Ottawa

Churchgoers unleash fury at Catholic Archdiocese

Parishioners at a central Ottawa church want police to quit their investigation into church finances and leave the congregation alone.

Blessed Sacrament church parishioners call former pastor "sacrifical lamb"

Parishioners at a central Ottawa Roman Catholic church want police to quit their investigation into church finances and leave the congregation alone.

Monsignor Kevin Beach, representing the Ottawa Archdiocese, spoke to the congregation at the Blessed Sacrament Church Sunday and many of them were volatile and called out .

Beach was addressing the group after the archdiocese discovered the church collected $3 million over the last five years of its former pastor's tenure, but only had a net deficit of $40,000.

Father Joseph LeClair announced his resignation during Easter masses last spring. (Youknowwhoiam.com)

Rev. Joe LeClair, who is originally from Prince Edward Island, left the church in May after problems with gambling and depression went public. He entered rehab soon after but has since left.

Parishioners accuse Archdiocese of abandonment

Some churchgoers accused the archdiocese of abandoning LeClair after an audit revealed questionable transactions at the church.

The Archdiocese argued the unexplained amounts are beyond its investigative resources, which is why it turned the probe over to Ottawa police.

Some parishioners called LeClair a "sacrificial lamb" who had been "hammered," "drawn and quartered," "thrown under the bus" and even "crucified" by the archdiocese and the archbishop, reported the CBC's Alistair Steele.

During the three-hour meeting, parishioners also asked Beach why the archdiocese allowed relaxed financial controls to persist at the church and why they refuse to share results of the audit.

"I love this church; I was baptized here," said parishioner Ron McMahon, "It's just disappointing that the Archdiocese is treating him the way they are."

Many in the congregation credit LeClair with single-handedly turning a withering congregation into one of the city's most vibrant churches.

One person also referred to him as a "high performing CEO" whose track record should outweigh his alleged trespasses.

With files from the CBC's Alistair Steele