News National Prime Minister says Pope should sack Wilson

Prime Minister says Pope should sack Wilson

Archbishop Philip Wilson outside court. Photo: AAP
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on the Pope to sack Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson.

The 67-year-old Catholic cleric was sentenced to 12 months in jail earlier this month for concealing child sexual abuse, but he plans to appeal.

“He should have resigned, and the time has come for the Pope to sack him,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

Wilson is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.

Earlier this month Magistrate Robert Stone told the Newcastle Local Court that “subject to assessment”,  Wilson would spend six months of the sentence in home detention, with the further six months spent on parole.

Wilson has stepped aside from his duties, but will only resign if his appeal against his sentence is unsuccessful.

Mr Turnbull has previously said Wilson should resign, along with  Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.

The call came just before the prime minister attended a meeting with Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president and Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge and the incoming Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli.

They were expected to discuss reforms to school funding and possible laws to force the disclosure of information provided in the confessional, following a recommendation from the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Survivors of abuse have been critical of Wilson’s sentence. He will attend a further hearing on August 14 to confirm where he will spend his sentence.

In May, he was found guilty of concealing the sexual assault of children between 2004 and 2006, at the hands of paedophile priest Jim Fletcher in the 1970s.

The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop Mark Coleridge said in a statement to the ABC he respected Wilson’s right to lodge an appeal, while highlighting the “ongoing pain this has caused survivors”.

He said a number of survivors, prominent Australians and other members of the community have called on 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,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“Only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign.”

-with AAP