The Priest Who Failed

by Bill Brenner on November 8, 2010

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.

Father Keith LeBlanc, photo from The Eagle-Tribune

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.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

christine November 8, 2010 at 4:16 am

so very proud to know you! wonderful stance, and brave to announce it. I hope there are lot more people out there who feel the same….that he has/had a problem…he needs to be prayed for! And like you said, he is a human, who makes mistakes and fell prey to one of the worst addictions out there. I do believe he should be punished for stealing, but one should not be punished for a compulsion…the compulsion itself is the punishment!

Bonita Lay November 8, 2010 at 5:48 am

If you took the First step in AA and substituted the word “sin” instead of alcohol, food, sex, etc… it makes sense. If Father can repent and turn his life over to to God (really turn it over…) God will use these crooked lines to make straight. I pray for him and for me too…there go I by the grace of God…

Debbie O'Leary November 8, 2010 at 9:03 am

Bill — I always enjoy reading your thoughts. Thank you for sharing.
While we don’t know the whole story I see this as a thank goodness this Rev didn’t take it further than just stealing. Am I certain that jail is right for him, I don’t think so. I think he’s being punished enough already by having this become public. I feel for him, I really do. I hope he is able to overcome his addiction they way you have.

Nick November 8, 2010 at 10:06 am

Bill, you are right on target with this post. I too will pray for Fr. Keith. I know the pain of addiction all too well. God bless you brother.

Peter Hillier November 21, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Bill, I’m an avid fan of your day and night work. However, this discussion is one near and dear to my heart. It is among the reasons that I’ve moved away from observing my Catholic faith. Like Boston, St John’s Newfoundland had its huge share of men of the cloth who undermined our trust. I have had many childhood friends who suffered as a result. You’re story leaves me with one observation; it’s time the Catholic Church moved away from abstinence. It doesn’t work, has no value and there have been far too many Christian faiths that have proved to us that it’s unnecessary.

Christa M. Miller August 19, 2011 at 6:44 am

Peter, I’m hardly an apologist for the faith, but I am not sure you can blame abstinence by itself for priests’ sexual perversions. As we now know, plenty of married and otherwise attached men can be and have been addicted to porn, including child porn. Blaming abstinence is like blaming a “frigid” wife — when the reality is that sex addictions go much deeper, and often have as much to do with organizational and other group culture as with the individual.

I too pray for Father Keith and for all the Church leaders to provide what is needed, and lacking, for both priests and their parishioners to lead healthy and whole lives.

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