The Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson (pictured – Credit: Catholic News Agency) was virtually sacked by the Pope after the senior Catholic cleric initially refused to step down despite being convicted for concealing child sexual abuse.
Wilson, 67, was sentenced to 12 months in jail this month for trying to shield a paedophile priest who abused two altar boys in the 1970s. He may be the world’s first senior cleric to be fired for such a crime.
As calls mounted for the archbishop’s ouster, Vatican accepted Wilson’s belated resignation on Monday.
The pressure on Vatican to force Wilson to quit or fire him came mainly from Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Welcoming Wilson’s resignation, Turnbull said community and church leaders should protect children from sexual abuse.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which believes only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign, welcomed Wilson’s decision saying it may bring some comfort to the victims of abuse.
Wilson said he is resigning to lessen the pain his recent conviction has caused within the community. But the appeal against his conviction will continue.
The court found Wilson failed to act against paedophile priest James Patrick Fletcher despite several complaints of child abuse against him in 1976.
Peter Creigh, former altar boy, told Wilson how Fletcher abused him five years earlier. Wilson did not intervene and Fletcher continued to abuse children. He was convicted in 2004 and died in jail in 2006.
Attempts were even made to stop the archbishop’s trial by arguing he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.