NEWCASTLE, New South Wales (ChurchMilitant.com) - An Australian archbishop is facing home detention for failing to report on sex abuse allegations.
Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, who resigned from his seat in the archdiocese in late July, is the highest-ranking Catholic prelate in the world to be criminally convicted for covering up priestly sex abuse.
Convicted in May, the former archbishop was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment on July 2. Given Wilson's declining health, serving a home sentence was deemed a potential alternative to prison time. On Tuesday, court magistrate Robert Stone decided Wilson should spend the 12 months in home detention.
Wilson will have to wear an electronic tracking device and will apparently live with family near Newcastle.
As a priest in the 1970s, Wilson was stationed at the same parish as convicted sex abuser Fr. James Fletcher, who passed away in prison in 2006. Two male victims of Fletcher's abuse, who were altar boys at the time, claim that Wilson ignored their complaints to him about Fr. Fletcher's abuse.
One of Fletcher's victims, Peter Gogarty, tried to confront Wilson outside the courthouse Tuesday, demanding an apology.
Wilson ignored him, being silent amidst an ocean of reporters, microphones and cameras. But a supporter of Wilson lost his temper and insulted Gogarty: "I haven't got time for rubbish like you."
Gogarty complained about the archbishop's behavior, saying, "The archbishop does not have a single, solitary word to say to anybody like me that says 'sorry for your suffering.'"
He also ranted against the Catholic Church at large, calling it a "disgusting, corrupt organization," and saying all that Church leaders care about is "money."
“I haven’t got time for rubbish like you." A supporter of former Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson has shocked church abuse victim Peter Gogarty outside Newcastle Local Court today. Report on 7 News at 6pm. #7News pic.twitter.com/DO9l3Ix4Sy— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) August 14, 2018
According to some reports, one of the victims says he talked about Fletcher's abuse with Wilson during confession, but Wilson dismissed his complaints because he held Fletcher in high esteem.
The fact that it allegedly happened in the confessional hinders Wilson's ability to defend himself publicly, as canon law strictly prohibits violating the Seal of Confession.
During the trial, Wilson said he did not remember ever hearing from the two boys about Fr. Fletcher's abuse. Wilson said he doubts he would have forgotten something as important as allegations of sex abuse, but has hinted it might be possible, given his old age and the decades that have passed.