent
Jaime Soto Named Coadjutor Bishop of Sacramento, Next in Line to Be Bishop When William Weigand Retires

California Catholic Daily
October 12, 2007

The next bishop of Sacramento will be Jaime Soto, currently Auxiliary Bishop of Orange County. The Vatican Information Service announced yesterday morning that Soto had been appointed coadjutor bishop of Sacramento, placing him next in the line of succession when current Bishop William K. Weigand, 70, retires.

"It pleases me to know that I now will have his assistance to help me shepherd this vast 20-county diocese and, in due course, to succeed me," said Weigand in a statement posted on the diocesan web site. "I ask for the prayers of all the faithful, clergy and religious as we prepare to warmly receive Bishop Jaime Soto."

The diocesan web site noted that Soto would replace Weigand upon his retirement, but added that Weigand "has no plans to retire at this time." Bishops normally retire at age 75, unless they decide to retire earlier.

When he takes over as bishop, Soto will become the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the western United States, leading a diocese that covers 20 counties and serves 1.5 million Catholics.

Soto, 51, was born in Inglewood in 1955 and attended Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He received his Master of Divinity degree from St. Johnís Seminary in Camarillo in 1982 and was ordained the same year for the Diocese of Orange. He went on to do parish work, and later attended Columbia Universityís School of Social Work, receiving a Masterís degree. He later served as assistant director of Catholic Charities and as director of Immigration and Citizenship Services for the Orange diocese from 1986 to 1989.

In 2000, Soto was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Orange. He has been a voice for immigrants and something of an activist since his elevation. He has also defended at least one priest convicted of sexual abuse. In May 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported that Soto, along with then-Salt Lake City Bishop George Niederauer (now Archbishop of San Francisco), wrote letters to the court on behalf of Father Andrew Christian Andersen during his in 1986 sexual abuse trial. Anderson was later convicted on 26 counts of felony child sexual abuse, but served no prison time. Instead, he was sent to the Servants of the Paraclete treatment facility in New Mexico. He was arrested again four years later and charged with sodomizing a 14-year-old boy and violating his probation. He was sentenced to six years in prison in 2005. On May 15, Bishop Soto told the Times, "I do regret writing that letter. I wrote it as a friend. I didnít know the details of the case."

Soto has also taken a public stance against abortion, telling the Orange County Register in February 2003 that one cannot be a Catholic and pro-abortion: "The church's position on abortion is precisely trying to do what Jesus did -- honor life."

Although Bishop Weigand does not have to retire until May of 2012, his health has been a longtime concern. For 24 years, Weigand has suffered from chronic liver disease, and underwent a liver transplant in April 2005.


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