“Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson charged with concealing child sex abuse” & related articles

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ABC Updated March 17, 2015, 7:24 pm

Adelaide Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson has been charged with concealing child sexual abuse.

The charges relate to Hunter regionpaedophile priest Jim Fletcher, who worked with the Archbishop in NSW in the 1970s.

Wilson announced in a statement he would take leave from his position after being notified of the charges filed against him by NSW Police.

NSW Police said its operation, Strike Force Lantle, launched in 2010, investigated allegations of concealment of serious offences related to child abuse by clergy “formerly and currently attached to the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese of the Catholic Church”.

They alleged that Wilson, 64, concealed a serious offence.

He is due to appear in the Newcastle Local Court on April 30.

Wilson is a former Bishop of Wollongong*,* where he was known as a “healing bishop” for his handling of child-abuse scandals.

Wilson to ‘vigorously defend innocence’

Wilson issued a statement acknowledging the charges filed against him by police.

“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 said.

The statement said that the allegation was first brought to his attention last year and he “completely denied” it.

“I intend to vigorously defend my innocence through the judicial system and I have retained senior counsel, Mr Ian Temby AO, who will represent me in respect of it,” Wilson said in a statement.

In the statement he referred to his participation at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in NSW and SA and said his evidence at the hearings was indicative of his efforts to “best-practice child protection measures”.

“I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to dealing proactively with the issue of child sexual abuse and the implementation of best-practice child protection measures which I have pioneered since becoming a bishop,” he said.

Important day for Australia: child abuse victim

A victim of Fletcher, Peter Gogarty, said he felt overwhelming relief that a police investigation had resulted in charges against the Catholic Archbishop.

“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 said.

“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.”

Pat Feenan’s son Daniel was abused by Fletcher and said it had been a “long and hard journey” for him.

“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 Feenan said.

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

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Archbishop Philip Wilson becomes world’s most senior Catholic charged with concealing child abuse

The Sydney Morning Herald

Date 17 March 2015

Joanne McCarthyCharged: Archbishop Philip Wilson.

Charged: Archbishop Philip Wilson. Photo: David Mariuz

Former Hunter priest Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has become the most senior Catholic clergyman in the world to be charged with concealing a child sex abuse allegation against another priest on what a Hunter paedophile priest victim has described as “a Saint Patrick’s Day we’ll never forget”.

The Adelaide archbishop was charged on Tuesday with one count of concealing a child sex allegation made against the late Hunter priest Jim Fletcher in the 1970s, nearly nine months after the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry recommended the charge.

He is one of only a handful of Catholic clergymen in the world to be charged with concealing a child sex allegation against another priest, and only the third in Australia after the late Toronto priest Tom Brennan became the first to face such a charge in 2012.

Archbishop Wilson, the vice-president of the Australian Bishops Conference, denied the allegation in a statement on Tuesday and said he would vigorously defend the 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 said.

“From the time this was first brought to my attention last year, I have completely denied the allegation.”

The archbishop has taken indefinite leave while he defends the matter.

News of the charge meant tears for some Hunter child sex abuse victims and survivors, and relief that police from Newcastle strike force Lantle had finally been able to lay a charge after concerns about the length of time Commissioner Margaret Cunneen’s recommendation had been with the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“I’m stunned. When I first heard about it I cried and cried,” said Fletcher victim and longtime advocate for victims Peter Gogarty.

“This is an important step in the process of identifying who did know what was going on with these priests, and it’s significant for anyone who has ever been sexually abused as a child, whether in the Catholic Church or other institution, or for that matter in their own home by a family member.

“What this says is that no-one’s above the law.”

He did not believe a senior Catholic clergyman would ever be charged with concealing a child sex allegation because “it was like a hill too high”.

“But having said that this is an absolute tribute to everyone involved, and proof that our system of justice works.”

Fletcher victim Daniel Feenan, whose allegations about the priest to Hunter detective Peter Fox in 2003 led to Fletcher’s conviction and jailing until his death in 2006, said he was pleased and relieved.

“I wanted it (the charge against Archbishop Wilson) to happen, but I was concerned that through the process, no one had the balls to actually do it,” Mr Feenan said.

“The church didn’t think people like me would still hang on after all this time and expect people to be held to account, but we did, and this is a significant day.”

A  Newcastle woman, 61, who was a victim of notorious Hunter paedophile priest Denis McAlinden, and whose documents led to the establishment of strike force Lantle, said she felt good on behalf of all children who had ever been sexually abused, and hoped it would give hope to children suffering child sexual abuse today.

“I didn’t just do this for me. I did it for everyone who’s felt powerless against someone more powerful. It’s been a really long hard journey but it’s been worth it.

“I didn’t know what to say when the police rang to tell me he had been charged. I was in shock. I couldn’t answer for a second. I had to get them to repeat it about 10 times. This is a Saint Patrick’s Day we’ll never forget.

“The Catholic Church has made out that we survivors were the bad people but we weren’t. We were children. I’m absolutely disgusted with the church, and I’m glad people are being held to account.”

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Archbishop of Adelaide charged over concealing children’s sex abuse

Philip Wilson faces up to two years’ jail over his alleged cover-up of abuse by another priest, Jim Fletcher, in the 1970s

The Guardian

Tuesday 17 March 2015 04.22 GMT

Helen Davidson
@heldavidson

philip wilson
Archbishop Philip Wilson is believed to be the highest-ranking Catholic official in the world to face criminal charges of this type. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP
The archbishop of Adelaide has been charged by police over his alleged concealment of the sexual abuse of children by a priest in the 1970s.

On Tuesday New South Wales police charged Philip Wilson, 64, of concealing a serious offence, and issued a court attendance notice.

It is alleged Wilson covered up knowledge of alleged abuse by priest Jim Fletcher in the 70s, the Australian reported.

The report said Wilson is believed to be the highest-ranking Catholic official in the world to face criminal charges of this type. He faces up to two years’ jail.

Wilson, who is the vice president of the Australian Catholic bishops conference, and Fletcher, who died in 2006, were both employed in the Maitland diocese at the time of the abuse.

In 2004 Fletcher was jailed over the rape of a young boy between 1989 and 1991. He died while serving his sentence.

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon Wilson said he was disappointed the police had decided to file a charge.

“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 said.

“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.”

WIlson also reaffirmed his commitment “to dealing proactively with the issue of child sexual abuse and the implementation of best-practice child protection measures which I have pioneered since becoming a bishop,” adding that his efforts have been “widely acknowledged”.
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The NSW special commission of inquiry, which investigated the handling of abuse allegations in the region, identified at least five known victims of Fletcher, “each of whom was as a child sexually abused by him over a number of months, and often years”.

It described Fletcher as having an “extensive history” of the abuse of children, in particular altar boys, dating back to the 70s.

The charges laid come from investigations by the dedicated strike force Lantle, which has operated since 2010 specifically “to investigate allegations of concealment of serious offences related to child abuse by clergy formerly and currently attached to the Maitland-Newcastle diocese of the Catholic church”, NSW police said.

In 2012 the Lantle brief of evidence was forwarded to the state’s director of public prosecutions seeking advice on its evidence and its adequacy to prosecute members of the Catholic church over concealment of child sexual assault.

In May 2014 the special commission found there was “sufficient evidence warranting the prosecution of a senior church official in connection with the concealment of child sexual abuse relating to Fletcher”.

The inquiry, headed up by the former NSW crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, released three of its four report volumes to the public. The fourth related to Fletcher and was kept confidential “in order to protect potential future criminal proceedings” and did not name the “senior church official”.

Wilson is due to appear in Newcastle local court on Thursday, 30 April.

5 Responses to “Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson charged with concealing child sex abuse” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    I realize that bishop hasn’t been convicted, but enough evidence has been rounded up to lay charges.

    Good news. This is what must happen. Those who enable and protect molesters must be held accountable.

  2. Victim of another Archbishop cover up says:

    Let us all hope that this is just the first Archbishop to be criminally charged after protecting a pedophile priest with his silence.

    If only other Police around the world followed this Australian precedent.

    A wonderful in depth coverage Sylvia, well done as usual.

  3. Juan Barros as Bishop Osorno: enabler Bishop consecrated. says:

    The Church have consecrated a Bishop in Chile in circumstances which are totally inappropriate. Juan Barros is now Bishop of Osorno. This man is an enabler and the crowds which gathered to protest his consecrated were held back by Chilean Police. Demonstrators dressed in funeral garb we kept out of the Cathedral by Police.

    The Nuncio is silent. This open channel to the is perhaps Pope blocked.

  4. Mike Mc says:

    “The church didn’t think people like me would still hang on after all this time and expect people to be held to account, but we did, and this is a significant day.”

    I hope that statement is heard around the world!

    We need more people who have been abused years ago to come out. I’m almost positive many Bishops and Cardinals today would be prosecuted today. Why?

    I believe this knowledge of abuse was rampant in the Church, and Clergy in authority did nothing but remain silent or shuffle priests around. This is nothing new, I know. But this arch Bishop in Australia (and highest ranking official in the world to go through this) is a good example and we need more accusations and trials. Like an iceberg, we are only seeing the surface; and although much of the berg will always be down under in secrecy, bergs here in Nfld are known to suddenly turn over and cause quite a wave. Hopefully the hidden berg turned over will reveal the Church’s secrets and dishonesty over the years. Remember, icebergs do melt. We need to reveal the problems of the Church’s last 50 years now!

    Sylvia, I am constantly amazed that the Church still harbors these Clergy and hires expensive lawyers to defend them. Why not just admit guilt, help the abused, beg forgiveness, repent and make amends…and ask the ‘people’ of our Church to decide.

  5. Sylvia says:

    I love your analogy with icebergs Mike Mc.

    “..although much of the berg will always be down under in secrecy, bergs here in Nfld are known to suddenly turn over and cause quite a wave.”

    Food for thought 🙂

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