4 Jul 2018

Convicted Archbishop 'knew about' claims on paedophile priest

12:14 pm on 4 July 2018

A survivor of clerical sex abuse says the Archbishop of Adelaide would have known about allegations of offending by a paedophile priest who abused at least one girl in New Zealand.

Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson.

Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson. Photo: Supplied.

Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson, the highest ranked Catholic in the world convicted for concealing clerical child abuse, was sentenced yesterday to a year in detention.

He covered up for priest James Fletcher in New South Wales in the 1970s.

One of Fletcher's victims, Peter Gogarty, was in court for the sentencing.

"I would probably be feeling slightly more charitable if he'd shown the remotest sign of remorse," the 57-year-old university lecturer in criminology told RNZ.

"There's been not a thing.

"The judge called his evidence dissembling, said that he had deliberately placed the interests of the Church above the interests of vulnerable children."

The Archbishop has not resigned from his position, despite growing calls for him to do so.

The conviction related to the cover-up of the abuse of another boy, but Mr Gogarty said he had also been "vindicated" for speaking up eight years ago - despite threats of being sued for defamation - when he accused the Archbishop of knowing what was going on in the 1970s.

Fletcher died in prison in 2006.

Mr Gogarty said documents showed Archbishop Wilson knew about the allegations of offending by another notorious paedophile priest, the late Denis McAlinden.

"It's on the public record that the Archbishop was involved in an attempt to defrock ... McAlinden."

A Newcastle woman, Anthea Halpin, has spoken out about seeking a face-to-face apology from the Archbishop in 2008, over his role in trying to secretly defrock McAlinden in mid 1990s due to the evidence against him.

She had been abused by McAlinden from age eight to 11.

The Church did not report the McAlinden matter to authorities until 2003, after victims notified the police and were paid compensation. McAlinden died in 2005.

When Ms Halpin was rebuffed by Archbishop Wilson in 2008, she released documents to the media. This led directly to a police inquiry, then to a state-wide abuse inquiry and, ultimately, to the Australia-wide Royal Commission into child sex abuse.

McAlinden was sent to New Zealand in 1984, but also worked in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, in line with the Catholic Church's practice of moving paedophile priests around.

In 2008, New Zealand Bishops wrote an open letter to Gisborne parishioners about McAlinden, sparked by a woman who said she had been abused in 1984 when he was sent here from Australia for a few months.

In 2012, the Church said it had found no record of having been warned of McAlinden's history of sex attacks.

Archbishop Wilson in 2012 declined to be interviewed by Australian police investigating McAlinden.

Mr Gogarty said the high-profile prosecution of the Archbishop would "reverberate around the world".

"It certainly should put on notice dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other people in high places in these institutions who we know, did exactly the same thing."

Survivor groups knew of attempts underway by the police to launch similar prosecutions against Church leaders, he said.

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