Father William F. Vatterott, former pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in south St. Louis, was sentenced to 37 months in a federal penitentiary Aug. 30 after entering a guilty plea in federal court to one count of possession of child pornography.
Father Vatterott has been on administrative leave from St. Cecilia since June of 2011, when the archdiocese was made aware of allegations involving inappropriate electronic communications received by a minor and an incident of underage drinking. The original complaint made no mention of child pornography. Since that time, law enforcement officials have been conducting an investigation, during which the child pornography allegations surfaced.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment of Father Vatterott April 24. Father Vatterott, 37, was charged with possessing child pornography between June 2010 and June 2011. A conviction could have carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan earlier noted that the Archdiocese of St. Louis cooperated with the investigation.
In 2007, Father Vatterott was named associate pastor of St. Cecilia and later became pastor of the parish. Previously he was associate pastor at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin.
A statement from the archdiocese stressed that child pornography is a sin and a crime. "The archdiocese fully supports the prosecution of crimes against children. Today, we pray for the safety and dignity of all children in our archdiocese and around the world," the statement noted.
The Safe Environment Program set forth by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is used in the archdiocese. Anyone who works with or volunteers with children on a regular basis must complete the Protecting God's Children workshop and pass a state background check.
The archdiocese encourages anyone with reports of misconduct with a minor involving a member of the clergy or other Church personnel to contact Deacon Phil Hengen, director of child and youth protection, at (314) 792-7704, the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at (800) 392-3738 or law enforcement officials.