Australia: Catholic archbishop allegedly concealed sexual abuse

politics | Mar 17, 2015 | By Martin Barillas

Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, Australia, has been charged with concealing the sexual abuse of children. The charges stem from the case of Rev. Jim Fletcher, who worked with Wilson in New South Wales in the 1970s. Reverend Fletcher died in 2006, just a year after going to prison on a seven-and-a-half year sentence. He was convicted of nine sexual abuse charges involving a teenaged male between 1989 and 1991. An inquiry into the alleged concealment by the Catholic hierarchy of sexual abuse in the Hunter region found that Fletcher had an extensive history of sexually abusing children in the diocese - exclusively young male altar servers. The inquiry found "His offending history dates back at least to the 1970s.".
 
The archbishop issued a statement on March 16 that he is taking a leave of absence. Local police said its Strike Force investigated allegations of concealment of serious offenses of clerical sexual abuse "formerly and currently attached to the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese of the Catholic Church." NSW Police allege that the 65-year-old archbishop concealed a serious offense. He will appear in court on April 30.
 
Archbishop Wilson was once Bishop of Wollongong. There he was known as the "healing bishop" for his handling of accusations of child-abuse. He intends to vigorously defend his innocence. In a statement, Wilson said "The suggestion appears to be that I failed to bring to the attention of police a conversation I am alleged to have had in 1976, when I was a junior priest, that a now deceased priest had abused a child."  The allegation was first brought to his attention in 2014. At that time, he “completely denied" it. In the statement, Wilson said "I intend to vigorously defend my innocence through the judicial system and I have retained senior counsel, Mr Ian Temby AO, who will represent me in respect of it." 
 
The churchman defended his work with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in New South Wales and South Australia, saying that his efforts reflected "best-practice child protection measures." Said Archbishop Wilson, "I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to dealing proactively with the issue of child sexual abuse and the implementation of best-practice child protection measures which I have pioneered since becoming a bishop." 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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