January 22, 2014 Updated: January 22, 2014 | 5:31 pm
By Joe Lofaro Metro
Joe Lofaro/Metro Father Joe LeClair, centre, is accompanied by his legal counsel Matthew Webber and Kim Hyslop outside the Ottawa courthouse Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, after the former Blessed Sacrament priest pleaded guilty to fraud and theft.
Father Joe LeClair read out an emotional apology to parishioners in court Wednesday since pleading guilty to defrauding Blessed Sacrament of $130,000 over a five-year period.
As the disgraced priest spoke with an often trembling voice, several parishioners who sat in court wiped tears from their eyes or held their heads down.
Below is a transcription of what LeClair said in his apology:
“I’m very grateful to Your Honour and the court for extending me the privilege of making this statement.
“I’d like to express how deeply remorseful I am for all that has transpired. I would like to assure Your Honour that I now fully appreciate the extreme gravity of my actions. I’ve embarrassed and humiliated the priesthood and the church. I have breached the trust in the very parish that I have cared for and continue to care about so much. As a result of my actions I have jeopardized my vocation — a vocation that truly, I believe, to be my calling. Not only did I hurt my parish and the church, but I dishonoured the priesthood at large and for this I am painfully ashamed and I pray that the church will forgive me.
“While the realization was not immediate, I now better understand that my addictions to alcohol and gambling contributed to my thoughtless and irrational behaviour. At the time I must confess I did not ever really turn my mind to the gravity of my conduct. As I reflect on these times I regard this weakness on my part as inexcusable. I was literally unable to control myself.
“I’ve come a long way in understanding my addictions and my crimes and I fully intend on continuing with my treatment as soon as I am able.
“I fully realize that the discipline necessary to overcome addiction is an ever-mindful and life-long commitment. And I’m committed to waging this fight for the rest of my life, may God grant me the grace to persevere. I pray, Your Honour, that you will feel it appropriate to impose a conditional sentence where I might continue to address my problems. However, I fully accept responsibility for the wrongs I’ve committed and accept whatever consequences should befall me.
“Again, I apologize to all, especially my parishioners that are here today, for the pain I’ve caused. It was always my hope and desire that my involvement in the lives of others would lessen or diminish hardship — not cause it. I am profoundly sorry for what I’ve done. I ask God to forgive me and to judge me as I pray that Your Honour will interpret the law of the land.