Father Patrick Wattigny pleaded guilty July 12, 2023, to two child molestation charges. / Credit: Warren Montgomery District Attorney’s Office
Boston, Mass., Jul 17, 2023 / 12:38 pm (CNA).
A New Orleans priest pleaded guilty last week to two child molestation charges for incidents that took place as recently as 2013.
Father Patrick Wattigny, 55, the former pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church and chaplain at Pope John Paul II High School, both in Slidell, Louisiana, was sentenced to five years in prison with five years of probation. He was also required to register as a sex offender.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans, where Wattigny was a priest, announced his removal from ministry Oct. 1, 2020.
The priest was originally arrested and charged in 2020 when a victim reported that Wattigny molested him when he was 15 years old in 2013. Another victim came forward in the fall of 2022 and claimed that Wattigny molested him when he was a 9-year-old student. The victim said the abuse occurred during the mid-1990s, according to The Guardian.
Wattigny pleaded not guilty to both charges until changing his plea last week, according to Fox 8 Live.
One of Wattigny’s victims said at sentencing that Wattigny groomed him from an early age, the Warren Montgomery District Attorney’s office said in a July 12 statement.
The victim said that after Wattigny molested him, the priest told him that he would “go to hell” if he told anyone about the abuse, the statement said.
The victim said that “his childhood was stolen” and that he “contemplated suicide,” according to the statement.
In a statement to reporters, the victim from the priest’s first arrest in 2020 said Wattigny’s punishment is a “grossly lenient and unfair slap on the wrist,” The Guardian reported.
“This sentence makes me feel really worthless and hopeless as a victim,” the victim said.
At the time of Wattigny’s removal from ministry in 2020, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond wrote in a statement: “Reverend Patrick Wattigny disclosed today his sexual abuse of a minor in 2013. His name will be added to the list of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Clergy Abuse Report. Law enforcement has been notified.”
That list can be found here.
Ordained in 1994, Wattigny had seven different assignments including at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Kenner, St. Benilde Church in Metairie, St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell, St. Peter Church in Covington, The Visitation of Our Lady Church in Marrero, Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, and Pope John Paul II High School in Slidell.
The archdiocese encouraged survivors of clergy abuse to report any allegations to its Victim’s Assistance Response Team.
The team can be contacted at (504) 861-6253 or by emailing VAC@arch-no.org.