Archbishop Philip Wilson’s involvement in turning a blind eye to or covering up Fletcher’s heinous crimes resulted in a criminal charge against Wilson; he was found guilty two months ago. “I am obviously disappointed at the decision published today,” the Adelaide archbishop Wilson said back then about the verdict. “I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps.”
The archbishop was sentenced to 12 months in prison on 3 July and ordered to serve a minimum of six months. He immediately launched an appeal against the conviction. In August, the court will assess whether Wilson can serve his sentence under home detention. Wilson had been spared prison earlier in July and sentenced to six months' home detention in Australia because of his poor health and advanced age.
The Guardian reports: Despite calls for his resignation from many quarters, Wilson insisted he would not step aside until his legal options were exhausted. However, in a brief statement released at midday in Rome, the Vatican announced the Pope had accepted Wilson’s resignation.
Wilson said in a statement released on Monday, maintaining his innocence: “I made this decision because I have become increasingly worried at the growing level of hurt that my recent conviction has caused within the community.”
“I had hoped to defer this decision until after the appeal process had been completed. However, there is just too much pain and distress being caused by my maintaining the office of archbishop of Adelaide, especially to the victims of [James] Fletcher.”
At the weekend, Francis accepted the resignation of the US cleric Theodore McCarrick as cardinal after allegations of sexual abuse, including claims involving an 11-year-old boy. Last month, the pope accepted the resignation of Juan Barros and the resignation of four other Chilean bishops over a cover-up of clerical sexual abuse. Pope Francis had twice rejected Barros’ resignation and insisted: “I am convinced he is innocent.” He has admitted he made “grave errors” in judgment in a clerical sexual abuse scandal in Chile and invited the abuse victims he had discredited to Rome to beg their forgiveness.
There had been intense pressure on Philip Wilson to officially step down from the role. The Australian Prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, took the highly unusual step of publicly calling on the pope to remove Wilson, welcomed his resignation, saying it belatedly recognized the many calls for him to resign as archbishop of Adelaide. Turnbull added: “There is no more important responsibility for community and church leaders than the protection of children.”
Photo Credits: The Australian