Australian Archbishop Sentenced to Year's Detention for Not Reporting Sexual Abuse

The archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, is likely to serve his sentence under house arrest. A judge must confirm that arrangement next month.

Archbishop Philip Wilson
Archbishop Philip Wilson (photo: CNA file photo)

ADELAIDE, Australia — The archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, was sentenced Tuesday to a 12-month sentence after being convicted in May of failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse disclosed to him in the 1970s.

The archbishop is likely to serve his sentence under house arrest and be fitted with an electronic monitoring bracelet, according to media reports. A judge must confirm that arrangement at an Aug. 14 hearing before it can be finalized.

Archbishop Wilson, 67, has not resigned from his position as archbishop of Adelaide.

Pope Francis appointed June 3 Jesuit Bishop Greg O’Kelly, bishop of Australia’s Diocese of Port Pirie, to serve as apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, entrusting him with day-to-day leadership responsibilities. Bishop O’Kelly, 76, is not expected to succeed Archbishop Wilson, especially since he has already surpassed the age at which bishops customarily submit a resignation letter to the pope.

At Archbishop Wilson’s sentencing hearing July 3, Magistrate Robert Stone said he had shown “no remorse or contrition” before imposing the sentence.

Archbishop Wilson was convicted of concealing child sexual abuse committed by a fellow parish priest in New South Wales in the 1970s. At the time, he had been ordained a priest for only one year.

The victims of the scandal, Peter Creigh and another altar boy who is unnamed for legal reasons, said they both had told Father Wilson of their abusive experience with Father James Fletcher.

During the trial, Creigh said that he told Father Wilson in graphic detail of the abuse in 1976, five years after it had occurred. However, Father Wilson said the conversation never took place, noting in a court hearing April 11, “I don’t think I would have forgotten that.”

The second victim said he had told Father Wilson of the abuse in the confessional in 1976, but said that Father Wilson had dismissed the boy with a penance, saying that he was lying. Archbishop Wilson said he would never tell someone in the confessional that they were untruthful and that he did not remember having seen the boy at all in 1976.

Father Fletcher was convicted of nine counts of sexual abuse and was jailed in 2006. He died of a stroke within the year. Archbishop Wilson said he had no previous suspicions about the integrity of Father Fletcher’s character.

Archbishop Wilson also told the court that if he had been notified of the scandal, he would have offered pastoral care to the victims and their families and reported the event to his superiors.

His legal team argued during the trial that child sexual abuse was not understood in the 1970s to be a crime that was required to be reported to authorities. Stone, however, said that protecting the Catholic Church was Father Wilson’s “primary motive” for failing to report the abuse allegations.