Australian leader calls on convicted archbishop to resign

Australia’s prime minister on Wednesday called on an Australian archbishop to resign after becoming the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson was sentenced in a Newcastle court on Tuesday to 12 months in detention for failing to report to police the repeated abuse of two altar boys by a pedophile priest in the Hunter Valley region north of Sydney during the 1970s.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was born a Presbyterian but converted to Catholicism — his wife’s religion — in 2002, said he was surprised that Wilson had not resigned when he was convicted in May.

“I’m surprised that he has not resigned. Clearly, given the outcome of the … prosecution, he should resign,” Turnbull told reporters.

The Adelaide Archdiocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday

The 67-year-old cleric stood down from his position as archbishop days after he was convicted in May. He has not said whether he will appeal, but said he was discussing the verdict with his lawyers.

“While I do so, it is appropriate that, in the light of some of his Honor’s findings, I stand aside from my duties as archbishop,” Wilson said in a statement in May.

“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 added.

Wilson was once Australia’s highest-ranking archbishop as president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

He remains free on bail and will return to court next month to find our whether he will serve his sentence in prison or at his sister’s house in home detention. He must serve a minimum six months before becoming eligible for parole.

The federal government has initiated a redress scheme involving churches and other non-government organizations to pay billions of dollars in compensation to victims of child sex abuse in Australian institutions.

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