“Ottawa priest who stole more than $130,000 from church welcomed back after release from jail” & related article

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National Post

Meghan Hurley, Postmedia News | November 18, 2014 11:48 PM ET

LeClair National Post 20 Nov 14 Wayne Cuddington Postmedia news pic
Father Joe LeClair, here inside Blessed Sacrament Church in Ottawa in 2009, has been missed and is being welcomed back by his former parishioners.
Wayne Cuddington/Postmedia

 

 

OTTAWA — A beloved Ottawa priest who stole more than $130,000 from Sunday collections and church accounts is being welcomed back by his former parishioners after his release from jail.

Father Joseph LeClair had been sentenced to a year in jail for a fraud that spanned five years. About $1.16-million had been deposited into LeClair’s personal account, including roughly $400,000 that could not be explained.

“He did the crime, he paid the time, and I think he should probably still have quite a large following,” Blessed Sacrament parishioner Frank Licari said Tuesday. “There’s never a Sunday where somebody doesn’t ask me or my daughter Joanne about him.”

Joanne Licari said that although years have passed since LeClair left Blessed Sacrament, parishioners continue to miss him and hope he can return as their priest.

Parishioners have also realized, in LeClair’s absence, what a difference he made to the parish, Ms. Licari said.

“People often say, ‘Out of sight, out of say out of mind,’ but it’s the opposite,” Ms. Licari said. “It’s almost a continual reminder something is missing.”

LeClair was granted a temporary absence by the Ontario Parole Board beginning on Nov. 9 and ending Tuesday.

It means LeClair was released from jail nine days early: He would have been released Tuesday after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

“You present as a man remorseful for your actions and the hurt you have caused those close to you,” the parole board said.

LeClair pleaded guilty on Jan. 20 to theft and fraud charges. He had initially proclaimed his innocence after the Ottawa Citizen first raised concerns about financial irregularities at the church in early 2011.

Those irregularities were confirmed by a Deloitte & Touche audit that found $1.16-million had been deposited into LeClair’s personal account between January 2006 and December 2010 and that $769,000 of that was his salary, legitimate stipends and gifts from parishioners or casino winnings.

Roughly $400,000 of the $1.16-million deposited into LeClair’s personal account could not be explained. For the purposes of a plea deal, the Crown accepted that LeClair defrauded Blessed Sacrament of $130,000.

The Ottawa Archdiocese received a $379,000 insurance settlement for money that was misappropriated from Blessed Sacrament during the last five years of LeClair’s tenure as parish priest.

Mr. Licari said he believes the situation forced LeClair to get the help he needed for addictions.

Postmedia News

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Forgive and forget: Ottawa priest welcomed back to church he stole thousands from

Yahoo! News

20 November 2014
By Nadine Kalinauskas

 

LeClair, a diagnosed pathological gambler, admitted the thefts were to help fund his gambling addiction.

Having been recently released from jail early for good behaviour — the parole board told LeClair they found him “remorseful” for his actions and the hurt he caused others — LeClair is being welcomed back by his former parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church.

“He did the crime, he paid the time, and I think he should probably still have quite a large following,” Blessed Sacrament parishioner Frank Licari told the National Post. “There’s never a Sunday where somebody doesn’t ask me or my daughter Joanne about him.”

He added that he believed the situation forced LeClair to get help for his gambling addiction. Even before his sentencing, LeClair attended “extensive counselling.”

“People often say, ‘Out of sight, out of say out of mind,’ but it’s the opposite,” Joanne Licari said of LeClair’s absence at the church. “It’s almost a continual reminder something is missing.”

In a statement from January, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of the Archdiocese of Ottawa said that the church would work with LeClair so he can return to the ministry, CBC News reported.

“Despite this difficult decision affecting Father LeClair’s life, I know that he is relieved to have this painful moment behind him,” Prendergast said in the statement. “I share his desire, and that of the many people who supported him over the last two years, to move on and to look to the future.”

As a condition of his parole, LeClair will continue to receive counselling.

6 Responses to “Ottawa priest who stole more than $130,000 from church welcomed back after release from jail” & related article

  1. Sylvia says:

    “Roughly $400,000 of the $1.16-million deposited into LeClair’s personal account could not be explained. For the purposes of a plea deal, the Crown accepted that LeClair defrauded Blessed Sacrament of $130,000.

    “The Ottawa Archdiocese received a $379,000 insurance settlement for money that was misappropriated from Blessed Sacrament during the last five years of LeClair’s tenure as parish priest.”

    I still have trouble sorting the legalities of this one out. Legally Father Joe LeClair stole $130,000, but the insurers paid out $379,000. How can that be? If, according to the courts, he stole $130,000 should the insurers not be bound to pay out only $130,000? And if in fact it is a known fact that a minimum of $379,000 was stolen why are we legally obliged to pretend it was “only” $130,000.

    That aside, I personally have great difficulty with the fact that a priest who stole from and blatantly lied to his parishioners and the general public is allowed to a remain in the priesthood. I believe it is possible that he can stop gambling and pray that he manages to do so, but I do not believe he is fit to give good example or sound spiritual direction. And yes, I do expect more of a priest.

  2. Bob says:

    I have no problem with him remaining a priest. You kind of had to have seen him in action – he really does have a side to him that makes you think this is what he should be doing. Furthermore, Christianity is all about redeemed men (and women) doing amazing things… look at who Jesus surrounded himself with – half the New Testament is written by a murderer. Theft is grave, but not like the “whoever harms one of these little ones… millstone in the sea” types of offences.

    HOWEVER – and that said – I feel terrible for Fr. Galen and Francis, when I hear some of this stuff. They’ve done great work, hard work with this albatross over their heads. And to hear this kind of pining for Fr. Joe, given our new priests’ efforts and their much more genuine presbyteral and pastoral behaviors, and it kind of makes me feel almost sick, really.

    Fr. Joe needs to get an assignment that promotes and nurtures humility, and dispenses with all of the adulation – for his own spiritual good, and for the good of all those who forget that there is only one name under heaven that saves us (and that name is not Joe Leclair.)

    I think Fr. Joe could flourish and do truly great things if he is given the right work. But the definition of insanity is to repeat the same things and expect a different result – so no parish administrator/pastor role, no adulating flocks – for his own good. It ruined him once, and it probably would again. A chaplaincy role, or a missionary role – he’d excel at that.

    • Sylvia says:

      i’ve seen him in action Bob. That was before we knew of the theft and fraud and gambling, – and before the lies. I personally believe he should now seek to live his life out of the priesthood. I will pray for him.

  3. Mike Mc says:

    Seems like with a lot of charismatic priests, the flock adores him. Aren’t we shocked when we find out an outstanding priest, is accused of sexual abuse?
    Although gambling is of a different nature, we have still lost the trust of this man. However, parishioners still want to give him a second chance. Why? Forgive and forget?

    The truth of the matter is this man has stolen money to feed his addiction. Furthermore, he has gotten away with murder, so to speak. Because of some glitch in the law or some clever lawyer or something even more clever by LeClair, most of that money is unaccountable!!! And after good behavior in jail, he has gotten away with it!
    I agree with Sylvia. This man should relinquish his priesthood and learn to “work” outside the cushiony life style of a parish priest. His addiction will always be there; how he deals with it is his problem. He has deceived his parishioners and the Church is letting him continue to deceive. How often have we seen that?

    Why do I continue to think ( after an absence of being here at this site) that nothing has changed?

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