Archbishop Philip Wilson was meant to be a trusted member of society. In times of need, we are supposed to be able to look up to “leaders” like Wilson.
However, Archbishop Philip Wilson was no role model.
Wilson was the highest-ranking Catholic Church official charged with concealing child sex abuse in Australia.
He allegedly knew children were being molested at the hands of priests in his Catholic Church, and armed with the knowledge of these horrendous crimes, he chose to protect the criminal sexual abuser. He chose not to report the information to the authorities.
He chose to do nothing.
Wilson was ordained a priest in 1974 for the parish of East Maitland.
It is alleged he learned of child sex crimes perpetrated by a local priest in the Hunter Region in 1976. A 15-year-old boy named Peter Creigh claims he told Wilson he had been sexually assaulted by his local priest, Jim Fletcher, on two separate occasions which Wilson wholeheartedly denied.
“The suggestion appears to be that I failed to bring to the attention of police a conversation I am alleged to have had in 1976, when I was a junior priest, that a now-deceased priest had abused a child,” Wilson told The Guardian.
“From the time this was first brought to my attention last year, I have completely denied the allegation.”
At least five victims of Fletcher’s child sexual abuse crimes were molested for several months – for some, even years.
In 2004, Fletcher was sentenced to jail. He died in prison two years later.
Wilson allegedly kept Fletcher’s terrible secret for decades and inflicted more irreparable trauma on the victims who reached out to him in a time of desperate need.
Wilson was charged by New South Wales authorities in 2015 for his role in allowing paedophilia to continue within the Catholic Church. In May 2018, Wilson was found guilty of concealing child sexual abuse and was sentenced to 12 months detention for his crimes. Wilson also resigned from his position within the Catholic Church.
Wilson served four months in home detention before the decision was overturned by District Court Judge Roy Ellis on appeal later that year. The Court found Wilson was an honest and consistent witness and there were doubts the Archbishop had been told about the abuse.
Fletcher’s victims were disappointed by the result. Patricia Feenan, the mother of one of Fletcher’s victims, said she hoped Wilson would never be reinstated as the Archbishop of Adelaide.
“I hope the public of Australia has an opinion on that,” she said.
“He didn’t support us in any way at all, so I don’t think anyone should support him.”
In January 2021, Archbishop Philip Wilson died unexpectedly. He had battled with cancer and ill-health in the past, but his death was seemingly unrelated.
Enablers allow sexual abuse to continue for their own selfish reasons and inflict emotional damage on the victims of evil men. Failing to report a sex crime is a serious offense. The catastrophic consequences of silence are immeasurable, especially for the victims.
That’s why you have to speak out. Now is the time to share your story and capitalise on the momentum developed during the Royal Commission.
Get the justice you deserve with Kelso Lawyers. We want to hear your story. Call (02) 4907 4200 or complete the online form before you accept payment from the National Redress Scheme.
Image source: The Guardian