Archbishop Philip Wilson Has Had Major Surgery Only Days after a Sharply Critical Report

By Joanne McCarthy
Catholic Herald
September 12, 2019

Apology: Hunter child sex survivor and survivor advocate Peter Gogarty has strongly criticised the silence of Archbishop Philip Wilson, Maitland-Newcastle diocese and Bishop Bill Wright after release of a damning report into Hunter abuse.

A HUNTER survivor advocate criticised for demanding an apology from Archbishop Philip Wilson after his conviction for concealing a priest's child sex crimes has repeated the demand after a damning report into Catholic abuse responses in the Hunter.

Peter Gogarty said survivors of church abuse and the Hunter community had the right to an apology from the archbishop and Maitland-Newcastle diocese after a confidential 2014 report released last Friday revealed the extent of church knowledge of allegations involving paedophile priests Denis McAlinden and Jim Fletcher.

Archbishop Wilson in December successfully appealed his May, 2018 conviction for concealing allegations about Fletcher, but was strongly criticised in the confidential report for "improbable", "unsatisfactory" and "implausible" evidence about his knowledge of allegations about McAlinden while a Hunter priest in the 1980s and 1990s.

Six days after the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet released the damning confidential fourth volume of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry final report there has been no response from Archbishop Wilson, Maitland-Newcastle diocese or Bishop Bill Wright.

The report found Archbishop Wilson played a central role in responding to serious child sexual abuse allegations about McAlinden in 1987, and should have reported the priest to police by 1995 when he knew the then Bishop Leo Clarke had no intention of reporting McAlinden to authorities.

It found former Bishop Michael Malone "deliberately failed" to disclose knowledge of a victim of Jim Fletcher to police and there was an "institutional failure" by the diocese's child protection unit, Zimmerman Services, to discharge its responsibilities.

Dead: Hunter Catholic priest Denis McAlinden died in a Catholic Church facility in Western Australia in 2005 without a conviction for child sex offences, despite decades of abuse. He died with his "good name protected" by the church.

A spokesperson for Archbishop Wilson said he was recovering from major surgery this week and was unable to comment.

A spokesperson for Maitland-Newcastle diocese said the confidential volume was "a significant report which is currently being reviewed".

Mr Gogarty said he first approached Archbishop Wilson to talk about the Catholic Church child sexual abuse scandal in 2009, without success.

"In 2010 I told him if we could not have the conversation in private we would have it in public," Mr Gogarty said.

"Immediately after his conviction I asked him if he had any words of comfort for Fletcher's victims and he said nothing.

Now Mr Gogarty is demanding an apology from Archbishop Wilson for his inaction over McAlinden and is calling for Bishop Bill Wright to publicly acknowledge that Archbishop Wilson and others in the Catholic Church deliberately buried allegations of child sexual abuse.

Commissioner Margaret Cunneen, SC, who chaired the 2013 NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into NSW Police and Catholic Church responses to Hunter abuse allegations, rejected Archbishop Wilson's evidence that the "issues about Father McAlinden" were "a closed book to me" after a "confrontation" with the priest in August, 1987. He told the inquiry he played no role in Bishop Clarke's decision to transfer McAlinden to Western Australia in 1988.

"Contrary to Wilson's assertion about having no further involvement with McAlinden after the confrontation, documentary evidence shows that he had a continuing involvement in the McAlinden matter, extending to at least about February, 1988," the report found.

Archbishop Wilson also played a central role in an attempted secret defrocking of McAlinden in 1995, the report found.

When asked about what he did to satisfy himself that appropriate action had been taken to deal with McAlinden, the archbishop told the inquiry: "I think that I had left that in the area of the responsibility of the bishop".

Asked whether he had a moral obligation to report serious allegations about McAlinden to police in 1987 when they were raised with him, the archbishop told the inquiry: "I think in 1987 I had come to the point where I thought that my responsibility ended when I handed these matters over to the bishop."

Denis McAlinden died in a Catholic church facility in Western Australia in 2005.








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