Canadian Priest Gambled Away Half a Million Dollars His Church Raised For Refugees

Jesus could supposedly multiply loaves and fishes at will, but a Catholic priest in Ontario failed to repeat the trick with his gambling chips, losing half a million Canadian dollars when neither the Lord nor Lady Luck would smile on him.

Actually, they weren’t really his chips; he’d bought them with money pilfered from a church fund for Iraqi refugees resettling in Canada.


Police have launched an investigation into a Chaldean Catholic priest from London, Ont., after church officials reported more than $500,000 (US$380,000) slated for refugee sponsorship was lost to gambling.

The money “was lost to gambling.” Interesting phrase — as if it was an electrical fire that made the fortune vanish, rather than the deliberate thievery of one of God’s representatives on Earth.

Father Amer Saka, a priest working at the St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in London, is under investigation after telling his bishop, Emanuel Shaleta, that funds intended to help new Canadians had instead vanished in vice, Shaleta said. “He called me on the phone and… said he lost all the money. I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘Gambling,’” Shaleta [said].

The diocese will make up the shortfall somehow, keeping its promise to the intended recipients, bishop Shaleta vowed.

“We want to assure the refugees that our part of our agreement is looked after and that money will be provided to help them feel secure and help them find their footing in the country,” he said.

For reasons that are unexplained, Saka has still not been charged, even though the church has known of his crime for over five weeks.

(Photo of Ontario’s St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church via Facebook)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.