Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide.
In May an Australian court convicted Archbishop Wilson, 67, of covering up the sexual abuse of minors in the 1970s. Archbishop Wilson, who is suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, told the court he couldn’t remember being told about the abuse.
He was sentenced to 12 months in prison, with a non-parole period of six months, on July 3.
Archbishop Wilson had previously said he would not resign unless his appeal against conviction failed.
Archbishop Wilson said his decision to resign was because he had become “increasingly worried at the growing level of hurt” his recent conviction had generated, according to the Archdiocese of Adelaide.
“I had hoped to defer this decision until after the appeal process had been completed. However, there is just too much pain and distress being caused by my maintaining the office,” he said.
Archbishop Wilson was found guilty of failing to report the crimes of Fr Jim Fletcher, who was convicted of nine counts of child sexual abuse in 2004. He died in prison in 2016. The court was told that two boys had told Archbishop Wilson about Fr Fletcher’s actions in 1976.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian bishops’ conference, said: “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.
“Archbishop Wilson has been praised by many for his work to support victims and survivors of child sexual abuse as Bishop of Wollongong, Archbishop of Adelaide and president of the bishops’ conference.”