Anger is mounting in Australia over the refusal of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, to resign after he was sentenced this week to a year’s detention for covering up clerical sex abuse – and pressure is being put on Pope Francis to sack him.
According to this report, child sexual abuse survivor Peter Gogarty has written directly to the Pope urging him to get rid of Wilson.
As the only person in the world who can take decisive action in this regard, I urge you to dismiss him from his post immediately.
You, as Pope, as head of a so-called sovereign state, as the head of the Vatican and of the worldwide Catholic community, must know that the already shattered reputation of your institution is being further eroded by Wilson’s decision.
Meanwhile, it’s reported here that Wilson’s closest bishop colleagues have advised him to resign after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called for his resignation following his jail sentence on Tuesday.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Mark Coleridge confirmed that a number of Australian bishops had “offered their advice privately”, after Wilson’s refusal to resign was widely condemned on Wednesday when he announced his decision to appeal his conviction for concealing child sex allegations.
A number of survivors, prominent Australians and other members of the community have publicly called on Archbishop Wilson to resign.
Although we have no authority to compel him to do so, a number of Australian bishops have also offered their advice privately. Only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign.
He said the bishops respected Wilson’s right to lodge an appeal but:
We also recognise the ongoing pain this has caused survivors, especially those who were abused by Jim Fletcher.
Peter Gogarty, above, and Daniel Feenan, who were both sexually abused by Jim Fletcher after Wilson was told in 1976 that Fletcher was a paedophile who abused altar boys, said they were pleased bishops had acted and politicians had supported abuse survivors in calling for Wilson’s resignation.
I’m delighted the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is showing some more fortitude about this. They’re a bit slow to catch up.
They’ve probably been stung into action with the number of politicians who’ve called on the archbishop to resign. I’m not sure the bishops would have done this without that kind of pressure.
Now, surely, surely Archbishop Wilson will do the right thing and resign.
Gogarty said Australia’s bishops had the opportunity:
To get on the right side of history on this or risk further damage to their already shattered reputation. The Catholic Church says it’s changed and it’s more open and transparent and accountable. Well, show some of that, (Pope) Francis, and make Wilson resign.
Wilson, according to this report, announced that he would appeal the verdict and resist public pressure to resign. He said he would only offer his resignation to Pope Francis if his appeal fails in the New South Wales state District Court.
I am conscious of calls for me to resign and have taken them very seriously. However, at this time, I am entitled to exercise my legal rights and to follow the due process of law. Since that process is not yet complete, I do not intend to resign at this time.
He remains free on bail and will return to court next month to find out whether he will serve his sentence in prison or at his sister’s house in home detention. He must serve a minimum of six months before becoming eligible for parole.
If the District Court upholds a Newcastle magistrate’s verdict, Wilson would have another two tiers of appeal courts available to him in a process that could take years.