Father Keith LeBlanc, a former priest at my parish and most recently pastor of St. John’s across town, left in a hurry earlier this year after it came to light that he was being investigated for mishandling church dollars. It turns out he was using the money to feed an addiction to porn.
Here’s the story from The Eagle-Tribune:
HAVERHILL — The Rev. Keith LeBlanc is charged with stealing $83,147 from St. John the Baptist Church when he was pastor there. Much of the money was spent on a pornography habit, police said. LeBlanc had a credit card that he used for online pornography, and the card had a $25,000 balance, according to a police report on file at Haverhill District Court. “Father LeBlanc admitted to Dunderdale that he has an addiction and needs help,” police Detective Glenn Fogarty wrote in the report, referring to Mark Dunderdale, an attorney who directed the Archdiocese of Boston investigation that led to LeBlanc’s removal as St. John’s pastor in June. Comcast bills from the church rectory were reviewed, according to the police report, and “adult” movies “started the day Father LeBlanc came to the parish, at a total of $4,021.14.” The police report on the investigation became public after LeBlanc’s arraignment on charges of forgery and larceny over $250 by continuous scheme. He has been released on personal recognizance bail.
This is particularly sad for me, because he ran the RCIA program the year I became a Catholic. If he did indeed steal parish funds, he deserves to be punished. He’ll have to do whatever time is prescribed by the justice system.
As for the porn factor, I’m going to piss some of you off and take a different position.
Everything about Father Keith is sad. He failed as a priest and he failed as a human being. Some might think that’s cause to damn him for eternity. But we forget priests are human, prone to all the mistakes the rest of us make.
In this case, he was under the spell of one of the most insidious addictions a person could have.
Here’s the other thing: When the addiction has you by the balls, you do terrible things to feed the habit. Stealing money, for example.
My most destructive addiction was compulsive binge eating. I always knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t stop. And I used a lot of money that wasn’t mine to feed that addiction. It was money from the family account, but it could have easily been money from someplace else.
My kids have been selling popcorn for the Cub Scouts and I recently took the order form and cash envelope to work to sell some for them. For a good three weeks I had an envelope full of cash sitting in my laptop bag. Five or 10 years ago, chances are pretty good that I would have burned through some or all of that money to get my fix. Thank God I don’t have to face that danger today.
Addicts of all stripes: Food, booze, drugs — know exactly what I’m talking about.
You know it’s wrong. You badly want to stop. BUT YOU CAN’T.
Some of us are lucky enough to find help before it’s too late.
I really feel for people who get hooked on something like porn.
You can be accepted as a drunk.
You can be accepted as a compulsive binge eater.
With porn, there’s much less tolerance.
Especially if you’re a priest.
Some people take their sexual addictions over the edge and scar other people, like my childhood friend, who went on to be thrice convicted as a pedophile.
The thing is, in the eyes of God we all get a shot at redemption. But back in the real world, among mortals, it doesn’t work that way.
I’m going to pray for Father Keith.
He took a bad turn, and the high and mighty among us will be all too happy to laugh about his failure.
We do love to catch people who are supposed to be better than us in an act of hypocrisy, don’t we?
But, believing as I do that we all get a second chance, I’ll just hope he gets the right help and uses his experience to help other addicts in the future.