Australian archbishop found guilty of concealing child sex abuse

(Photo: REUTERS / Robert Paterson)Australian Governor General Dr Peter Hollingwoth inspects The Royal Guard of Honour on the lawn of Government House in Wellington, New Zealand February 21, 2002. Australia's embattled governor-general defied calls to resign on Thursday as a row over his handling of child sex abuse in the Anglican church flared just days before a visit by British monarch Queen Elizabeth.

One of the most senior Catholic officials to be charged with concealing child sex abuse has been found guilty in an Australian court.

The Australian newspaper described it as a "landmark decision that could have a wide-ranging impact on future prosecutions."

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, aged 67, was accused of concealing 1970s abuse by notorious pedophile priest Jim Fletcher in the New South Wales Hunter region by failing to report the allegations.

The court on May 22 found he covered up the abuse of altar boys by the pedophile priest colleague.

During his trial he denied being told about the abuse by some of the victims.

Last month, Wilson told the Newcastle Local Court he had no knowledge of Fletcher's actions, which took place when he was an assistant priest in Maitland, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Sydney.

Fletcher was later convicted of nine child sexual abuse charges in 2004, and died in jail in 2006.

One of his victims, former altar boy Peter Creigh, told the court he had described the abuse to Wilson in detail in 1976, five years after it took place, the BBC reported.

In a statement released by Adelaide Catholic officials after the decision, Wilson said he was considering his legal options.

"I am obviously disappointed at the decision published today," he said.

"I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps. I do not propose to make any further comment at this stage."

But child sexual abuse survivor Creigh praised the verdict in emotional scenes outside the court following the decision.

"The decision will hopefully unravel the hypocrisy, the deceit and the abuse of power and trust that the Church has displayed," Creigh told reporters.

Creigh told the court that in 1976, when he was 15, he told Wilson what Fletcher had done to him years earlier in 1971. Creigh claimed he raised the matter again with Wilson months later but nothing was done.

The conviction of the archbishop is another headache for Pope Francis, whose papacy has been faced allegations of sex abuse among Catholic priests, Agence France-Presse reported.

Last week, 34 Chilean bishops announced their resignation over a child sex abuse scandal.

Several members of the Chilean church hierarchy are accused by victims of ignoring and covering up child abuse by Chilean pedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.

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