The Archdiocese of Ottawa has chosen to refer the financial review of the Blessed Sacrament Parish accounts to the Ottawa Police Service for investigation. My client, Father Joe Leclair, sincerely hopes that the investigation will finally clear the air on this entire painful matter to himself, the Parish and the Archdiocese.
Much speculation and rumour have been generated since The Citizen wrote the first article, just as Father Joe was about to celebrate Easter with his parishioners.
The audit by Deloittes has taken many months, apparently, to be completed. I have asked repeatedly for a copy of the audit. Although Father Joe has fully cooperated with the auditors, he has never been shown any audit. We have asked to see the audit and the Archbishop has decided not to provide us with a copy.
My client and I are unable to intelligently respond to any of the allegations brought in the press. Long ago I asked The Citizen where it came up with the $250,000 figure repeatedly mentioned in that paper. I have never received any further information. Neither Father Joe nor I have any idea what that figure refers to.
I must emphasize that the Parish Council and its finance subcommittee are the oversight bodies for all Parish finances. The Archdiocese ultimately has responsibility for reviewing and auditing the financial statements submitted by the Parish Council. Unfortunately, the entire focus has been placed on Father Joe, without any questions being asked as to the role of these bodies during the last five years.
All of this to say that Father Joe continues to deny that he has ever used any of the parishioners’ funds for the purposes of gambling.
Father Joe has candidly and publicly admitted that he became addicted to gambling last year as a result of depression. His pastoral and counselling duties were such that he was on call every hour of the day and night. This is not an excuse for his gambling, but his parishioners need to understand what drove him to this addiction.
Father Joe voluntarily committed himself to the Church’s counselling program at Aurora.
It should be noted that he was given no opportunity to carry on his Ministry, even in a limited capacity. No local counselling was offered. He was given an ultimatum to resign from his Parish. Father Joe has been sequestered in Aurora and, approximately two weeks before the end of the program, the Archdiocese decided to make a public statement that the police would now become involved.
As those who know Father Joe well, he has taken a forthright approach to this painful matter by sharing with the community his gambling addiction, as well as his regret that the state of the Parish’s books were such that he could not easily refute specific allegations. As mentioned, we have not been provided with a copy of either the initial or final audit, and it would be inappropriate to comment further until the police have concluded their investigation.
Father Joe believes that the police investigation will exonerate him from any wrongdoing.
In the meantime, he is deeply grateful for the prayers and kindness of the parishioners, the friends of Blessed Sacrament Church, and the Ottawa community.