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Adelaide Now: Historisk sigtelse mod katolsk ærkebiskop

18. marts 2015

Adelaide Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson has been charged with concealing child sex abuse, committed by another clergyman three decades ago.


ARCHBISHOP Philip Wilson faces up to two years’ jail if he is found guilty of concealing sexual abuse within the Catholic Church as alleged by NSW police.

The Archbishop of Adelaide on Tuesday became the highest-ranking Catholic Church official in the world to be charged with concealing sexual abuse within the church.

He strenuously denies the allegation of concealing a serious indictable offence.

The charge follows investigations by Strike Force Lantle — a team of NSW detectives set up to specifically investigate allegations of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in the 1970s by paedophile priest Jim Fletcher.

Archbishop Wilson, 64, who at the time of the alleged offence in 1976 was a junior priest working in the diocese, will appear in Newcastle Court on April 30.

Archbishop Wilson on Tuesday night refused to elaborate on a statement his office released several hours after he was advised of the charge.

“I have made a statement and I am taking some leave and taking advice from other people. I have nothing more to say,” he said.

In his earlier statement he vowed to “vigorously defend my innocence’’ in court.

He has engaged prominent Sydney barrister Ian Temby, QC, and is taking extended leave, rather than standing aside.

His decision not to stand aside has prompted calls for the church to force him to do so until the charge against him is finalised, according to abuse victims and their families.

A spokesman for the Broken Rites victim support group, Dr Bernard Barrett, expressed surprise Archbishop Wilson was only taking leave after being formally charged by police.

“Many people will be surprised that Archbishop Wilson is not standing aside from his position while the criminal charge is pending,’’ he said.

“Usually, when a person in a position of trust is charged with a criminal offence, the public expects that he or she will stand down until the judicial process is completed.”

Peter Mitchell, the father of a disabled child abused by notorious paedophile Brian Perkins while he was employed at St Ann’s special school between 1987 and 1991, said he felt “the hierarchy of the church should immediately step in and ensure’’ Archbishop Wilson stood aside.

“I just don’t understand, any archbishop or priest should be forced to stand aside or be stood down while a charge such as this is finalised,’’ he said.

“It doesn’t matter if it is him or any other priest in the same situation, they should step aside until the truth is uncovered in court.’’

Archbishop Wilson declined interviews yesterday, but his statement said he was “disappointed to have been notified by the NSW Police that it has decided to file a charge in respect of this matter.

“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,’’ he states.

“From the time this was first brought to my attention last year, I have completely denied the allegation. I intend to vigorously defend my innocence through the judicial system”.

Archbishop Denis Hart, the Archbishop of Melbourne and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference — of which Archbishop Wilson is the vice-president — said Archbishop Wilson “strongly maintains his innocence’’.

“The presumption of innocence applies to Archbishop Wilson as it does to all citizens subject to criminal charges before the court,’’ he said in a statement. “I urge people not to make any judgment until the charge against Archbishop Wilson has been dealt with by the court. I hope that this matter will be resolved without undue delay.’’

Archbishop Wilson is also expected to take leave from the ACBC and all other church committees.

Peter Gogarty, a victim of dead paedophile priest Jim Fletcher, who was at the centre of Strike Force Lantle investigations, said he felt relief that an investigation had resulted in charges against Archbishop Wilson.

“I think it’s a very, very important day for Australia, that we’ve now had someone in such a high position charged,” Mr Gogarty told ABC radio.

“I hasten to add, everyone in this country is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but ... the fact that our legal system has decided to charge someone this senior is enormously significant.”

The mother of another of Fletcher’s victims, Daniel Feenan, said it had been a “long and hard journey”.

“I’m just very proud of my son and I’m proud of all the victims who have had the courage to stand up,” Ms Pat Feenan said.

“The fight’s not over, the journey’s not over, I’ll keep working to support victims.”

At the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse sitting in Adelaide last year, Archbishop Wilson said the church had learned lessons from the manner in which abuse complaints were handled in previous eras.

The royal commission was examining the Adelaide Diocese’s response to the sexual abuse of students at St Ann’s special school by paedophile bus driver Brian Perkins.

“Please, God, it will never happen again, but I would hope that if it did that we would have learnt by experience now of how to handle these situations with the best possible outcome for the families and the victims,’’ he said.

It was “business as usual” at St Francis Xavier Cathedral last night as about 40 parishioners — some wearing green — made their way to the pews for the evening mass, which recognised St Patrick.

Hele artiklen er <her>

- - - Chris Geraghty, a former Catholic priest who left to become a lawyer and then a NSW district court judge—and later wrote a confronting memoir, Dancing With The Devil—explains the significance of the charges

Kilde: <her>

Wikipedia: Philip Wilson