“Fr. Joe LeClair gets one year behind bars” & related articles

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Father Joe LeClair leaves the Ottawa courthouse.

CTV Ottawa

Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014 9:36AM EDT

Last Updated Wednesday, March 19, 2014 9:43AM EDT

Kate Eggins, CTV Ottawa

Father Joe LeClair leaves the Ottawa courthouse.

Father Joe LeClair leaves the Ottawa courthouse.

The popular Ottawa priest who pleaded guilty to fraud and theft charges has been sentenced to 12 months in jail.

Father Joe LeClair’s actions first came into question more than a year ago for allegedly defrauding parishioners of more than $130, 000.

Many parishioners have supported LeClair while investigations into the financial crime were taking place.

More than three dozen were said to be in court for the sentencing today.

LeClair also faces one year probation once the time behind bars has been served.

The Archdiocese of Ottawa issued a statement saying it will not comment on LeClair’s sentencing taking place this morning.

RECAP: Father Joe LeClair has been sentenced to one year in jail and one year probation for defrauding parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church in Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood

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Father Joe LeClair sentenced to a year in jail

Former Blessed Sacrament priest also gets probation for stealing $130K from church

CBC News

Posted: Mar 19, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 19, 2014 9:55 AM ET

Father Joe LeClair was sentenced to a year in jail and a year's probation for fraud on Wednesday morning.

Father Joe LeClair was sentenced to a year in jail and a year’s probation for fraud on Wednesday morning.

A popular Ottawa priest who stole $130,000 from his church will spend one year in jail for his crimes.

Father Joe LeClair, a diagnosed pathological gambler, pleaded guilty to defrauding Ottawa’s Blessed Sacrament Church of the money over the course of five years.

He was sentenced to one year in jail and one year probation in an Ottawa courtroom on Wednesday morning, with Ontario Court Justice Jack Nadelle saying that breach of trust and the amount of money played into his decision.

Leclair and dozens of supporters got together in a courtroom for a private meeting after the sentencing was handed down, according to the CBC’s Steve Fischer.

Crown prosecutor Peter Napier had argued at LeClair’s sentencing hearing in January that the priest should spend 18 months in jail for his breach of trust.

But defence lawyer Matthew Webber argued LeClair was addicted to work, which fuelled heavy drinking that enabled his gambling. LeClair should serve his sentence in the community rather than jail, Webber argued.

Attendance down

LeClair was the kind of leader who drew people in, but his criminal confession has pulled parishioners apart, said Thea Boyd. She used to travel from Blossom Park in south Ottawa to the Glebe for church — specifically for LeClair.

“He just drew you in, and right away your faith was restored. He just had that charisma about him,” she said.

“We still feel that. We could still repeat some of his homilies that he did. He would make you cry and then he would make you laugh.”

Now that he’s gone, Boyd said that she and other parishioners have been looking for another place to worship.

“We’ve called it church surfing. Looking for another church, looking for another priest that was as good as Father Joe,” she said.

Father Galen Bank, who came to Blessed Sacrament a year and a half ago said “there’s no question” that attendance has fallen at the church since a fraud investigation was launched in 2011. But Bank said the church’s finances and number of parishioners has been stable since he arrived.

The Archdiocese of Ottawa has promised to work with LeClair in his recovery. In a statement issued after his guilty plea, Archbishop of Ottawa Terrence Prendergast said that LeClair was “courageous” to admit his addiction.

“Aware of his many talents and his 25 years of effective pastoral ministry, we will work with Father LeClair in his desire to return to the exercise of his priestly ministry,” the statement said.

The Archdiocese said Wednesday it would have no comment on the sentencing, referring the media back to that January statement.

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Editorial: The quality of mercy

 March 19, 2014 10:22 AM

At the centre of the Lord’s Prayer is the concept of forgiveness. It is one of the most appealing and powerful tenets of Christianity: The effort to forgive those who have wronged us, no matter the crime, raises us all up.

Never more is that example needed than today. We live in unforgiving times. In some places, people are executed by lethal injection or by a single bullet to the back of the head. People strap explosives to their bodies and exact revenge upon the innocent.

Punishment and retribution seem more the order of the day.

What’s the right path to take? If we shrug at crimes, society loses its ability to designate certain behaviours as unacceptable. But if all we do is punish, and mete out forgiveness only to those we deem deserving, the quality of our mercy is strained.

The case of Father Joe LeClair makes us contemplate this conundrum. Many letter-writers to the Citizen have written of their own struggles with the question of how to feel about this case, or of their conviction that he’s either deserving of forgiveness, or not.

The priest, who was supposed to be a faithful shepherd for his flock, took large sums of money from his church. He gave in to his own impulses and gambled some of that money away. These are not insignificant transgressions; they represent a breach of trust.

And yet, many of the very people he has wronged are calling out for leniency. They know what he has done to them, but they also know what he has done for them. LeClair has a unique ability to minister to his charges. He comforts them and he guides them. He is also able to bring new people into his flock and offer them the spiritual guidance they have been seeking. We know this through the testimony of the many people who have stood up for him, even though the evidence of his wrongdoing has been now made public.

This newspaper and this city are not called upon to act as Solomon. It is not our task to determine what LeClair’s fate should be, based on how we feel about him as a human being and as a member of his community. What determines his fate is the law of Canada. He is accountable for his actions, as anyone is. We must let the process work. We have a system of justice that is supposed to be blind when an individual stands before it.

He has admitted guilt to some serious crimes. Whatever the punishment, once LeClair has completed it, then will be the time for forgiveness for a flawed man. In the end, whether the community accepts any convicted criminal back into society and helps him rebuild his life has little to do with whether that individual deserves it. Mercy is not a virtue that depends on the worthiness of the recipient; to finish the Shakespearean lesson, it droppeth as a gentle rain from heaven, upon all who are there to receive it. All who break the law are accountable to the justice system, and all who pay their debts to society are welcome to rejoin it and try to be good citizens.

25 Responses to “Fr. Joe LeClair gets one year behind bars” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    I don’t know when the sentencing time and courtroom were changed. It had been scheduled for 10 am in courtroom #10. The sentencing proceeded this am at 9 am in courtroom #8.

    I had planned to attend but am still really under the weather and decided best to stay put and keep my germs to myself. My plan was to be at the courthouse no later than 09:30 so I suppose that had I gone I would have caught a bit of the sentencing, but by no means all. I am sure others missed it.

    Anyway, it is over, and Father LeCalir will spend some time behind bars for his crimes. I believe he will be at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre in Ottawa – the same detention centre in which Perry Dunlop served the bulk of his seven months in jail.

    • 1 abandoned sheep says:

      Sylvia, I would guess that by now it is hard to surprise you about the deference shown to Priests by the legal system, but, changing times and courtrooms, for the sentencing, and then providing another Courtroom for his supporters to gather with him AFTER sentencing. This certainly surprises me.
      I will expect the same treatment the nest time someone is sentenced for stealing a loaf of bread, or an item from Wal-Mart, or some similar petty crime.
      I wish the erstwhile supporters would now support Fr. Bank, in whom there is no duplicity!
      Did those supporters got to Blessed Sacrament because of the man LeClair, or did they go because of God, and it being a place to worship God?
      Are they Catholics, or just fans of a certain Priest? Time will tell.

      • 1 abandoned sheep says:

        Sorry about all the spelling mistakes- but, they are not my only mistakes in life.

      • Bob says:

        That has always bothered me a little; a lot of us stayed. But I think most of us are really upset by the “church shoppers” who up and left, and took a lot of the parish’s vitality with them.

        Are you going to church for Jesus/the sacraments or a man? Much as Fr. Joe’s personal gifts impressed me when I first met him, he’s just a man. And there’s not much point in going to church for any man. There is only one name under Heaven that can save you, the Mighty Counsellor, Prince of Peace.

        • 1 abandoned sheep says:

          Well said, Bob !
          And the whole of the Church would be a lot better off, if ALL Priests realized it is not a popularity contest where they are the only contestants !

        • Emily says:

          Bob,
          This is a very interesting comment. I attended Blessed Sacrament while Father Joe was there and tried to stay after he left. However I felt like I was always comparing the sermons given to ones I heard Fr. Joe say on the same readings. The truth is I missed him and all the things he said and how his words (and God) helped my parents survive a very difficult time in their lives. Then when we lost the young priest I was just uninspired by the new replacement. I would sit there the whole time feeling sad and I didn’t think that’s what God wanted me to be feeling in church. I am at another parish closer to where we moved to when we left the Glebe a year before Fr. Joe left Blessed Sacrament. Our current priest just announced that women can not be included in the washing of the feet… . Are you kidding me?? I do get a lot out of the mass just because it is communion with God, but a parish is a community and you have to feel welcome there and a part of the community and the priest is a huge part of that. I have always prayed for those who stayed at Blessed Sacrament. It was just too difficult for me, I’m sorry to you and others that stayed. The diocese owes you a lot.

          • Sandra says:

            Hi;

            I am a Catholic and did get to know Fr. Joe a little. I could never understand the worship that was given to him and I found when I went to at Blessed Sacrament the mass and weddings were shows more than holy events. That is okay as we are all different. Then, he stole from the Parish and drank to excess and lied to your face but still you miss him. I wonder if it is not more who you thought he was?

            I notice also the comment from time to time that the Archdiocese owes the parishioners a lot. Joe Leclair committed the crimes and not the archdiocese…….this I find very confusing. He is a Roman Catholic Priest who was known as a big spender with a large inheritance. The only thing he inherited was Blessed Sacrament.

          • Emily says:

            Sandra,
            I never worshiped Fr. Joe. Yikes. People saying he is a good man and that they support him is not worship. I love my family and support them and speak about the great people they are, but that doesn’t mean I worship them. Father Joe never seemed like a Saint to me. He was arrogant for sure. But that visible weakness was why I felt comfortable at Blessed Sacrament. I never felt like he was preaching at me, but more discussing human failings that he himself had to deal with.
            Yes Fr. Joe did all those awful things. I was there when he lied to my face. But I know enough about addiction to know, lies and deceit are very common with addicts. A dear person to me suffered with addiction and there were times I though his soul was gone never to be returned. Addicts make terrible choices. Lots of them never have to face the full legal measures of their bad decisions, but Fr. Joe will have to. Its not unjust, but it is sad to those who feel addicts are sick people not bad people. People are upset with the archdiocese because they did so little to help. They should have known. The accounting practices should have been in place. I say the diocese owes people like Bob a lot because they stayed through all the upheaval. It wasn’t an easy place to be.

  2. T.I. says:

    You are both so right!! what will it take for the legal system to treat priests as they do the rest of us?
    Fr. Joe deserves to go to jail, but I doubt he’ll serve his full sentence. As for his “supporters”, it would be healthier for him if they’d stayed home. As it is, he still has not admitted stealing the whole $400,000, but only 130,000, and that after telling the congregation he was innocent, and they should cancel their subscription to the Citizen!!
    Fr. Joe is only sorry he was caught!!! never mind the damage done to the parish.

  3. Oakie Dokie says:

    Wondering how Ms. Hurley received her information when this story broke in
    The Ottawa Citizen. Is she related to T. Hurley who sits on the Board of Directors,
    for the Ottawa Catholic School Board….????

    Confidentiality is most important, was this a breach?

    No offence Ms. Hurley but could you explain how you received this info to
    commence your story…in the very beginning of this case?

    Thanks so much, it may put some people at rest. Yes we go to church for the sake of
    our faith…. and not the man/or woman, but the system has spent a lot of time and money on this case., justice was served today. But FR.JOE LeClair will no doubt
    have a following no matter what has happened. The Lord is the Judge, we trust that
    all will continue to LOVE each other, for his/her past. That is forgiveness ,
    What kind of sentence would a lay person get for the same offence?

    • 1 abandoned sheep says:

      O D, are you discreetly telling us you wish no one had ever brought the theft to light, and the Parishioners kept being hoodwinked?

  4. Oakie Dokie says:

    No, No we are entitled to know how this story evolved, just wondering where Ms. Hurley got her information. That has not been established. A lesson has been taught…….justice was served……now explain Ms. Hurley please, this will be the end of
    this secret…..who gave you the info????

  5. 1yellowknife says:

    OAKIE DOKIE: you must be one of the hysterical Father Joe Leclair groupies we keep hearing about. You certainly appear besotted with him. Go bake him some cookies to take his jail cell. Stop responding to every posting that has his name. You give the impression you are trying to shut people up. It will not work.

  6. Ron Brown says:

    Did Blessed Sacrament church not have theft insurance?
    Did they not make a claim against their theft insurance in the amount of about $400,000?
    Did the insurance company not pay the claim in the amount of about $350,000 plus?
    Given the insurance company paid the theft claim made by the church, there must have been a theft proven.

    Would there not then have been a thief?

    Would a $400,000 theft not bring a potential minimum jail term much longer than one year?

    Should the priest not count his blessings?

    Would the average ” Joe ” be treated so leniently?

    Should the current priest at Blessed Sacrament not be given support or as church goers are we simply looking for a rock star image in our church leaders?

    • Sylvia says:

      Yes, Ron, Blessed Sacrament received $379.000

      Father Joe pleaded guilty to theft of #130,000. I was wondering how that works legally? Does the parish have to return the extra $240,000? Would the insurance company demand a refund?

      • Ron Brown says:

        It is possible but doubtful that the insurance company would try to recover the difference between the $379,000 theft claim (apparently proven) they paid the church and the $130,000 plea bargain amount negotiated in favour of the priest ostensibly to reduce his jail sentence.

        I feel those consistently honest and faithful parishioners of Blessed Sacrament have suffered more than enough.

  7. T.I. says:

    I think the sentence was just, if he serves it fully. But the man is so arrogant, he’ll think he’s in jail to minister to others, and not as a result of his being a thief, and a barefaced liar. And as someone pointed up before, he’ll end up having his own cult in jail just as he did in the parish.

    As for the sexual allegations, my heart goes to Mr. McGrath. You are courageous!! Obviously the “victims first” policy so publicized by Pope Francis has not reached Ottawa. What a disgrace!

  8. Oakie Dokie says:

    Yellowknife…….I am entitled to my comments….

    Do like the birds and fly away……..

  9. Oakie Dokie says:

    A TEENAGER………………………thanks very much…..haha

    THE JOKE IS ON YOU.,
    I have forgotten what you still have to learn.

  10. Larry Green says:

    The truth is always marked by it’s effect on those of whom it disturbs the most. i.e. it always evokes rejection and impassioned hostile reaction. The truth is very powerful indeed.
    The collective reaction here should be a sign for you.

  11. B says:

    Ummmm … clear as mud.

    The truth ALWAYS evokes rejection and impassioned hostility? Sometimes, but often lies/injustices have exactly the same–or greater–effect.

    Are you perhaps trying to suggest that if a lot of people are angry, that proves that the thing they’re angry about must be true?!?!?

    • 1 abandoned sheep says:

      B. do not be concerned about that -ridiculous response. It is as hollow as the sincerity of the author !

  12. Sylvia says:

    End of discussion here on Larry Green’s comments,

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