THE Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Revd Philip Wilson, has been found guilty of concealing child sexual abuse when he was a newly ordained priest in the Hunter region of New South Wales, in 1976. He will be sentenced next month; imprisonment for two years is a possibility.
He has been Archbishop of Adelaide since 2001. He is believed to be the highest-ranking Roman Catholic cleric convicted of failure to report abuse.
Archbishop Wilson, who is 67, and who has not stood down from his see, was accused of not reporting allegations brought to him against another priest, Fr James Fletcher, who was later imprisoned for child sexual abuse. He has since died.
The Archbishop, who denies the allegations, has issued a statement saying that he is “disappointed” with the decision of the Newcastle Local Court, and is considering his options.
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has been criticised for its failure to call on Archbishop Wilson to stand down; its brief statement, however, says that “the safety of children and vulnerable adults is paramount for the Church and its ministries.”
The co-chair of the South Australian Law Society’s criminal law committee, Craig Caldicott, has said that the verdict is important because of the precedent it sets. It was, he suggested, the “tip of the iceberg”, and other church leaders could potentially face similar charges in the future.