ADELAIDE, Australia (CNS) – Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide was sentenced to 12 months of house arrest following his conviction for failing to inform police about child sexual abuse allegations.
Magistrate Robert Stone announced the sentence in Newcastle Lower Court July 3 and ordered an assessment of the 67-year-old archbishop to determine his suitability to serve the sentence at a family member’s home in New South Wales.
Another hearing was set for Aug. 14.
Archbishop Wilson showed no emotion as Stone issued the sentence.
Stone told the court that the sentence was appropriate given that the archbishop’s mental and physical conditions precluded a strict prison term. Archbishop Wilson’s defense attorney argued that his client would likely face physical abuse in prison.
The archbishop faced up to two years in prison following his May conviction. He stepped aside from his duties in the Adelaide Archdiocese May 25, but maintained his title as archbishop.
Pope Francis appointed Bishop Gregory O’Kelly of Port Pirie, Australia, to be apostolic administrator of the archdiocese.
The Newcastle court found that, in 1976, then-Father Wilson had been told by a 15-year-old boy that he had been indecently assaulted by a priest who later died in prison, but that Father Wilson chose not to go to the authorities despite believing the allegations were true.
Archbishop Wilson is the highest-ranking church official to be convicted of covering up abuse charges. He recently was diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and throughout the magistrate’s hearing he testified that he had no memory of the conversation.
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