Australian church abuse victims welcome archbishop's resignation

Archbishop Philip Wilson leaves Newcastle Local Court after being sentenced in July

Archbishop Philip Wilson leaves Newcastle Local Court after being sentenced in July

Despite previously refusing to step down from his role until his legal appeal had concluded, amid calls from senior politicians including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and leader of the opposition Bill Shorten, Wilson wrote to Pope Francis on July 20 to offer his resignation.

The Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson outside court in April.

Wilson was convicted in May of failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse disclosed to him in the 1970s.

But Concerned Catholics Canberra-Goulburn chair John Warhurst said the fact that it took so for Wilson to "do the right thing" did not reflect well on the church's efforts to present itself as a "humbled organisation". He became the highest-ranking Catholic cleric ever convicted in a criminal court of abuse cover-up.

Wilson said in a statement late on Monday he had made a decision to resign because he had "become increasingly anxious at the growing level of hurt that my recent conviction has caused within the community", especially to Fletcher's victims.

Turnbull, the Australian prime minister, said Monday he was pleased Wilson had resigned, albeit belatedly.

Even one of Fletcher's victims spoke out: Australian media published a letter last week from Peter Gogarty to Francis urging him to remove Wilson.

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In 2004, Fletcher was found guilty on nine counts of sexual abuse.

His request was accepted and announced on Monday night.

"This will go a long way towards the healing process for myself and I'm sure other victims of James Patrick Fletcher", he said. Magistrate Robert Stone sentenced the 67-year-old on July 3, but delayed a hearing to determine whether he could be given home confinement.

He had earlier refused to resign, despite his trial at Newcastle Local Court revealing he was told about the abuse in 1976 by two victims - one of them an altar boy who made the revelation at confession.

"While the judicial process will continue, Archbishop Wilson's resignation is the next chapter in a heartbreaking story of people who were sexually abused at the hands of Jim Fletcher and whose lives were forever changed".

"This decision may bring some comfort to them, despite the ongoing pain they bear", the ACBC said.

Upon the announcement of Wilson's resignation, Bishop O'Kelly said that the last few weeks had been a "testing time for so many", including both victims of abuse in the Church and the archbishop himself. Prior to that, Wilson was bishop of Wollongong for five years and served as president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference from 2006 to 2010.

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