A Roman Catholic priest of the St. Louis Archdiocese admitted Friday that he had child pornography on his computer and cellphone and had sent explicit photos of male genitalia to a male minor. He was immediately sentenced to 37 months in federal prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Livergood said in court that in 2010 Ballwin police confiscated a computer and cellphone belonging to the Rev. William Vatterott, 37, that had been used to store and send explicit photos of a male minor. Investigators found 20 images of child pornography and emails of male genitalia.
Vatterott, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt — not in a priest’s collar — did not dispute any of the facts of Livergood’s narrative.
Vatterott was ordained in 2003. He was associate pastor at Holy Infant Church in Ballwin, then became pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, at 5418 Louisiana Avenue, in 2008.
In a statement, the archdiocese said Vatterott has been on administrative leave from St. Cecilia since June 2011, when officials there were told of “allegations involving inappropriate electronic communications received by a minor and an incident of underage drinking.”
“The Archdiocese has cooperated fully with federal authorities in this process,” the statement said.
A Holy Infant parishioner whose sons were friendly with Vatterott read a statement to the court in which she alleged actions that went beyond child pornography.
“Father Vatterott violated my sons and invaded my family with his perversions,” she said. “I am vindicated knowing we were right about this man. Priest or not, what he has done is wrong.”
Vatterott said in his own statement to the court that he was “truly sorry for what I’ve done,” and blamed his behavior on alcoholism.
“Forever in my life, I’ll be paying for these mistakes,” he said. “I’ll do everything I can to become holier, to become healthier.”
When U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber reminded Vatterott that “this was more about being a sex offender than an alcoholic,” Vatterott returned to talking about his alcoholism.
“These actions were done under the influence of alcohol,” said Vatterott, who is now enrolled in Alcoholics Anonymous. “Without alcohol in my life, these kinds of mistakes will not be made.”
Asked outside court about the judge’s concern that Vatterott was blaming alcohol for his behavior, the priest’s attorney, Charles Billings, said “that was the judge’s interpretation.”
“I think (Vatterott) has taken full responsibility for all his conduct,” he said.
An Archdiocese spokeswoman said Vatterott would no longer be paid now that he had pleaded guilty. The Archdiocese will forward Vatterott’s case to the Vatican to determine whether he should be laicized, or removed from the priesthood.