Catholic sex abuse: 'Guilty priest ignored my story for decades'

Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson is the highest ranking Catholic official to be convicted of covering up sexual abuse

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, was sentenced to 12 months of home detention for keeping quiet about paedophile priest Father James Patrick Fletcher for more than four decades.

Peter Gogarty, Advocate for victims of child abuse talks to the media outside Newcastle Local Court, in Newcastle after the sentencing of the Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson, in Newcastle, Australia, 03 July 2018.

He was ordered to be assessed by prison authorities for home detention, instead of jail, and will face court again next month for a decision on where he will serve the sentence.

Wilson has not resigned as archbishop, despite relinquishing his duties in the wake of his conviction.

Wilson had testified in April that he did not remember conversations from the 1970s in which two altar boys said they told him of abuse by Fletcher.

Newcastle Local Court magistrate Robert Stone found him guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person, concluding his primary motive was to protect the church.

Mr Stone said he was "firmly of the opinion that a sentence of imprisonment is the only appropriate sentence", after acknowledging the "public outcry and outrage over what has transpired by way of abuse and concealment, not only by the Catholic Church, but other major religious organisations and other associations".

A five-year national inquiry into child abuse recommended in December that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of pedophilia heard in the confessional.

"How on earth can somebody who's been convicted of knowing that children were being abused by a Catholic priest remain a bishop?"

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"Those who hide abuse and shield perpetrators from accountability ... are demonstrating that you are placing the needs of the perpetrator as a higher priority over the needs of victims and their families", Mr Stone said.

One of the most high-profile recent cases has been in Chile.

Fletcher was arrested on unrelated child abuse charges in 2004 and died in prison of a stroke in 2006 while serving an nearly eight-year sentence.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference statement acknowledged the courage of survivors in coming forward, saying they had been vital in helping the church learn the lesson of its shameful history of abuse and concealment.

NSW Greens MP and justice spokesperson David Shoebridge said Wilson's conviction and sentence required a strong response from the Catholic Church.

In recent weeks, Pope Francis has said he felt ashamed of the church's failure to listen to victims of child sex abuse and has called for an end to the culture of abuse and coverup.

The sentencing was another step toward holding the church accountable for a global abuse crisis that has also engulfed Pope Francis' financial minister, Australian Cardinal George Pell, the highest ranking Catholic in the world to be charged in the global abuse scandal. "We have done something in Australia which no one else has been able to manage".

Wilson's defense insisted he wouldn't survive prison because of his chronic illnesses and are asking for home detention.

The offence carries a maximum two-year jail term.

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