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Prosecutor Argues Most Senior Catholic Cleric Convicted In Sex Abuse Case Must Be Jailed To Send A Message

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

A prosecutor argued Tuesday that Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson should be imprisoned to deter other Catholic clerics from protecting fellow clerics who commit sexual abuse.

An Australian court found Wilson guilty in May of failing to report a pedophile priest’s repeated abuse of two altar boys in the 1970s, making him the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted in a sex abuse case. Prosecutor Gareth Harrison argued at a Tuesday hearing that Wilson had lied in court about whether he knew of the ongoing abuse and should therefore be locked up despite his health issues as a message to other Catholic clerics. (RELATED: Australia Decides Most Senior Vatican Official Accused Of Sex Crimes Will Stand Trial) 

“The root of each of those lies is the unflinching loyalty to the Catholic church and protecting it at all costs,” Harrison said, according to The Associated Press.

Defense lawyer Ian Temby countered that Wilson, 67, suffers from heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, and diabetes, and that being imprisoned will only worsen his condition and “may even threaten his survival.” Temby asked instead that the court release Wilson on a good behavior bond.

“Ill health cannot be a license to commit a crime,” Harrison retorted.

Harrison also said that, contrary to the other claims of Wilson’s defense team, there was no evidence that other inmates would assault Wilson behind bars. He argued that Wilson should be imprisoned not only as a deterrent to failure in reporting abuse, but also to acknowledge the suffering of the victims he failed to protect.

Newcastle Magistrate Robert Stone announced that he will sentence Wilson on July 3.

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