Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called Thursday for Pope Francis to dismiss Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, who was convicted in May of failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse disclosed to him in the 1970s.
“As far as Philip Wilson is concerned, he should have resigned, he should have resigned,” Turnbull said July 19, according to The Australian.
“And the time has come for the Pope to sack him. There are many leaders that have called on him to resign, it is clear that he should resign, and I think the time has come now for the ultimate authority in the church to take action and sack him.”
Turnbull was preparing to meet with a group of Australian bishops, and he said they would be “discussing a range of issues.” The Church in Australia is seeking clarity over federal funding for Catholic schools.
Archbishop Wilson, 67, was convicted May 22 of concealing abuse committed by a fellow parish priest in New South Wales in the 1970s. At the time, Wilson had been ordained a priest for only one year.
The victims of the scandal, Peter Creigh and another altar boy who is unnamed for legal reasons, said they both had told Wilson of their abusive experience with Fr. James Fletcher.
The archbishop was sentenced July 3 to a 12-month sentence, which will likely be served as house arrest, but he plans to appeal his conviction.
Archbishop Wilson said that “I am conscious of calls for me to resign and have taken them very seriously. However, at this time, I am entitled to exercise my legal rights and to follow the due process of law. Since that process is not yet complete, I do not intend to resign at this time.”
“However, if I am unsuccessful in my appeal, I will immediately offer my resignation to the Holy See,” he added.
Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Gregory O'Kelly of Port Pirie apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australian bishops' conference, said July 5 that “a number of survivors, prominent Australians and other members of the community have publicly called on Archbishop Wilson to resign.”
“Although we have no authority to compel him to do so, a number of Australian bishops have also offered their advice privately,” he said, while adding that “only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign.”
Archbishop Coleridge said the conference has been “closely following” Archbishop Wilson's case and they respect his decision to appeal, which is “the right of any citizen,” but said that “we also recognize the ongoing pain this has caused survivors, especially those who were abused by Jim Fletcher.”