LeClair admits gambling, denies taking from church
Father Joe LeClair said Saturday his "significant" gambling problem has been addressed and he did not steal any money to repay that debt.
LeClair spoke to parishioners before 4:30 p.m. mass at Blessed Sacrament Parish in the Glebe.
He said he apologized "fully and wholeheartedly" after a news release from the Archdiocese of Ottawa said the church was being audited because of an Ottawa Citizen report.
"The money spent was from my own winnings and personal funds," he said, adding that he "takes personal responsibility for embarrassment."
The Citizen reported Saturday that LeClair advanced more than $137,000 to his credit card from Casino du Lac-Leamy in 2009 and 2010, with $250,000 worth of cheques issued to him from the church account.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said in the news release "Diocesian Administration will act promptly and prudently to take whatever further steps are necessary" once the audit is completed.
CTV cameras were not allowed inside the church, but parishioners outside said they did not believe the report.
"Father Joe is an honourable guy, probably the best person I know and I definitely think they're false accusations," said one.
"We aren't going to let this negative story on him impact us, it's going to make us stronger," another said.
LeClair did not indicate whether or not he would continue working full-time. He received a 45-second ovation at the end of his statement, followed by a moment of prayer.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Alyshah Hasham.