The senior Catholic official in the world, Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson, was on Tuesday sentenced to 12 months of detention for covering up the crimes of a paedophile priest in the 1970s.
The 67-year-old priest is also convicted for concealing child sexual abuse.
Newcastle Local Court magistrate Robert Stone sentenced Wilson to 12 months of detention with a non-parole period of six months.
“There is no remorse or contrition showed by the offender. I am of the opinion the sentence should not be suspended.
“It does not support the terms of general deterrence,” Stone told the packed court.
“On that basis, the only available remaining option is full-time imprisonment or home detention.”
Stone also ordered that Wilson be assessed for home detention suitability, which means he may be spared jail.
The matter has been adjourned until Aug. 14.
Wilson, the Archbishop of Adelaide, South Australia, has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Outside the court, abuse survivor Peter Gogarty said the fact Wilson has been convicted was “significant,” but the sentencing being not necessarily custodial was “disappointing.”
“My personal view is that… is probably letting him off a little bit too lightly,” he told newsmen.
In May he was found guilty of failing to report to police and concealing the abuse of two altar boys by a paedophile priest in the 1970s when he was an assistant parish priest in East Maitland in regional New South Wales.
Wilson has since stepped aside from his duties but has so far refused to resign.
His legal team had argued during the sentencing hearing that he would not be able to survive prison given his frail health condition, including suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and depression, and it “may even threaten his survival.”
They also argued being jailed will put him at risk of violence from fellow inmates and should instead be given a good behaviour bond.
But the prosecution argued there was no evidence to suggest Wilson would be attacked in jail and “ill health
cannot be a licence to commit a crime.”
The magistrate-only trial found in May that Wilson had known that paedophile priest James Fletcher was sexually
abusing altar boys but dismissed their “credible allegations” because of his desire to protect the church and
During the trial, Wilson claimed to have no memory of a 1976 conversation he had with Peter Creigh, one of the
alleged victims, and another altar boy, who can not be named due to legal reasons.
Fletcher was found guilty in December 2004 on nine counts of child sexual abuse. He died in jail of a stroke
“When Fletcher was charged with child sex offences and before his death, Wilson had obtained the level of belief
needed to report what he knew to authorities”, the magistrate said in May.
The Adelaide archdiocese and the Catholic Church in Australia did not responded immediately to request for
comments on Wilson’s sentencing.
“The whole of the community is devastated in so many ways by the decades of abuse and its concealment. We are
all the poorer for what has occurred,” magistrate Stone said Tuesday during the sentencing.
A five-year-long Royal Commission inquiry into child sexual abuse found last year that tens of thousands of
children were sexually abused between 1960 and 2015 in Australian institutions, including schools and churches.
It also found that 7 per cent of all priests between 1960 and 2015 had allegedly abused children and 62 per cent
of victims, who reported abuse in a religious institution, were from Catholic-managed institutions.