Australian archbishop to 'stand aside' after conviction, but not resign

By Sara Shayanian  |  May 23, 2018 at 6:57 AM
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May 23 (UPI) -- Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson, found guilty this week of concealing child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, said he will stand aside from his duties but won't resign.

Wilson, the most senior Catholic figure to be convicted stemming from sex abuse claims in the church, said he will step aside from his duties Friday.

"It is appropriate that, in the light of some of his Honor's findings, I stand aside from my duties as Archbishop," he said.

Wilson, though, didn't rule out the possibility he could resign.

"If at any point in time it becomes necessary or appropriate for me to take more formal steps, including by resigning as Archbishop, then I will do so," he said.

Wilson was convicted Tuesday of covering up abuses by a priest during the 1970s, when he was an assistant parish priest in New South Wales. The priest, James Fletcher, was convicted in 2004 and died in prison.

Wilson didn't say if he planned to appeal the Newcastle Local Court's conviction -- which could send him to prison for two years.

The landmark judgment could lead to more prosecutions for other sexual abuse cases in the church.

Child sexual abuse survivors in Australia praised the verdict as a milestone in confirming the church's legal accountability for the crimes.

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