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Archbishop 'infuriated' by Pearl River priest's actions, says altar has been burned

The statement comes after a David Hammer Investigation revealed sexual misconduct by two Northshore priests.

NEW ORLEANS — The Archdiocese of New Orleans has removed and burned the altar at of Sts. Peter and Paul church in Pearl River after a priest was caught filming sex acts on the altar with two women.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond put out a statement Friday, responding to a series of investigative reports by David Hammer and The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate on sexual misconduct by two Northshore priests.

In the statement, Aymond answered direct questions posed to him by David Hammer. Among his responses, he called Rev. Travis Clark’s acts “demonic.”

“His obscene behavior was deplorable,” Aymond said. “His desecration of the altar in Church was demonic. I am infuriated by his actions. When the details became clear, we had the altar removed and burned. I will consecrate a new altar tomorrow (Oct. 10).”

Clark was arrested for obscenity, along with the two women involved, because their sex acts were clearly visible from the street.

RELATED: Shocking allegations from Pearl River priest's arrest last week

The arrests came shortly before a different Northshore priest, the Rev. Pat Wattigny, reportedly disclosed to Aymond that he had sexually abused a minor in 2013.

Aymond removed Wattigny from public ministry and added him to the archdiocese’s list of clergy whom the church believes have credible accusations of molestation against them.

“When he informed us of the sexual abuse of a minor which occurred in Dec. 2013, I immediately removed him from ministry…reported it to civil authorities…and made a public announcement,” Aymond said. “There was no prior accusation and we knew nothing about the abuse before Oct. 1.”

About four months before Wattigny disclosed to the Archdiocese of New Orleans that he sexually abused a minor in 2013, he resigned from his post as chaplain at Pope John Paul II High School because he sent a series of text messages to a student this year that violated diocesan policies, according to church officials.

RELATED: Priest accused of 2013 abuse allegedly sent inappropriate texts to minor in 2020

An attorney representing the family of the student alleged that the messages constituted “grooming” for sexual activity, including repeatedly asking the boy when his 18th birthday was.

“In Feb 2020, we received copies of text messages between Wattingy and a teenager. Though not sexual in nature, our technology policy forbids this type of communication. This was addressed and the text messages stopped,” Aymond said. “A few months later, we received a report that he resumed texting. We asked him to resign as chaplain for violating the technology policy.”

RELATED: Catholic high school principal blasts Archdiocese for not disclosing chaplain’s texts to student

Aymond added that the texts did not indicate abuse and that there were no allegations of sexual abuse related to the text messages.

This is a developing story. Stick with WWLTV.com and watch Eyewitness News for the latest information.

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