Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson 67, is a retired Australian bishop who was the eighth Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide from 2001 to 2018. He was President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 2006 to 2010.
After he was convicted of concealing child abuse in May, Archbishop Wilson has announced he would step aside from running the archdiocese but did not say he intended to resign.
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, who despite being convicted of covering up clerical child sexual abuse had been unwilling to step down from his position.
In a short statement released at midday in Rome, the Vatican announced that the Pope had accepted Archbishop Wilson’s resignation from the pastoral governance of the archdiocese.
The decision comes two days after accepting Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s resignation as a cardinal following bombshell allegations that McCarrick had abused children.
In what is becoming a torrid summer for the Pope over the Church’s handling of clerical sexual abuse, the issue is likely to be on the agenda next month when Francis travels to Dublin for the World Meeting of Families where he is under pressure to address the scandal that has caused devastating damage to the Church in Ireland.
The news of Archbishop Wilson’s resignation comes just over two months since he was found guilty by a court in New South Wales for concealing the crimes of a paedophile priest who abused altar boys in the 1970s.
Following his conviction, Archbishop Wilson announced he would step aside from running the archdiocese while he appealed the ruling, and announced that two of his vicar-generals in charge of running the local church in Adelaide.
The Pope, however, swiftly intervened to appoint Jesuit Bishop Gregory O’Kelly as apostolic administrator of Adelaide, a move which gave Bishop O’Kelly executive responsibility for running the archdiocese.
Nevertheless, Archbishop Wilson, who strenuously maintains his innocence, seemingly refused to resign his position as archbishop despite pressure from inside and outside the Church.
The archbishop was sentenced to 12-month’s home detention, which he would serve out at the home of his sister, and said he would only step down if he was unsuccessful in appealing his sentence.
Among those calling for him to stand down included the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who took the highly unusual step of publicly calling for the Pope to remove the archbishop while also communicating that view to the Vatican.
“I welcome Philip Wilson’s resignation as Archbishop of Adelaide today which belatedly recognises the many calls, including my own, for him to resign,” the Prime Minister said in a statement today. “There is no more important responsibility for community and church leaders than the protection of children.”
Meanwhile, the Archbishop-elect of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, had argued that the Adelaide prelate’s course of action was “not of benefit for God’s people in Adelaide,” and that he should step down.
In a statement following the resignation news, the President of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, said that while the “judicial process will continue”, Archbishop Wilson has decided his “conviction means he can no longer continue as archbishop because to do so would continue to cause pain and distress to many, especially to survivors, and the Archdiocese of Adelaide.”
Archbishop Coleridge added that Adelaide’s now retired archbishop had been “praised by many” for his work supporting victim-survivors of clerical sexual abuse when he was Bishop of Wollongong.