SNAP Calls for Education and Outreach Following Ignorant Comments Regarding an Admitted Abuser Priest
Last week, a priest was removed from his position after admitting to his superiors that he had sexually abused at least one child. This week, Catholic officials in Louisiana are responding with care and compassion – for the priest, not his victim.
In a recent interview, Bruce Weaver, head of the Multicultural Committee at St. Luke’s, the parish where Rev. Patrick Wattigny worked, responded to the news by saying “I just feel bad for him that he had to carry this around for the last seven years. It had to have worn on him, knowing the man.” This is quite possibly one of the most tone-deaf responses possible, and it is disturbing that such an ignorant statement came out of someone who holds a position of power within the parish.
Living with the knowledge of his crime may have worn on Rev. Wattigny, but there is no doubt that his crime wore much more heavily on his victim, and likely will for the rest of that victim’s life. Archbishop Gregory Aymond should come out now and express disbelief at the ignorant statements coming from St. Luke’s officials. He should follow-up his admonishment with outreach to Fr. Wattigny’s victim, expressing his heartfelt sorrow and offering to use the vast resources of his Archdiocese to guarantee the victim therapy and support for as long as the victim needs it.
Outreach from the Archbishop to his flock is also clearly needed as too many parishioners and officials have misguided opinions and ideas about sexual violence. We know that only one out of ten children report abuse when abuse is ongoing, so it is likely that Fr. Wattigny has more victims and the ignorance being expressed by St. Luke’s parishioners will likely force those victims underground instead of encouraging them to come forward. We hope that Archbishop Aymond will visit every single parish or school where Fr. Wattigny worked or visited, encouraging victims to come forward and, critically, encouraging his parishioners to learn more about the realities of sexual violence, specifically how these crimes are often committed by well-liked people, and how each person must fundamentally shift the way they view these crimes.
The best way to prevent future sex crimes is to ensure that communities are educated and vigilant. Such education is clearly needed at St. Luke’s today.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)