Parishioners at Blessed Sacrament church said Sunday their former pastor is being unfairly treated by a police investigation into the church's finances.

A three-hour meeting was held after Sunday's service so church officials could answer parishioner's questions about the investigation, which was started after an audit revealed irregularities in the church's finances over five years.

Central in the investigation is Father Joe Leclair, a massively popular priest who admitted he had a gambling problem but denies an Ottawa Citizen report he advances church money to himself.

Parishioners said they want the archdiocese to withdraw the complaint against Leclair.

"I think they handled it very poorly," said Ann Ray. "I think Father Joe didn't deserve that, he brought this parish back from nothing."

Also at issue was the fact that Leclair has not been given a chance to see the audit.

"Why didn't they give the audit to Father Joe to protect himself, which is basically one of his rights?" asked Ron McMahon.

"He has gone through intensive rehabilitation," said his lawyer Ian Stauffer, of Leclair's treatment program. "I have met with him and he is in pretty good spirits but he quite frankly feels he has been treated unfairly by the archdiocese."

When asked if there was anything in the audit that would spur the parish going to the police, monsignor Kevin Beach  would only say the decision wasn't made lightly.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Vanessa Lee