The rational world cheered when Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson was found guilty of covering up another priest’s sexual abuse of children, making him the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be convicted on such charges.
But there’s nothing to celebrate because he won’t spend a day in prison.
Yesterday, Wilson, who serves as the Archbishop of Adelaide and was the president of the Catholic Church’s top office in Australia, was given six months of home detention in Australia followed by six months of parole instead of the year in prison to which he was originally sentenced. The court cited his age and poor health as reasons for the slap on the wrist.
The Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson was found guilty in May of concealing the abuse of altar boys in the 1970s by pedophile priest James Fletcher.
Wilson, 67, who stepped aside from his role after his conviction but has not yet resigned, had been facing a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
Making his ruling in front of a packed courtroom in Newcastle, New South Wales, Magistrate Robert Stone handed Wilson a 12 month prison sentence. However, due to his physical condition, Stone said Wilson would be given six months’ home detention, followed by six months parole.
Personally, I think even a 12-month sentence would have been light given the seriousness of the crime. There are people who have spent several years in prison for possession of marijuana, yet Wilson covered for a pedophile priest, endangering the lives of countless young boys, and all he’ll have is a few months of house arrest? Come on.
To make matters worse, the court implied that Wilson wouldn’t have been given any time if not for the enormous outcry from citizens who want to see Catholic officials held responsible for their crimes.
Magistrate Robert Stone told Wilson the reason for his sentence was due to the “the criminality of the concealment” and recognizing the “harm done to the community.”
The magistrate noted during his decision that there was now “so much public outcry” regarding child abuse cover up in the Catholic Church and other religious groups.
“Therefore I consider it a matter that should be regarded as serious,” said Stone. “By concealing abuse it is demonstrating you are placing the needs of the perpetrator above the child.”
Wait… so if there wasn’t such a large “public outcry,” this matter would not have been “regarded as serious”?
Victims and their families are (rightfully) upset about him getting a Get Out of Jail Free card.
Survivors in the court including victims of Fletcher muttered their frustration the archbishop was not sent to prison. “It’s basically a holiday,” one lady said.
Speaking outside the court, victim Peter Gogarty said he was “disappointed that it’s not a custodial sentence,” but expressed hope Wilson would be assessed as unsuitable for home detention and end up behind bars.
Australia made history with Wilson’s conviction, but the nation fell short of holding Church leaders truly accountable for their crimes. The court must still determine if home detention is appropriate and where he would stay, but these orders aren’t often reversed.
Wilson refused to answer questions about whether he would resign, or even whether he would offer an apology to the victims whom he put in harm’s way. It’s possible he’ll just spend the rest of his life trying to avoid news cameras as well as frustrated victims who feel he got off completely scot-free.
(Screenshot via YouTube)