Australia Sentences Most Senior Catholic Cleric Convicted In Sex Abuse Cover-Up

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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An Australian court sentenced the most senior Catholic cleric convicted of covering up sex abuse to one year in detention on Tuesday.

Archbishop Philip Wilson, convicted in May of failing to report the repeated abuse of two altar boys at the hands of pedophile priest James Fletcher in the 1970s, was sentenced to house arrest for one year instead of jail, according to Reuters. Wilson’s defense team argued that he should be released on a good behavior bond, but the magistrate ruled against it in light of Wilson’s alleged lack of remorse and the abuse the boys suffered even after they alerted him. (RELATED: Prosecutor Argues Most Senior Catholic Cleric Convicted In Sex Abuse Case Must Be Jailed To Send A Message)

“There is no remorse or contrition shown by the offender,” Newcastle Court Magistrate Robert Stone said, according to Reuters. “The offender is a senior figure in one of the most respected institutions in our society … parishioners were betrayed most callously and cruelly because of their misplaced faith, trust and respect, not only by the perpetrator but as in this case by those who knew and concealed it.”

Abuse survivors hailed both Wilson’s conviction and sentencing as victories, despite the relatively short sentence and the fact that he will not go to prison as prosecutors had asked.

“That is a landmark case right across the world … the conviction sticks,” said Peter Creigh, who was abused by Fletcher, according to Reuters.

Wilson, 67, suffers from heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, and diabetes according to his lawyer, Ian Temby, which may have been a factor in the magistrate’s decision to confine him to his home instead of prison.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said that they hoped Wilson’s sentence gave a “sense of peace and healing” to survivors of abuse.

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