Rev. Patrick Wattigny Arrested by Police in Georgia
A Catholic priest who was removed from his parish in Louisiana earlier this month after he confessed to abusing a child in 2013 has now been arrested on child molestation charges by police in Georgia. We are grateful to law enforcement for getting this admitted-abuser off the streets and hope this arrest encourages other victims to come forward and make a report.
According to the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office, Rev. Patrick Wattigny has been arrested on four counts of molestation of a juvenile, with each count stemming from the same victim. We applaud the brave individual who trusted detectives to believe him and get this dangerous man off the streets. Thanks to his willingness to come forward, this survivor will have the opportunity to face his abuser in a court of law, an opportunity that the overwhelming majority of clergy abuse survivors will never have.
By our count, this is the 18th arrest of a Catholic priest or staffer this year. Despite attempts by church officials to wave away sexual abuse claims as a decades-old problem, the sexual abuse scandal in the church is clearly still an issue today.
Sadly, New Orleans is home to many survivors who have been victimized by perpetrator clergy who are still at large. The district attorneys and police departments across southeast and southwest Louisiana need to follow the valuable lesson from their counterparts in St. Tammany Parish. Investigate, arrest, convict, and incarcerate sex criminals. The children in our state are not safe until sexual abusers are behind bars. According to our knowledge, the following priests have been accused, but not investigated or arrested:
- Rev. Lawrence Hecker
- Rev. Paul Calamari
- Rev. Luis Fernandez
- Rev. Brian Highfill
The Archdiocese of New Orleans has records for every cleric accused of sexually abused a minor. We firmly believe that this scandal will only be solved through intervention from secular society and trained professionals in law enforcement. We hope that this latest arrest will prod Catholic officials to turn over all their files to the police. We also hope that this latest arrest will encourage district attorneys in New Orleans to look closer at the culture of sexual abuse and secrecy within their city and to take more aggressive action.
(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)