MAC'S MUSINGS: Catholic priest is lucky people are so forgiving

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Claude McIntosh

An Ottawa Roman Catholic priest who stole thousands of dollars from his parish over several years has been handed a one-year jail sentence.

This kicked up a storm: some agreed that it was fair, while others, many from his parish, felt jail time was too harsh for a man who had done so much good.

The usual excuses were paraded before the judge in an appeal for compassion and a non-jail sentence. The court was told that the priest suffered bouts of anxiety caused by a heavy workload, which drove him to downing several shots of Scotch each night and into the nearby casinos where he squandered money that he stole from the collection plate on the gaming tables and slot machines.

A case could be made that perhaps his anxiety was triggered by a guilty conscience.

The priest had plenty of opportunity to come clean and repent before the police slapped on the handcuffs. The Ottawa Citizen broke the story of missing funds at the parish long before he was charged, but for two years he denied any wrong doing. Instead, he tried to turn the tables on the newspaper, protesting his innocence and attacking the newspaper, suggesting it was on an anti-Catholic witch-hunt. He allowed his supporters who didn't believe the newspaper reports to organize a huge rally for him in the parish hall, all the time knowing the newspaper had it right, that he was a thief.

Of course, Father Joe LeClair will not spend the next 12-months in jail. With good behaviour, he could be out by June. And thanks to an insurance settlement, the parish has received $379,000 to help ease its financial pain.

And, unlike so many others who leave jail, he will not have to scan the help wanted ads in search of a new career.

That's because the diocese will welcome him back into the fold with open arms when he is released; perhaps not as a parish priest, at least not for now, but he will continue to be employed by the diocese in some capacity.

Father LeClair is a lucky man.

Few, if any, people in the real world would have the employer they stole from putting out the welcome mat.

It takes foregiveness to a new level.

IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR Those Saturday mornings at the Palace Theatre with heroes called Roy Rogers , Hop-a-long Cassidy, the Singing Cowboy Gene Autry, Zorro, Prince Valiant, Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone and Tarzan. The laughs provided by the Bowery Boys with Slip Mahoney and his malaprops such as "That was a clever seduction" and "I regurgitated", Sach, Whitey and the always hyper soda shop owner Louie Dumbrowski, The zany Three Stoogies, Abbott and Costello, The Little Rascals, Ma and Pa Kettle, cartoon-a-ramas and newsreels. ... 3D movies and 3D glasses. The first CinemaScope movies, The Robe (Richard Burton and Jean Simmons) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Kirk Douglas and James Mason). ... The Palace Theatre birthday club when every kid who signed up got a voucher on their birthday good for a Saturday morning movie, a box of pop corn and drink.

HERE & THERE Fred Kaneb, a member of one of Cornwall's most successful entrepreneuial stories, turns 94 on April 3. He graduated from prestigious MIT in Boston in 1943 and served in the U.S. Navy. During the war he invented a safety device called a 'dumpster' that saved the lives of countless downed pilots. .... Harry Chan who died last week at age 91 was a partner in the brothers-operated Jade Garden Restaurant, a downtown landmark for many years. The front man in the business was Art. The restaurant had a large clientele from the U.S. side. ... Cornwall Police Service has an inspector's position to fill with the retirement of Bob Burnie. Either Staff Sgt. Shawna Spowart or Staff Sgt. Dan Maille will move into the position which could lead to the deputy chief's office when Danny Aikman retires or succeeds Chief Dan Parkinson. Spowart is the force's first female staff sergeant.

SCENE & HEARD I'll vote against anybody who is in favour of wasting millions of tax dollars to equip Cornwall residences with water metres. If they are needed to promote conservation, why are we selling so much of our water to neighbouring municipalities? .... Just checked with the local bookie who is giving odds that come the September nomination deadline, Mayor Bob will be unopposed. ... City resident called police to complain about an illegally parked truck and trailer on street in front of her house. She got a recording that said if it was an emergency to hang up and dial 911, which it wasn't. She waited, got a real person who after hearing her complaint transferred the call to dispatch. After listening, dispatch gave her the bylaw office number. She called the bylaw number and a recording directed her to an extension number. She punched in the extension number and got a recording that said someone would get back to her within 24 hours. Remember the days when you could talk to an actual person? ... Nice big 'public' parking lot off Third Street between Pitt and Sydney. However, a big chunk of it is anything but 'public'. Many of the spots are reserved for city employees and the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority.

THIS AND THAT The Sunshine List is coming out and Cornwall Police Service is expected to have at least 67 of its members joining the $100,000 (per year) club. The spike is largely the result of a days owing settlement in 2013 with the police board. In at least one case, a veteran officer received a $60,000 settlement. ... Last year this time some of the diehards were playing one of the area golf courses. And in March 2012 we had a run in March when it was warmer here than in parts of South Carolina. ...

SPORTS STUFF The Kingston Frontenacs/ Sudbury Wolves OHL playoff series has a Cornwall connection. Former Royals' assistant coach Paul Fixter is head coach of the Wolves; ex-Royals' superstar Doug Gilmour is general manager of the Fronts. ... The chance of the River Kings returning next season with the same ownership group is between zero and not-at-all. As somebody once said, the way to make a small fortune in the hockey business is to start with a big fortune. ... The group that owns an Ottawa-area hockey school said to be looking around to buy a Central Canada Hockey League franchise. ... The NCAA basketball tournament (March Madness) started with 27 Canadian high school graduates spread among the lineups of the top college teams in the U.S.

Organizations: Ottawa Citizen, Cornwall Police Service, Bowery Boys Palace Theatre MIT U.S. Navy St. Lawrence Seaway Authority Central Canada Hockey League NCAA

Geographic location: Ottawa, Cornwall, U.S. Boston Third Street Pitt Sydney South Carolina

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Recent comments

  • The Cornwall Circus
    March 29, 2014 - 09:46

    The continuing nonsense that anybody but law enforcement can track an IP address to your home.If you get a hacker to break into a facebook page then they are breaking the law and can be charged This CBC story reveals all Questions of legal jurisdiction and the overwhelming volume of postings made every day around the world compound the challenge police forces face in determining real identities in the online world. "some rather tech savvy people from Ottawa, and as of right now we have the capability of tracking the IP address where the message was sent from." This in NO way supports people making rude, racist or just stupid comments online CBC STORY Why it's so hard to catch online predators

  • Walter Cronkite
    March 27, 2014 - 17:03

    Dear Mr McIntosh Your right the Ottawa Citizen deserves credit for bring out this story. Sure wish Standard Freeholder track record would have been anywhere as good during Project Truth Then it seemed the church was off limits