SLIDELL, La. — Bail for a Catholic priest in jail over allegations of molesting an underage boy in Slidell was set at $150,000 on Tuesday morning.
Patrick Wattigny had not made bond as of early Tuesday afternoon. During a hearing in front of St. Tammany Parish bail commissioner Daniel Foil, Wattigny said he would retain a defense attorney.
That attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Wattigny, 53, appeared before Foil a day after arriving at the St. Tammany Parish jail in Covington. St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies brought him to the lockup Monday, four days after police in West Point, Georgia, arrested Wattigny on a warrant accusing him of four counts of molestation of a juvenile.
Wattigny was in West Point because he owns a home there. Police arrested him at his home after receiving a call saying authorities believed Wattigny was in their jurisdiction.
If convicted of molestation of a juvenile, Wattigny could face a minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison per count.
Beginning in 2013, Wattigny was assigned to work as pastor at St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church and chaplain at Pope John Paul II High School. He was removed from the school this summer for sending inappropriate text messages to a different boy who was studying there. That boy has not alleged any sexual contact with Wattigny.
Nonetheless, the texts prompted the archdiocese to send Wattigny to psychological treatment as well as a 30-day spiritual retreat, after which he allegedly admitted that he had molested a different teen, years earlier.
The Sheriff’s Office suspects Wattigny molested the teen on at least four different occasions, from when the boy was 15 years old in December 2013 to the end of 2017.
Church officials said Wattigny disclosed the alleged abuse to them on Oct. 1, and they immediately reported the admission to law enforcement. Wattigny soon left for his place in Georgia, which he has owned since 2012.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond last week said he would ask Wattigny and all other living diocesan priests on his list of clergymen credibly accused of molesting children to leave the Catholic clergy entirely. If Wattigny refuses to leave the clergy, Aymond said he would consider asking the worldwide Catholic Church’s leadership in Rome to take more aggressive action against Wattigny, including a possible church trial.
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