Brief letter to the Catholic people of the Diocese: Archbishop Wilson
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I know that you are dismayed every time there is a charge, a trial or a conviction related to the history of
child sexual abuse in this diocese. Quite rightly your hearts go out to those young boys and girls who were
abused, to the adults that they have become and to their families. For many of you, too, the grief is very
close to home.
Fr Jim Fletcher’s crimes against children were appalling. It is equally appalling to hear that some of the
boys he abused reported that abuse to Archbishop Wilson when he was a young priest in 1976. More boys
were abused after that, and it is gut-wrenching to think that this would have been prevented if Fletcher had
been stopped at that time. The court has convicted Archbishop Wilson of failing to act on those early
reports and of failing to inform Police of them in 2004 when Fletcher was finally arrested and investigated.
On Wednesday, Archbishop Wilson announced that he would appeal against his conviction. Many of you, I
believe, would accept that he has the same right as anyone else to prepare an appeal to a higher court.
What many people find more troubling is his decision not to resign as Archbishop of Adelaide pending his
appeal. Various civic leaders and commentators have disagreed with or criticised that decision, and so
have many Catholics at all levels.
I want to reiterate what Archbishop Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference,
made clear on Thursday. Each bishop is appointed by the Pope personally so that the authority to compel a
bishop to resign does not belong to any other bishop or even to the collective of Australian bishops.
Archbishop Wilson has removed himself from all his functions as a bishop, but his decision not to resign can
only be overturned by the Pope himself.
On Tuesday I made a fuller statement on Archbishop Wilson’s criminal conviction, some parts of which you
may have heard quoted in the media. The full statement is available on the diocesan website.
As always, if these events are causing you particular distress, the diocese’s Healing and Support Team
within Zimmerman Services may be contacted on 49791390. If you wish to report past or present abuse
you should contact the Police, but Zimmerman Services can also support you in doing so.
In this difficult time, let us support and pray for one another and for those who have suffered,
Yours in Christ
Bishop Bill Wright
Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle