22 May 2018

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

Philip Wilson has today announced he will stand down from his role as Archbishop of Adelaide but says he won't resign until "it becomes necessary or appropriate''. 

The Archbishop was found guilty of concealing child sexual abuse at a hearing in Newcastle Local Court yesterday.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has supported Archbishop Wilson's decision acknowledging that "though difficult, it was appropriate under the circumstances".

Archbishop Wilson, 67, announced that after considering the judgement handed down by Magistrate Robert Stone he would step aside on Friday.

"I have taken the opportunity overnight to consider His Honour's reasons. I am still considering those reasons together with my legal advisors. While I do so, it is appropriate that, in the light of some of his Honour's findings, I stand aside from my duties as Archbishop," he said.

"I am now putting in place the necessary administrative arrangements to ensure that the affairs of the Archdiocese are managed responsibly. I therefore intend to step aside as of Friday this week once those arrangements are in place.

"If at any point in time it becomes necessary or appropriate for me to take more formal steps, including by resigning as Archbishop, then I will do so.

"In the meantime, while the remainder of the legal process runs its course, I want to assure the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of my continued prayers and best wishes and assure everyone that the affairs of the Archdiocese will be appropriately managed in my absence."

Archbishop Wilson was found guilty of covering up abuse by priest Jim Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s.

The prosecution alleged the Archbishop knew late paedophile priest James Patrick Fletcher had indecently assaulted Hunter Valley man Peter Creigh when he was a 10-year-old altar boy, and that despite knowing that information, he failed to assist police in prosecuting Fletcher.

Mr Creigh told the court that in 1976, when he was 15, he told Archbishop Wilson, then a priest, what Fletcher had done to him years earlier in 1971.

Mr Creigh claims he raised the matter again with Archbishop Wilson months later but nothing was done.

Fletcher died in jail in 2006.

In handing down his guilty verdict Magistrate Stone said he found "the offence proved" and Mr Creigh to be an honest and reliable witness.

The Archbishop faced an eight-day trial earlier this year after being charged in March, 2015, with one count of concealing a serious indictable offence. The charge carries a maximum penalty of two-year imprisonment.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Mark Coleridge said: "Our prayers are with all those who have felt the impact of this long legal process, including the survivors who shared their stories, as well as with the Archdiocese of Adelaide and with Archbishop Wilson himself".

"The Catholic Church, like other institutions, has learned a great deal about the tragedy of child sexual abuse and has implemented stronger programs, policies and procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults.

"The safety of children and vulnerable adults is paramount for the Church and it's ministries."

The prosecution has called for a custodial sentence.

Archbishop Wilson remains on bail until his sentence hearing on June 19.

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