Since the 1980s, the Catholic Church has been plagued with reports of child sexual abuse and it appears this scandal is continuing to blight the Church and local communities. In Australia, the Archbishop of Adelaide was prosecuted for his role in covering up paedophilic behaviour in New South Wales on Tuesday (3rd July).
Six -month sentence
Philip Wilson who has served as Archbishop of Adelaide since 2001 was handed a six -month sentence following a guilty verdict in May for his role in covering up the abuse of altar boys by priest James Fletcher in the 1970s. Despite Magistrate Robert Stone handing Wilson, a 12- month prison sentence, the ruling is set to be altered to a six-month sentence which would be carried out at home followed by a further six-month probation period due to his health.
It is believed Wilson is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s which came to light during his trial when he stated he did not remember Fletcher’s victims reporting the priest’s behaviour to him. It will be decided in August whether Wilson is fit enough to carry out his sentence in prison.
Since Wilson’s trial in May there have been calls for the Archbishop to resign from his position. People speaking in favour of him resigning include Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who stated he is not “surprised that he has not resigned”. The Archbishop in response has stated he is aware of people wanting him to resign and “have taken them very seriously” although no action has been taken by Wilson to resign.
Following exposure of systemic child sexual abuse, ACT & South Australia have legislated to remove confessional protections. Tasmania & NSW are poised to do the same. As in Ireland, the Catholic Church is being dragged kicking & screaming into the 21st century.
— Peter Fox 🦊🇦🇺 (@Peter_Fox59) June 20, 2018
Within the local community there has been a reaction to the court case including some of Fletcher’s victims who were “disappointed” that Wilson was not immediately detained and sent to prison. By others it has been noted that the Archbishop’s prosecution is an achievement as Wilson is the highest ranked member of the Catholic Church to be punished for their role in the sexual abuse scandal.
This incident in New South Wales is part of a broader pattern of sexual abuse of children that first emerged in the 1980s when cases of minors being abused by clergymen were first uncovered. The scandal gained global attention in 2002 when the Boston Globe published the stories of victims who were minors at the time of the abuse. This report by the Boston Globe which won the Pulitzer Prize led to increased awareness and to date twelve countries have reported abuse by members of the Catholic clergy.