My name is Elisabeth von Teichman, I’m 25 years old, grew up in Ottawa and I work full time for the federal government.
I must say that I was disturbed by the Citizen’s articles this weekend regarding Father Joe LeClair (“The priest, his gambling and trouble at Blessed Sacrament,” April 16, and “Father LeClair issues apology to Blessed Sacrament,” April 17). Not only have I attended mass at Blessed Sacrament Parish, but my nephew was baptized by Father Joe just a few weeks ago.
First of all, I would like to say that I do not know if these allegations against Father Joe are true. Most importantly, let it be known that whether these allegations are true or false it doesn’t change my opinion of Father Joe.
Yes, he is a priest but he is also human and, therefore, imperfect. If my own father, whom I love dearly, had a problem with gambling, I would not display it on the front cover of a newspaper so he could feel guilty and ashamed.
What good can come of that? If this was my own father in trouble, I would see to it that he faced the consequences of his actions, but I would stand by him and ensure he got the help he needed. I would make sure he knew that I loved him and stood by him; after all we are a family and isn’t that what families do?
I would have to say that a community within a church is like a family and if a member of that community needed help, I would hope that everyone would be there to support and help that person get better. Why is it that a church parishioner can come forward and admit to having a problem and everyone comes together as a community to help that individual, but if it’s the leader of that community in trouble, people are too quick to judge and point the finger?
How many people in trouble and in desperate situations has Father Joe helped? How many times has he been there for those in need? Right now, he needs his family/his community more than ever. We’ve all done things in life we’re not proud of and we’ve all made mistakes. He needs help, not condemnation.
Catherine Doherty, founder of Madonna House, once came upon a drunk priest. Instead of banishing him she gave him a bed to sleep in and a meal to eat. In the morning, she asked this priest to bless her and in response the priest said: “How can you ask me for a blessing? Don’t you know that I’m a bum?” Catherine responded simply with, “Yes, but you are a priest and I ask for your blessing for it is Christ’s blessing.” The priest blessed her and began to weep as he was so deeply moved by her love and forgiveness.
Are you able to love and forgive? If it was your own father who came home drunk or had a gambling problem, would you chose to judge and reject him? Or would you do everything in your power to see to it that he got the help he needed. After all, he is your father.
Elise von Teichman lives in Ottawa.
anonymous 3:18 PM on April 18, 2011
OMG..Irish Lassie25 read this last reply…this is not judging and convicting???
We know nothing of any certainty. At this point it’s all conjecture and spin…and it’s spinning out of control.
3:11 PM on April 18, 2011 Hard to believe a scandal at a catholic church not involving the usual indiscretions.
3:07 PM on April 18, 2011
This comment is under review.
3:05 PM on April 18, 2011 Whether he has helped anyone in the past or not, clearly there is some hypocrisy going on here. Can you trust him now? From what Ive learned they do not have an income so in other words I gather he was stealing money all these believers donated? Never mind, just get on your knees and pray, Im sure all will end up okay.
3:05 PM on April 18, 2011
“Not in a “gotcha” way, but truly trying to understand.”
I think it is safe to say, you had to have been there. I’m not even entirely sure I understand. I certainly don’t applaud him for gambling in amounts I can’t even comprehend. I’m even a little angry over it, and certainly confused.
But I stood, as everyone else did.
How can I put this: it felt like he needed our strength, and it was a way to provide it, in return for strength that most of us, at one time or another, that he’s given to us – through funerals, baptisms, first Eucharists, weddings, or marriage counseling.
A 1,000 people can’t hug a man, and I guess this was the closest we could get.
3:00 PM on April 18, 2011
the lottery” are what the Citizen characterized, without describing any specific supporting sources. It is unknown (to me at least) whether the Citizen’s assertion about this statement correlates with something he’s ever actually said. I’d want to know who they assert he’s said this to, before I accept it, in vero.
I am trying to understand “We’re frightened, shocked, and in mourning.” with the standing ovation etc.
Not in a “gotcha” way, but truly trying to understand.
2:52 PM on April 18, 2011 I think that people that speak of a “cult” are projecting their own feelings or fears onto a situation that, ultimately, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
As anyone who goes to Blessed Sacrament knows, Father Joe may have his charismatic moments, but you know what? He’s not all that exceptional a motivational speaker. What Blessed Sacrament parishioner hasn’t rolled their eyes a little when Fr. Joe trots out one of his stock Christmas stories? What church volunteer there hasn’t felt a little frayed by the ‘organized chaos’ atmosphere that can surround special events?
Anyone who goes to that parish knows that Father Joe is no “messiah” as some allege, but rather a very human man with evident frailties whose redeeming quality is that he generally puts his time to energetic good use.
We’ve had a good community as a Parish, and these events are going to change that. We’re frightened, shocked, and in mourning.
Not over our “messiah” or any such business. Over our friend
2:51 PM on April 18, 2011
I too know the Archbishop.. and I follow carefully what he WROTE on this matter.
I am waiting for the results of the audit. Are you? Really?
Are you in the least bit concerned about:
1) wild stories of winning the lottery?
2) writing 250K of cheques to oneself?
True agape means love and truth and justice. The archbishop is doing all three things! I am trying to do the same.
I have said that this will make Father Joe a better priest and think he will eventually come through this well.
anonymous 2:44 PM on April 18, 2011
Aileen, I’m quite sure that you are not in any position to know what Father LeClair “could possibly” have done in any way – unless you also have access to his banking records , every bequest left to him by a LeClair family member, or his past work outside the Blessed Sacrament parish.
Let’s let the Diocese’s newly hired auditors worry about what Father LeClair might possibly or not possibly have done, and leave the armchair speculation to actual armchairs.
anonymous 2:35 PM on April 18, 2011
ric: you may not know the archbishop as well as you think you do.
He recently quoted Herbert McCabe, “At the moment we are forgiven sinners; we are forgiven but we are people who have been sinners, we have been subject to the sin of the world, moreover we have at times opted for the sin of the world. Both things are true: we have contrition for our sins even as we celebrate our forgiveness.”
I know Father Joe. And I know that out of fraternal concern, His Grace has been much more charitably and compassionately disposed to Father Joe and his recently revealed problem then you seem to feel he would or should have been. But then, for the Archbishop, I guess agape is more than a word.
Agape – we either live it out or never know it at all.
anonymous 2:07 PM on April 18, 2011
read these replies…there is no questioning of anything the Citizen has printed…it is all assumed that he has taken church money to pay for his gambling. Do you know if he has personal money. Do you know anything concrete. This is not cultish…this is asking the question? Where did they get the Visa statements? How were they obtained? Is is not possible that he’s been set up? I am not saying he was , I am asking the question.
OttawaOntCitizen 1:49 PM on April 18, 2011
I was a parishioner for many years until I looked over the fence. This article, while it is very compassionate, is very naive. Yes, Father Joes deserves to be helped like a human being, but that does not release him from his responsibilities & abuses when in a position of authority. They have made him into a rock star. Many parishioners are so infatuated with him that their judgments have been impaired. They believe he is the greatest thing since the Messiah & can do no wrong. He is an amazing motivational speaker. He feeds that energy & hope to everyone who in turn contribute to his coffers, which in turn contribute to some of his widely publicized good deeds. It is a very obvious pattern for any objective individual. I sincerely wish him the best, more importantly freedom to all those who have been affected. Hopefully people will now come forward & the authorities will finally dig deeper into this external cult like environment, to bring justice & truth.
1:40 PM on April 18, 2011
Father Joe could not possibly have either earned nor won over $400,000.00 and there are questions raised by the auditors about the $250,000.00. He now needs to provide evidence of what he did in fact do with the $250,000.00 and how exactly he came by the over $400,000.00. As kind, charming and charismatic as he is, he is not above the law, moral or otherwise. He has sadly failed and must take the consequences. Lets keep in mind that Father Joe did not come clean, nor did it appear that he intended to, until forced to by the news article. Father Joe deserves our compassion. He does not deserve a standing ovation.
1:35 PM on April 18, 2011
No one is judging and convicting.
1:32 PM on April 18, 2011
Is anybody else concerned that this article was based on copies of “obtained” “personal” visa statements. That it is “not known” how some things are paid for, etc. Nobody is saying that anybody, no matter how much good they do, is above the law. But do we know that something wrong has been done or are we assuming…based on the Citizen’s tabloid article …that this is the absolute truth and we should judge and convict?
1:28 PM on April 18, 2011
““Once the audit is completed, Diocesan Administration will act promptly and prudently to take whatever further steps are deemed necessary,” wrote Prendergast.
Why are some people not waiting for the audit to be completed? Let us FOLLOW the Archbishop!
It is interesting to note the Archbishop also stated: “As a priest and pastor, he is called to the public witness of a lifestyle consistent with Gospel values and Church teaching.”
He did NOT go on and on about all the good works.
The Archbishop is the priest’s spiritual father. He did NOT talk about the need for IMMEDIATE forgiveness. I KNOW the Archbishop LOVES (in an agape way) all his priests.
Let us follow the Archbishop and wait for the audit to be completed.
1:27 PM on April 18, 2011
So we have to keep his dirty laundry a secret do we?
If Father Joe is innocent the parish and he will not suffer.
1:14 PM on April 18, 2011
Having grown up with Father Joe as our priest in Manotick, and experiencing his relevance to the community and the schools I atteneded – I want to offer my prayers to him in this hard time.
The airing of his dirty laundry in the public realm, in the newspaper is absolutely appalling and I think sometimes we forget the presumption of innocence we are afforded in our charter of rights and freedom. Not to mention our Christian forgiveness. Regardless of the outcome of the archdiocese audit, I am afraid that Father Joe and his parish will suffer great hardship.
1:13 PM on April 18, 2011
Ah that’s right, let’s enable all the liars, thieves, crooks, drug addicts, alcoholics, gamblers, rapists, abusers. Poor things,,it’s not their fault,,oh no, it’s NEVER their fault.
1:10 PM on April 18, 2011
Just because he’s a priest it should be “kept quiet”?!?!? I don’t think so. He’s a disgrace. And we wonder why all our politicians are thieves and crooks. Seems everyone is nowadays. To steal is divine it seems. Take everyone for everything you can. The new number one commandment.
1:06 PM on April 18, 2011
Oh give me a break. The man steals from you and you bend over and say thanks. I know all about alcoholics and am sick to death of dysfunctional men taking advantage of good people, and when the dysfunctional person is a priest and steals, nope, no pity from me. I do what I’m supposed to do. What is wrong with these people. They have no moral fabric and all the prayers in the world won’t give him some. But go ahead and give him your money to throw away. A fool and their money,,,,soon parted.
12:57 PM on April 18, 2011
And “cult like” are refuge words of the same nature as the original article was, which I note itself did not dare tie up the “possible thefts” angle (probably out of feat of libel, as there continues to remain no actual evidence of anything of that nature.)
12:21 PM on April 18, 2011
There appears to be a little light cult-like behaviour going on from followers.
1) Attacking others as not knowing the man or not being Catholic
2) His good works supercede negative things (including the possible thefts of up to $200K)
3) Forgiveness before one even knows what the whole list of sins are (Archdiocese is still invesitigating!)
4) No desire for open-ness and transparency. Us vs them attitude. Even when “them” are fellow Catholics who have displayed good will but want the whole truth to come out.
12:19 PM on April 18, 2011
I think the Citizen has succeeded in creating a story that will arouse allot of controversy. There will always be a con and pro side. I feel that “front page scandal mode” is the most vile approach….but it does sell newspapers.
What had not been fairly presented (sat apr 16) in my eyes, is that there is a very human side to this story. Elise von Teichman – your article and sentiments were words right out of my mouth.
My thoughts and prayers are with and for Father Joe.
12:17 PM on April 18, 2011
Should you need to be a Catholic, a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament, or even know Father Joe to have an interest in this story?
I say no.
The Catholic Church is one of the most influential organizations in the world. Their actions reach far beyond parish walls and have an impact on millions of people around the world, including many outside the faith. I think we all have good reason to demand that the Church hold their priests responsible for their actions and that parish book keeping be something that be open to the public.
That being said, I also think Father Joe is absolutely deserving of the respect he has earned in his community and his illness should not detract from that.
But his good deeds should not become a free pass for wrong doing. The Catholic church has already suffered enough credibility as a moral authority for trying to protect their priests from having to publicly answer for their actions.
12:13 PM on April 18, 2011
“Fr. Joe acts first, thinks later.”
Umm, perhaps that was the problem with the 200K of cheques he wrote.
Let us all wait for further guidance from the Archbishop and how the investigation proceeds.
12:05 PM on April 18, 2011
How dare you say I do not know the man or I am not from the parish. I know him very well and have respect for his work but his gambling problem is very worrisome.
11:22 AM on April 18, 2011
I read here a lot of pontifications by people who claim to be Catholic, or from the parish, etc. but clearly don’t know the man, and quite probably have never even met him.
Father Joe is not the sort of priest who occupies the role of sage. He’s a doer. When someone needs something, he rushes to their side: whether it is a family losing a member to cancer, or a child to a genetic disease, or a family that can’t afford to get their kids’ dental work done… Fr. Joe acts first, thinks later.
Right now, his big project has been helping an Iraqi Chaldean Catholic family, displaced by war, get adjusted to their new life in Canada.
Is he compromised in this? I honestly don’t know. All I do know is that he is up to this – the challenge of helping people every day with needs great and small. Few of us are up to it… and many of his detractors in this comments thread are quite likely not among those who are.
10:58 AM on April 18, 2011
6) For the Church to successful, it needs to be transparent and justice must be done and be seen to be done. This is nothing like the heinous sex crimes, but the lessons learned from that can be applied. Justice, transparency, etc
7) In 10 years, this may be viewed as the best thing that happened to this priest. He will have to go through his own personal Gethsemane and Good Friday, but he will come through it with Jesus. He may end up in hospital or prison ministry or 3rd world or in a small poor rural Ottawa parish, but he will be a better priest because of all this.
8) PS: I am a practising Catholic. Attend Church a minimum of once/week
9) Let us all pray for justice, forgiveness, mercy.
10:53 AM on April 18, 2011
1) The allegations are most serious. $200K in cheques written to oneself. This deserves the deepest of investigations. CRA and the police will also likely get involved too.
2) Forgiveness and justice are not opposites. The complement one another. God is perfect forgivenesss and perfect justice. How can one forgive in advance of knowing what has been committed?
3) The Archbishop’s statement on Saturday did not offer forgiveness. It talked about further investigation (which sounds like things like the $200K is very unclear still). It also talked about priests living a life like the Gospel which implied some things too.
4) The stories of winning lottery sounds fantastical and is most worrying.
5) I am generally not a fan of the secular media, but the Citizen has invested a lot of time on this. If Fr Joe opened his books and cleared up the allegations about the $200K, this perhaps would not have to be splashed on the front page.
10:50 AM on April 18, 2011
I am a member of that parish and I am very pleased that The Citizen has looked into this issue. I want to know the whole truth. The Bishop is wise to hire the best firm to investigate.
Sure Father Joe is a wonderful priest but we have the right to know what is going on. Meshell80 has it right.
9:13 AM on April 18, 2011
The newspaper is no place to work any of this out. Compassion and dignity should be kept in mind when dealing with these kinds of problems. They way this was splashed all over the papers makes the Citizen look like a scummy tabloid.
8:58 AM on April 18, 2011
If your father was a doctor and he was an alcoholic, I hope that along with forgiveness and love there would be a sense of responsibility to protect his patients from harm.
Likewise the Father’s parishioners deserve protection. They turn to their Father as a moral authority, someone who can provide guidance in making decisions about right and wrong. The advice he gives can have a major impact on a person’s life.
Clearly, Father Joe is experiencing some issues with addiction that call into question his own ability to control his behaviour and could impair his moral judgment. Until he has received treatment and fully regains his self control, he should not be in charge of dispensing moral advice to others.
People have a right to know if the Father’s moral judgement has been compromised by addiction.Father Joe is not just a regular father, he stands up and proclaims to be a moral authority capable of interpreting God’s word. He needs to live up to a higher moral standard.
8:44 AM on April 18, 2011
The roman catholic church needs many reforms to bring it to date where I would start going to church again. It is archaic and BORING. Father Joe’s mass is the only mass I’d ever attend and be slightly interested. I say let the priests get married, pay them more, so they don’t have these little secrets that cause embarrassement. Regardless as a christian I forgive him, and hope all goes well for him.
8:19 AM on April 18, 2011
hi my name is joann gaudet from father joey’s hometown tignish.i don.t think this was any body’s buisness accept father joey.he didn’t hurt any body but himself.this should have been worked out in a better way.for years the dioceses have hid alot of worse things other priests did .it was hid for years that they hurt so many people especially abuse to children.father joey hurt himself and nobody else .father joey you are a very good person.you are human like the rest of us .we all have our faults and we hope god forgives us .there are alwys a few people who are jealous and can’t wait to hurt another person.father joey take care and god be with you you are a strong person and lots of family and friends are here for you joann gaudet