Many Ottawa Catholics were shocked by the revelation a few months ago that the pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish, Fr. Joe LeClair, had a gambling problem. He is currently in an addictions program. We wish him the best and keep him in our prayers.
In the meantime, Fr. LeClair was removed from his functions at the parish. A media report today cites Fr. LeClair as lamenting the fact that the archdiocese never gave him the opportunity to continue his duties even in a limited role. I think this was the right call by the Archbishop. The faithful have suffered too much damage in recent years at the hands of misbehaving priests who weren’t disciplined by their bishops. While Fr. LeClair’s problems are relatively benign in comparison to the sexual abuses that have rocked the Church, they are still grave enough to warrant a suspension of duties until he can overcome his addiction.
I think the Archbishop’s wisdom is being further confirmed by the police investigation into “financial irregularities” and “questionable transactions” at the parish. Of course, Fr. LeClair is innocent until proven guilty so let’s not jump to any conclusions here. I’m not implying any guilt on his part. I’m staying “agnostic” until the police finish their investigation. But just the existence of some irregularities that warrant a police investigation makes it evident that Fr. LeClair should be on the sidelines until everything is cleared up, for both his sake and that of the faithful. Can you imagine attending Mass while wondering if the presider is guilty of some financial fraud? It just wouldn’t work.
If he’s innocent, it will be easier to clear his name if he’s out of the parish so that nobody can accuse him of interfering with the investigation.
The Archbishop made the right move on this one.