Former priest to serve 5 years in prison for molesting juveniles

Associated Press [New York NY]

July 13, 2023

By Associated Press

A former Catholic priest in Louisiana was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to two state criminal charges of juvenile molestation.

Patrick Wattigny, 55, entered the plea in Covington on Wednesday, New Orleans news outlets reported. He was sentenced after a statement was presented in court from a victim describing the lifelong harm the molestation caused.

Wattigny was a priest in St. Tammany Parish when the juveniles were molested. The victim told the court that after he started at a Catholic grade school in the parish in 1996, Wattigny was a father figure and friend. But Wattigny’s behavior grew increasingly inappropriate and he eventually molested the boy.

The victim, now 36, said the abuse affected him throughout his life.

“I struggled greatly with maintaining relationships as I wasn’t sure what was constituted as sin or not. I never knew who I could trust. I felt numb and apathetic towards life,” he said.

At times, the victim said, he contemplated suicide.

The victim’s attorney, William Arata, later told reporters that his client thought five years behind bars was too lenient but that he was happy “this priest is no longer out on the streets.”

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted.

Judge John Keller sentenced Wattigny to two concurrent 15-year prison terms but suspended 10 years of each. Wattigny will serve five years with five years’ probation and must also register as a sex offender.

Wattigny was removed as a priest in 2020 amid a disciplinary investigation into inappropriate text messages he sent a student.