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SLIDELL – A former pastor at St. Luke’s Church in Slidell is behind bars in Georgia after the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office obtained warrants for his arrest on four counts of molestation of a child.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans recently defrocked Patrick Wattingy over the molestation allegations. Wattingy who served as chaplain at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie and paster at St. Luke’s in Slidell.

The alleged molestation occurred in 2013, when the victim was 15-years-old. An investigation into the charges against Wattingy revealed the former priest began grooming the alleged victim in general conversations before progressing to phone calls, text messages, and in-person visits on at least four different occasions, according to the STPSO.

The molestation occurred in the church’s rectory, as well as other, unspecified places.

“It is deeply disturbing when an individual in a position of authority uses that position to prey on the most defenseless of our population – our children,” Sheriff Randy Smith said.

Archdiocese of New Orleans spokesperson Sarah McDonald issued a brief statement about Wattingy’s arrest.

“We are aware of the arrest of Patrick Wattigny on charges of molestation of a juvenile,” McDonald said. “Our prayers are with the victim of this abuse. We have cooperated with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office investigation and pledge our continued cooperation as this moves forward.”

Georgia police arrested Wattigny on October 22 as a fugitive. He was booked into the Troup County Jail, where he awaits extradition to St. Tammany Parish, according to police.