31 Jul 2018

Archbishop of Adelaide resigns over sex abuse cover-up

12:14 pm on 31 July 2018

The Catholic archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson has resigned after being convicted of concealing child sex abuse.

He is the world's most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of the offence.

Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson.

Philip Wilson has resigned as archbishop of Adelaide. Photo: Supplied.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had called on Pope Francis to sack him.

In May, the archbishop was found guilty of covering up the abuse of children at the hands of paedophile priest Jim Fletcher in the 1970s. Fletcher died in prison in 2006.

In a statement, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said Wilson had "decided that his conviction means he can no longer continue as Archbishop because to do so would continue to cause pain and distress to many, especially to survivors and also in the Archdiocese of Adelaide".

"While the judicial process will continue, Archbishop Wilson's resignation is the next chapter in a heartbreaking story of people who were sexually abused at the hands of Jim Fletcher and whose lives were forever changed," the statement read.

"This decision may bring some comfort to them despite the ongoing pain they bear."

Mr Turnbull said the resignation was overdue.

"There is no more important responsibility for community and church leaders than the protection of children," he said.

Wilson was sentenced to 12 months' detention earlier this month and has said he intends to appeal.

Survivor feels vindicated by resignation

Abuse survivor Peter Gogarty said he was relieved that Wilson had resigned.

"[I feel] some sense that I've been vindicated and so have other people who've made claims against Archbishop Wilson," he said.

"But the biggest thing I think is relief that finally he's responded to the calls that have been echoing around the country for the last few weeks that his position is untenable.

"I think so many people have seen his refusal to resign as a matter of his ego not wanting to let go, rather than him deciding what was good for child abuse survivors and what was good for the reputation of the church that he serves.

"So I think there's going to be a lot of relief and a lot of people saying: 'Well it's a bit late but thank goodness he's done this'."