Father Joe’s Visa bills were stolen, says lawyer

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 18 April 2011

Father Joe LeClair appears in this file photo. LeClair admitted to a gambling problem after his addiction was exposed in an Ottawa Citizen investigation, Saturday, April 16, 2011.

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Parishoners at Blessed Sacrament Catholic  Church in the Glebe gave Father Joe LeClair a standing ovation after he discussed his gambling problem and said he never took money from the church, Saturday, April 16, 2011.
Parishoners at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in the Glebe gave Father Joe LeClair a standing ovation after he discussed his gambling problem and said he never took money from the church, Saturday, April 16, 2011.
Updated: Mon Apr. 18 2011 6:18:53 PM


The lawyer for a popular Ottawa priest who has admitted to a gambling problem says the Visa statements that show Father Joe LeClair’s addiction were stolen from his office.

“The theft was clearly perpetrated to attempt to disgrace Father Joe,” lawyer Ian Stauffer told CTV Ottawa in an e-mail on Monday.

LeClair admitted his gambling problem to his congregation at Blessed Sacrament Parish in the Glebe Saturday after an investigation by the Ottawa Citizen revealed the priest spent nearly half a million dollars gambling at Casino du Lac Leamy in 2009 and 2010.

The report also raised questions about $250,000 in cheques that were made out to LeClair from Church accounts. Archbishop Terrence Prendergast says an audit of the Church’s books is now underway.

However, LeClair’s lawyer says the newspaper report is a breach of privacy.

“We have not been afforded the opportunity to view the paperwork which the Citizen has published,” said Stauffer.

“Further, we have no information whatsoever as to how the Citizen obtained the number ‘$250,000’ appearing on the front page of the April 16th edition.”

LeClair’s lawyer told CTV Ottawa he is “very concerned that the paper has left the impression that Father Joe is misappropriating Church funds.”

Although LeClair admitted to having a gambling problem, he told his congregation that he never stole money from the Church.

“Some months ago, I had to face up to the fact that my gambling was . . . a significant problem in my life,” LeClair said.

He told parishioners the money used to fund his addiction came from his own winnings and personal funds. His congregation gave him a standing ovation Saturday, followed by a moment of prayer.

LeClair is well-loved in Ottawa’s Catholic community, and is credited with building his parish into one of the strongest Catholic churches in the city.

“Father Joe is an honourable guy, probably the best person I know. I definitely think they are all false accusations,” one parishioner told CTV Ottawa.

However, gambling is a serious addiction in Canada. In Ontario alone, experts say 322,000 people experience problems related to gambling — and the addiction can affect anyone.

“People get into trouble because the more they play, they keep hoping to get that big win and hoping that the win is going to solve the problem,” said Dallas Smith, a gambling addictions counsellor.

The Responsible Gambling Council says those who have gambling problems often max out their credit cards, borrow money to gamble and place bets with money they can’t afford to lose. The council says problem gambling is not unique – it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race or social status.

With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Catherine Lathem

Comments are now closed for this story

Just because one is in possession of personal information does not mean you have to destroy a person’s reputation by publicizing it without first having all of the facts. How is it possible to obtain confidential VISA statements and ATM information, the bank or casino could not provide this information without serious repercussions. I believe whether the individual is a priest or an ordinary citizen they should not be subject to defammation of their character without proof. It is everyone’s right to go to a casino since gambling was made legal by the government.

B. R. Wright
QUOTE: “gambling is a serious addiction in Canada” ….. IS IT ANY WONDER!!?
Immediately following this, CTV has a poll asking if we buy ‘lottery tickets’ …. we have become dependent on lottaries and gambling casinos to fund our governments’ thirst (greed) for MORE. When CANADA becomes ‘THE’ pimp for all kinds of degrading addictions and behaviours, then yes, we will have problems such as this man has! Addictions, especially to gambling, are rampant in this country! The ‘Government approved’ lottaries and casinos here in Canda are directly to blame for such behaviour! When will they realize and acknowledge that they are taking us to Hell in a handbasket? Canada’s government is so drunk on the proceeds from such gains, they are blind to the problem! IT’S TIME TO SOBER UP!!

We have encountered Father Joe on a few occasions. We found him to be too arrogant. A lot of people may be on his side but there comes a time to say enough is enough. He is a man of the clothe, he should never have gambled. God would not appreciate what he did. Only God can judge him, not a lawyer or anyone. We as catholic people are to forgive. Father Joe, “May God forgive you for the wrong things you have done”. Father Joe LeClair should pray every day and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness.

Claude A. Brule
It seems that at every opportunity, the media loves to dig it’s claws in the stories involving the Catholic church. I very seldom see comparatave news items relating to other denominations and beleive me there are; but I guess it sells papers and/or excites the viewing audience…and they call this responsible journalism; seems a little slanted to me. The Ottawa citizen had this on the front page in full color, upstaging the daily federal election coverage; I wonder how many stories got killed in order to vilify father Joe?.

This is very tragic, and very sad. I hope people will have compassion for him. I know he is having a very difficult time right now; and the problem with addictions can happen to any of us.

How fortunate most of us are to know that we’ll never have to face those demons on the front page of a newspaper.

former from st leonards
my faith and prayers are with you father Joe

Celeste Larocque
Father Joe is one of the most amazing men in the world that I know personally, I would not be where I am today if it were not for him. He has helped me through more then anyone could ever think of in their life. I know he would NEVER in his life time ever think of harming the church or anyone. For those who think he would are very wrong and need to see that he has a heart of gold.

Gerald Bullock: I support Father Joe
I am a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament. I support Father Joe just as he has supported my family through good times and bad. I’m neither naive, or follow other blindly, and yet I am not at all concerned about the money I give to the church being misappropriated. And so you know, I am not so taken in by anyone to be taken in by what either side says.

I see the results of the good work Father Joe does on our behalf. His good work in the community speaks for itself. Good work often requires money to perform. I do not need receipts for that money. Instead I see the good work, the families we sponsor, the needy who receive our help, the underpriviliged we give a hand up. Of course we applaud Father Joe. He is the instrument of our good intententions.

You don’t throw a good man aside just because he has flaws like all of us have. You help him get better. I dare you to let me look at the private files of anyone, and I’ll find something bad about them. Reporters, and others are not exempt from this.

The Ottawa Citizen story implies or alludes to several things for which they do not have proof. They suggest misappropriation of funds of the church. There is no proof of this. Also, clearly they received documents that were stolen from Father Joe and the Church. So with the same brush which they use to paint Father Joe badly with, they also support the theft of his documents, and possibly other church information. I have written to the Letters to the Editor of the Ottawa Citizen, but they do not print what I write. Obviously they are pushing this story in one direction, and will not publish anything that might show differently. Shame on them. With their actions, they support that which only benefits them. Shame.

I have observed of late that our media goes from one good person to another, looking to bring down our heros. I don’t know why this is so. We seem to want to tear down all our heros. It stops here! The media are not so clean either. In fact, often in the process of destroying the elements that make some of those among us heros, the media becomes among the worst of those they chase down. Perhaps it’s time they looked inward. Some of them are as bad as those they are chasing, in some cases even much worse.

Your own web page asks the question: “Do negative stories shake your faith in the Catholic Church?”. How many of those who vote yes are Catholic? It means nothing if a non-Catholic has his or her faith in the Catholic Church shaken. How many Catholics have their faith shaken? Perhaps none??

Our church is healthy, even thriving, when others are failing. Priests like Father Joe are the reason. In the 2001 census, more than 77% of Canadians say they are religiously affiliated, and of those, 43.2% are Catholic. Catholics make up 1/3 of all Canadians.

Our church teachs conscience, and good moral values. It also teaches us forgiveness, and tolerance. Without the teachings of my religion, I wouldn’t be nearly so tolerant. Without my religion, I wouldn’t have an ounce of forgiveness. The people who stole Father Joe’s papers need to think on that. Yup, no tolerance, no forgiveness, and it’s a straight ride to a jail cell for them too.

I forgive Father Joe if he has done any wrong, just as I forgive the people who still drive with a cell phone to their ear, or drive drunk and kill people, or those who need a little understanding to avoid jail, or those who steal documents that are not theirs, or those who plot to bring down a man who does so much good, while feeling good that they saved us, while skirting the law to support their stories.

I know Father Joe is human. He has failings like you and I do. It is exactly because of his failings that make me listen to him. If you should read my writings here, and feel you are a better person, let me have a couple of hours with your private papers, and your life, and then we’ll talk.

Our city needs more people like Father Joe. I support Father Joe. I know the man he is. I know he has a lot of good deeds still in him. This situation makes him more human, more the kind of man I want to have around me, teaching me how to be a better person. Father Joe has inspired me to do this by his teachings, and his presence.

Here is the web site I used to collect the data I spoke about in my writings – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Canada

Rob Lucas
First off whom ever it was that stole the visa statementa shame on you. As for Father Joe Leclair. Father I hope you get a chance to read this. Please see this as a sign from God to get help with this problem. You are in my prayers. Please Father get help with this problem. My God bless you and help you with this problem.

Michael Wright
Whether or not the Visa statements were stolen is not germane to this priest’s problems.He should explain how he repaid the money given the small stipend he gets from the church. Another typical “sweep it under the rug” response from the church.

Gerald Bullock:

Bravo my dear friend…so very well said! Fr. Joe is an amazing person and a gift sent from God to us all.

Carol Thibault… Fr. Joe is not arrogant, he is a beautiful, kind hearted and loving man who has touched us all in everything he does. I do believe you should be praying for forgiveness…”and I ask blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers & sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God”.

Father Joe, we love you!

Gambling is terrible addiction and the government is to blame for this. They encourage while opening more casinos, introducing new lottery tickets, promoting these casinos and then they run commercials saying if you are addicted we will help you. The revenues are high with these lotteries and casions and the governement should do more to linit and not promote this as much.

As for a priest gambling it’s totally not acceptable. Some priests preach the good old stuff and then do awful things like gambling and or abusing young boys, mismanagement of funds etc.

How can someone gamble over 500 K when the yearly earnings are about 22K. Well do the math, know the odds – most people loose more than they win. It’s how the game goes.

Father Joe should get help. If the audit proves he has taken parishoner’s money he should be forced to repay. Nothing excuses this behaviour. How come he could write checks to himself? This kind of practice should never be accepted. Someone was not looking over this too closely. Is this how the Catholic church run their business? What a shame. Most people are saying oh well it’s ok we forgive. Well the public should open their eyes and ask more questions about where their money goes. Why give to such people when you can give to an honest hard wotking organization that will really help and make a difference. this is a waste of a donation where needed.

Marc Corbeil
Father Joe is a great man, great friend and a fantastic priest. I would not be here it it were not for him. I, like many would not be practising our faith it it were not for him.

The media should have got all the facts before doing this story rather than taking bits and pieces, writing a half truth story and publicly humiliating this very special man.

Fine, he is being audited, leave it at that. Have the media and the police go after the real criminal here and that is the “anonymous” COWARD that broke the law. The person that broke into his office, stole personal belonging and does not have the nerve to identify himself. This person should be charged and convicted to the full extent of the law.

The ridiculous things mentioned in the Citizen on Saturday were so misleading. The tub in his bedroom that helps him with meditation was a used tub and donated, I know because I installed it.(at no charge)

His irish TV room has little nick-nacks, collected or gifted to father Joe over the years. This stuff reads in the paper as a big thing and if the truth be known is nothing more than any of us would have in our own home.

Anything to sell papers.

Let the man go through his audit, speak with his parishioners. Go after the criminal that broke in and stole from this man. Find something more important to write about (and get your story straight before printing it).


Well, I for one appreciate that the Ottawa Citizen has run this story..It might actually help this man and other gambling addicts.. The Citizen isn’t the one in the wrong… ‘They’ are the ones doing their job

We’re all humans. We have weaknesses and it doesn’t matter who one is or what identifiable uniform they wear. One has to recognize the fact that he/she has fallen…ask for forgiveness, help and a second chance.

Isn’t that what happened with one famous heart surgeon at one time when he was caught in the market.

He also helped a lot of people.

Clearly there needs to be more of an investigation. I think the person who leaked whatever documents were used deserves the title “whistle blower” and not “thief”.

Yes people make mistakes but a priest has a unique position of trust and authority, literally preaching to others on how to behave, and these people “faithfully” (blindly?)follow their words. Then this person routinely engages in the very acts that he preachers others should not, then lies about it, over and over. Yes we should wait for all the evidence before making a final judgement but how in the hell does someone who makes 25K/y payback hundreds of thousands of dollars?!?! When this much circumstantial evidence is available, the conclusion is quite obvious.

Just because someone has done some good things does not mean they have the right to bad things.

p.s. Wikipedia is NOT a source of information, it is a webpage editable by anyone, anytime.

People are so quick to judge it is terrible. I notice when it comes to the Catholic church the media does not stop. I wonder why? It must be because they are afraid to look the other way.

Unfortunately, the Catholic church has a history of sweeping the wrong doings of priests under the rug in the hopes that it will go away and not reflect badly on the church as a whole. And though I may not agree with it (perhaps especially in this case), sometimes the only way to get the church to look into matters of this nature is by putting it on the front pages. My faith in the catholic church as a whole (and I am Roman Catholic) has been shaken. I think until the church as a whole learns to let go of some of the archeic ‘rules’ that govern some of its members (and parisheners), we will continue to see stories of abuse and other wrong doings by member of the clergy. It is difficult to expect clerygymen and woman to be the heroes we want them to be when we expect them to be governed by ‘rules’ that are in many cases impossible to uphold.

Steven from Ottawa
I have to laugh at those who easily judge this man. While he is a priest in the RC Church, he is still a man and has faults. I do not go to this Parish, but I would feel ashamed for those who are on a smear campaign against Fr. Joe, because I can recognize one thing through this biased journalism, the whole story is not told. IF, and I said IF, the money is his, the only thing is that he has a gambling problem and really the rest is none of our business. Sure if he took the money, then answers are needed. However, knowing there is an ongoing audit, if money was missing that would have been the story, but it isn’t REALLY. I actually feel sad at the current level of true journalism, there isn’t any. Sad how someone STOLE personal papers from his desk, they would be needed if the audit is to continue, but that’s what happens in a smear campaign, grab the stuff that only supports your case!

Linda In The Valley
@GB re: CTV poll.I don’t think being Catholic has anything to do with having an opinion about this story or anything else on the planet! There is a generation of being Catholic by “Default” being kids of mix marriages. I for one voted “yes”. We all have to take ownership for your actions.

Since when it is the business of the Ottawa Citizen to go into the personal financial matters of someone? Shame on the Ottawa Citizen for publishing someone’s financial dealings! Outrageous! Rather than pointing fingers at Father Joe, take a look at what is happening to our privacy and common decency. We do NOT treat people this way!

this is the new trend nowadays..blame the addiction and not the person…

Darcy Stober
Father Joe is one of the most supportive and giving people I have ever known and he has certainly helped my through many difficult personal trials during the past three year. Without his guidance and help, I would probably be in a very different and darker place in my life.

The Ottawa Citizen has an awful lot of questions to answer for in regards to the stolen information used in their story. I am offended for Father Joe….that information was personal….it’s exactly the same thing as if someone came into my home, took my VIsa statement, and published it for all to see. What an incredible violation. Whoever took the documents will, I hope, be prosecuted and as for the reporters who used the information (and held onto what they obviously knew was stolen information)…to me they acted in a completely unethical way. They had blinders on…ruthlessly focused on the “story” whether is was balanced and true or not….that is tabloid journalism based on rumour and inuendo, not investigative reporting.

We are all human…we have faults….we all struggle…each and every one of us has committed actions that we regret. Father Joe is no exception….he is human….he is like you and I…same struggles….same trials…..same temptations. Just because he is a Priest…he isn’t exempt from being a human being.

I wish Father Joe and his family peace, healing, and love during this difficult time for him. Based on what I have seen and felt the past few days, the Spirit of Blessed Sacrament is alive, well, and thriving!

Darla Demaries
First, I would like to say that I have known Father Joe since just before he was ordained and he was with St. Maurice’s Parish. Father Joe is a kind decent person who I and my family love very much! He is really a great person and we are so blessed to have him in the Catholic Church!

Second, I would like to say that Father Joe is human the same as you and I, and, not one of us is perfect. We all have our demons to fight. ALL OF US!!!!

SHAME, SHAME on the person who took Father Joe’s personal information. You must have such anger in you to do such a thing! And, I know in my heart that it will come back to haunt you because what goes around comes around. Why don’t you be a REAL PERSON and own up to what you did!

Also, to the Ottawa Citizen reporters, SHAME SHAME ON YOU!!
To have the nerve to contact Father Joe’s parents and have them so upset in their senior years, SHAME, SHAME ON YOU, YOU PEOPLE ARE REALLY DISCUSSTING, YOU WILL STOP AT NOTHING JUST TO GET A JUICY STORY, HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELVES???

Father Joe, we love you and are praying that you will find peace. I know that you are a smart man and that you will find the help you need. We are here for you always!

Love, Darla Demaries & Family

Gerald Bullock – Back at LTB & other initials
I find it interesting that most of those who criticize Father Joe, do not publish their name when making their comments. You see, that’s why I gave my name, because I am not ashamed to support Father Joe, nor am I hiding behind a lie. It’s so easy to spout lies, half truths, and innuendo, while hiding behind a group of letters (like LTB) isn’t it? That is the work of cowards, and liars.

To answer LTB, my statistics come from Wiki, however I did check with Stats Canada, and those are their numbers, that’s why Wiki says it comes from a census, and why I said it comes from the 2001 census. I guess like the the Ottawa Citizen, you read what you choose to, and avoid facts when it’s convenient. That was a rhetorical statement.

By the way, one man’s Whistle Blower is another man’s thief. If your personal life is so clean you can afford to make accusations blindly, you are one rare individual. So, using your own logic, like most people you have something to hide from.

In terms of investigating further, that is between those of us who can prove we support the church with our money, and the Archbishop. Thankfully there is a clear division between Church, and State. Our Church is investigating, and they will report to us, not the public who are not the victims.

Interesting to read that you have already evaluated this evidence that has yet to be collected, and reached an ‘obvious conclusion’. With people like you around, one wonders why we even have courts, or the presumption of innocence. I mean if the police charge someone, then they must be guilty, why bother with a trial. Hummmm…starting to sound like Iran, Libya, and Somalia. Trials are just a waste of time, and money eh?

You talk about faith. Faith is the belief in something without proof. You say that is following blindly. By your own words and actions, it appears that you basically believe in nothing, until it occurs, and you see it with your own eyes. Funny how you believe the Citizen story then, and yet even that requires faith. So I guess you believe in faith for bad things, but not for good things.

I’ll close by restating that Father Joe is a good person, and I support him.

LTB – Just like you and others “blindly” follow the words of the Citizen. The documents were illegally obtained, so yes, that person is a thief.
I am a parishioner, know Father Joe personally. While I do not condone what he has done, and have my own questions, he, just like anyone is innocent until proven guilty. Regardless of his position, he is human like the rest of us. And give me a break… how many politicians, police officers, teachers, mothers and fathers, or You… do not practice what they preach?! We should all know the difference between right and wrong, but sometimes, we choose the wrong path regardless of our “position” in life. You have absolutely no idea how hard and lonely life can be for him and how that can lead to being more susceptible to life’s temptations.
While it may be “obvious” to you how he obtained the money, you could be totally wrong and I will be responsible and not blindly jump to conclusions, help destroy a good mans reputation, and wait until I hear ALL the evidence.

Gerald Bullock: Government Addicted too??
@B.R. Wright: In effect, our own government, and since they are us, all of us are addicts to these gambling places too.

Interesting thought. I think the same thing applies to cigarettes. If we really believed that smoking is wrong, why do we continue to collect high taxes from this behaviour? Why not ban it? Same thing with lotteries, and other forms of gambling.

I stand behind Father Joe Leclair 100%. I dont believe for a second that he stole from his church. I’m proud that he faced his congregation and admitted his problem with gambling. I pray that he is able to overcome this. The people that are judging Father Joe, dont know him. They have never had the pleasure of sitting through the 11 o’clock Sunday Mass, or the Rock the Glebe Mass or any of the others that he heads. He is an “amazing” man and that is an understatement. Please stop judging him, we need him in this city, we need him in our lives. It is frusterating that people that I have spoken to that have “never” met him, and have “never” sat through one of his masses, seem to think that they have the right to pass judgement. Please stop, its just ignorant.

A priest with a secret? That’s weird, eh?

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