MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson said yesterday he would stand aside from his duties, a day after a court found him guilty of concealing child sex abuse by a priest.
Wilson, who faces up to two years in prison, said he was still considering the court’s reasons for the judgment. “While I do so, it is appropriate that, in the light of some of his honour’s findings, I stand aside from my duties as archbishop,” Wilson said in a statement emailed to media.
The archbishop of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia state, and former president of the Catholic Church’s top body in Australia, said he will permanently resign as archbishop if it becomes “necessary or appropriate”.
Lawyers for Wilson, 67, had argued that he did not know that Fletcher had abused a boy. Fletcher was found guilty in 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse and died in jail in 2006 following a stroke.
Last year, Australia completed a five-year government-appointed inquiry into child sex abuse in churches and other institutions, amid allegations worldwide that churches had protected paedophile priests by moving them from parish to parish.