Australian archbishop convicted of covering up sex abuse, faces two years in prison
NEWCASTLE, Australia, May 22, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson is now the highest-ranked Catholic prelate to have been convicted of covering up sex abuse. The Australian archbishop, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, faces two years in prison.
He will be sentenced on June 19.
Wilson was the chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in the early 2000s, as the Church’s homosexual pedophile priest crisis was beginning to unfold.
“In April 2018, [Wilson] was charged of concealing child sex abuse committed by Fr. James Fletcher during the 1970s,” International Business Times reported. “Witnesses said they complained to Wilson of the abuse but he failed to follow up.”
Two altar boys allegedly told Wilson about being molested by Fletcher, who was convicted of nine counts of child abuse in 2004 and died in 2006.
Wilson, an assistant priest at the time, maintains he didn’t know about the abuse.
“During his trial, the archbishop said no one had ever come forward to tell him of allegations of child sex abuse during his 40 years as a clergyman,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. “Wilson's legal team made four attempts to have the case thrown out, arguing it was not in the public interest and that his diagnosis of Alzheimer's should preclude him from trial — although it did not preclude him from retaining his position in the church.”
According to the Associated Press, one of the altar boys allegedly told Wilson about it in the confessional. Priests risk excommunication for revealing anything said to them in the confessional.
The Catholic Church teaches that the seal of confession is an essential part of that sacrament, so that people can freely confess their sins and be forgiven. The seal of confession has become an issue in some parts of the world, including Australia, where some want Catholic priests to reveal things heard in Confession if related to sex abuse.
“Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs (CCC 1467). “This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the ‘sacramental seal,’ because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains ‘sealed’ by the sacrament.”
“I am obviously disappointed at the decision published today,” said Wilson. “I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps.”
Australian Cardinal George Pell is also being tried for allegedly committing sexual abuse himself. Half of the charges against him were thrown out earlier this month, but he still faces two separate trials. The charges against Pell have been called a “witch trial.”
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