|St. Louis Priest Put on Leave for Alleged Misconduct
By Jesse Bogan
St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
July 1, 2011
investigating a Roman Catholic priest accused of having inappropriate electronic exchanges and other questionable behavior with teenagers.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis said Friday that Rev. William Vatterott has been put on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by Ballwin police.
Vatterott, 35, has not been charged with a crime.
Two teenagers have reported incidents of inappropriate correspondence received from Vatterott, Monsignor Richard Hanneke, vicar of priests, said Friday in a prepared statement.
He said the archdiocese placed Vatterott on leave after learning of the complaints Monday.
In addition, Vatterott has been accused of being involved in underage drinking and "other inappropriate behaviors," Hanneke said.
"None of the reported complaints involved physical contact or solicitation of any sort," he said.
Vatterott’s leave was not disclosed publicly by the archdiocese until Friday, when a reporter called to inquire. Other than the prepared statement, the archdiocese would not respond to questions.
Vatterott, who could not be reached for comment, was ordained in 2003 by then-St. Louis Archbishop Justin Rigali. He has been the pastor of St. Cecilia Catholic Church, a parish popular with Latinos at 5418 Louisiana Avenue, since 2008. Before that, he ministered at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin.
Ballwin Police Sgt. Jim Heldmann confirmed that a complaint has been made against Vatterott but he would not go into details.
"It's the very opening stages of an investigation," he said.
Meanwhile, parents who know Vatterott well were confused Friday, with unanswered attempts to verify rumors.
One mother whose children attended the pre-K through 8th-grade school at Holy Infant said Vatterott was wildly popular there.
"We as parents need to know what's going on here because we have children who he befriended and he bonded with," she said, asking not to be named.
She said many youth stayed in touch with him after he moved to St. Cecilia via email and other social media like Facebook.
Vatterott’s father said his son left Thursday for a "retreat center" in Minnesota.
"We realize that he made mistakes," said Frank Vatterott, a municipal judge in Overland.
"He has been a great son, and we love him," he added. "We have no animosity toward the mothers of these children. We know that he has been a great priest to many, many people."
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