NEW YORK — Amidst the ongoing fallout surrounding the news that Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson will appeal his conviction of covering up sex abuse, the head of the Australian Bishops’ Conference has released a statement wherein he notes that a number of bishops have encouraged Wilson to resign.
“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,” said Archbishop Mark Coleridge.
Coleridge was elected as president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference in May. In his statement, he noted that Australia’s bishops respected Wilson’s right to appeal, but added “we also recognize the ongoing pain this has caused survivors, especially those who were abused by Jim Fletcher.”
In May, an Australian court found that Wilson failed to report to police the repeated abuse of two altar boys by pedophile priest James Fletcher in the Hunter Valley region north of Sydney during the 1970s.
Earlier this week, both Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten called for Wilson’s resignation, following a court sentencing that he spend twelve months in detention.
Wilson will be required the spend half of his sentence at home and the other six months on parole. He has also said that if his request to overturn his conviction is unsuccessful, he will then offer his resignation to the pope.
Although Wilson stepped aside as Adelaide archbishop after he was convicted in May, he did not resign his post.
Pope Francis appointed Port Pirie Bishop Gregory O’Kelly as Apostolic Administrator. In a statement, O’Kelly said, “The arrangements made by Pope Francis for my care of the Archdiocese as Apostolic Administrator remain in place.”
Wilson is the highest-ranking official in the Catholic Church ever to be convicted of sex abuse cover-up.