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New Orleans priest removed for abuse sent messages to high school student

The Archdiocese of New Orleans reportedly knew for months but did not inform school officials that a priest chaplain at a Catholic high school had sent texts to a student, in violation of archdiocesan policies. The priest was removed from ministry last week after admitting to have sexually abused a minor in an unrelated case.

The principal of John Paul II High School in Slidell, Louisiana, wrote a letter to parents on Tuesday saying that he had not known of inappropriate texts sent to a student by school chaplain Fr. Pat Wattigny until Oct. 2, when he was informed about them by New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond. 

Wattingy was chaplain of the high school until the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year, and even after he resigned from the high school faculty over the summer, neither school nor archdiocesan education officials were informed of his texting.

In fact, the school’s principal said he was not told about the texts for months — even though lawyers for the archdiocese had been informed by the student’s mother about the texts in February, several months before he was asked to resign from the school.

The priest reportedly stopped texting the student after he was initially confronted by archdiocesan officials, but later resumed doing so, at which point he was asked to resign from the school faculty.

In his letter to parents, the school’s principal said that he had heard rumors about a significant texting policy violation, but when he asked archdiocesan officials about it, he was told they had no report of such a violation.

An attorney for the student says the priest’s texts were grooming in nature, and, among other things, asked the student repeatedly when he would turn 18. The priest texted the boy late at night, the attorney said, and his texts contained suggestive remarks.

The archdiocese, however, offers a different account of the texts.

According to a letter written by Aymond to parents of the school, reported by the Advocate, the texts did not contain “sexual references or innuendo” but still violated the archdiocesan policies about communication with youth.

Read more at Catholic News Agency

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