ADELAIDE Archbishop Philip Wilson has been found guilty of concealing child sex abuse in a case that dates back to the 1970s.
Appearing in Newcastle Local Court on May 22, magistrate Robert Stone handed down the verdict following a magistrate-only trial, finding Archbishop Wilson, 67, guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person between April 22, 2004 and January 2006.
He now faces a maximum two years in jail, with sentencing due on June 19.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said it was not clear if Archbishop Wilson would appeal the verdict.
“Archbishop Wilson maintained his innocence throughout this long judicial process,” Archbishop Coleridge said in a statement following the court decision.
It is more than three years after Archbishop Wilson was first charged, and according to multiple news reports, he has consistently denied claims that he was involved in the cover-up of abuse by a priest, Jim Fletcher, who died in jail in 2006.
Archbishop Wilson has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
His lawyers argued this meant he should not stand trial, however, this argument was rejected in court.
During the case, The Australian newspaper reported Archbishop Wilson told the court that two former altar boys never told him that Fletcher had sexually abused them.
The newspaper reported that Archbishop Wilson told the court he had known one of the former altar boys Peter Creigh and his family when he was an assistant priest in the New South Wales Hunter region in the mid-1970s, however Archbishop Wilson said he had no memory of Mr Creigh telling him in 1976 how he had been sexually abused by Fletcher five years earlier, when he was 10.
“The Catholic Church, like other institutions, has learned a great deal about the tragedy of child abuse and has implemented stronger programs, policies and procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“The safety of children and vulnerable adults is paramount for the Church and its ministries.”
Following the publishing of the 59-page judgment by Magistrate Robert Stone in the Newcastle Local Court this morning, Archbishop Philip Wilson said in a statement released this afternoon: “I am obviously disappointed at the decision published today. I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps.”
“I do not propose to make any further comment at this stage.”