Published: September 25, 2011 9:59 p.m.
Last modified: September 25, 2011 10:03 p.m.
One after another, parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church lined up at a microphone in the basement of their church Sunday and asked the archdiocese to drop its police complaint about the church’s finances and ex-pastor Father Joe LeClair.
Vicar General Msgr. Kevin Beach, speaking on behalf of the archdiocese, said that is not going to happen.
Beach held a townhall-style question-and-answer meeting for parishioners after Sunday mass. He told the approximately 200 parishioners present that after the Ottawa Citizen published a story about LeClair and financial irregularities at the church, the archdiocese paid for an independent audit of the church, which led to the police complaint. The church is more than $40,000 in debt and has run a deficit for four of the last five years.
“We realized we did not have the professional experience or the investigative powers to answer the questions that are still open,” Beach said when parishioners asked why police were asked to investigate.
Parishioners were vocal throughout the meeting, clapping at praise of LeClair and booing any mention of media. Many complained the archdiocese had lacked oversight of the church’s finances, failed to support LeClair and mishandled its communications about the allegations.
“I would have loved to hear the first words out of His Excellency’s mouth,” said parishioner Chris McGuire. “They should have been words about Father Joe that he knew were true, he was an amazing pastor … As opposed to framing it out of the gate as a money issue, the gambling issue.”
While LeClair has admitted to having a gambling problem and sought treatment for it, he has denied taking money from the church. Some parishioners said they care more about LeClair’s work revitalizing the church than the parish’s debt.
“He was the most dynamic priest in the diocese, bar none, and that includes you and all other priests and bishops who have been here,” said parishoner Conrad Rock. “This parish was dying.”
Beach said the archdiocese does not know the name of anyone, parishoner or not, who has come forward with a formal complaint about the finances at the church.
Parishioners Defend Father Joe
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Josh Pringle with Brock Smith
Parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church are accusing the Archdiocese of Ottawa of crucifying Father Joe Leclair.
Church officials met with parishioners on Sunday to discuss the Ottawa Police investigation into the church’s finances.
An audit by Deloitte and Touche raised several questions about how money was handled in the parish over a five year period. The Archdiocese said a review has found questionable transactions that need to be investigated.
Ann Ray tells CFRA News regardless of what police find, she’ll stand by Father Joe Leclair. Ray added “there’s been so much done” around the church with money raised.
Some parishioners asked the Archdiocese to withdraw the complaint against Leclair.
LeClair is currently in an addictions program. He claims that he was forced to resign, that the diocese never gave him the opportunity to continue his duties even in a limited role.