ADELAIDE Archbishop Philip Wilson says he doesn’t remember a conversation at the heart of his landmark hearing into allegations he concealed sexual assault allegations against another priest and doubts it ever took place because he wouldn’t have forgotten such “graphic” claims.
After his legal team on Wednesday failed for the fourth time to have the case against him thrown out, the Archbishop took the stand in Newcastle Local Court to give evidence for the first time since he became the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged with concealing child sexual abuse.
Under questioning from his barrister, Stephen Odgers, SC, Archbishop Wilson unequivocally denied having any memory of a conversation in 1976 with Peter Creigh about Father James Fletcher subjecting Mr Creigh to acts of punishment and sexual abuse five years earlier.
When asked if he was able to say whether such a conversation took place, Archbishop Wilson said he thought it was doubtful.
“I think it is unlikely because the nature of the evidence was so graphic,” he told Magistrate Robert Stone.
“I don't think I would have forgotten that.”
Asked what he would have done if Mr Creigh had told him about the abuse, Wilson said his first priority would have been to provide pastoral care to the then 15-year-old boy and his family.
The Archbishop said he would also have reported the allegations to his superiors.
Under cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison, Archbishop Wilson repeatedly stated “I don’t remember” when asked about the conversation or hypothetical situations involving being told about sexual abuse.
The hurdle for the prosecution to prove Archbishop Wilson concealed allegations of child sexual abuse against Father Fletcher is a high one.
Mr Harrison must not only prove that Mr Creigh told Archbishop Wilson, then a junior priest, about the sexual abuse in 1976, but that Archbishop Wilson remembered it and had a belief that the allegations were true between 2004 and 2006, after Fletcher had been charged with child sex offences and before his death in jail.
I think it is unlikely [the victim told me] because the nature of the evidence was so graphic. I don't think I would have forgotten that.Archbishop Philip Wilson.