An Australian court on Monday convicted the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, for covering up a priest’s sexual abuse of children in New South Wales. The conviction makes him the senior-most Catholic official to be charged and convicted of the offence, BBC reported. The development comes at a time when the Roman Catholic Church is mired in child abuse allegations.
Wilson has denied that one of the two altar boys abused by priest James Fletcher in the 1970s had told him about the crime. He was an assistant priest in Maitland at that time. The victim claimed that Wilson had accused of him lying about the crimes and had called Fletcher “a good bloke”, The Guardian reported.
Magistrate Robert Stone said that Wilson knew “what he was hearing was a credible allegation and the accused wanted to protect the Church and its reputation”, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Fletcher was convicted of nine child sexual abuse charges in 2004. He died in jail in two years later.
Wilson’s lawyers had demanded that the case be dismissed as he has Alzheimer’s disease. After the conviction, the archbishop said: “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.”
The court will pronounce the quantum of the sentence in June.