Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson was found guilty Tuesday of covering up a priest’s sexual abuse of boys dating back to the 1970s.
Wilson, who faces a maximum of two years imprisonment, is the most senior Roman Catholic Church official to be convicted in abuse scandals that have swept through the church hierarchy in recent decades. He failed to act after learning that priest James Fletcher reportedly abused four boys.
“I am obviously disappointed at the decision published today,” Wilson said in a statement. “I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps.”
Peter Creigh, a former altar boy, testified during Wilson’s trial about the abuse he endured at the hands of Fletcher when he was 10 years old. Fletcher was charged with nine counts of sexual abuse in 2004. He died in prison in 2006.
Wilson’s legal team tried to use the bishop’s Alzheimer’s disease as a defense, arguing he has no recollection of being told about the abuse.
The conviction comes just weeks after it was announced that Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s treasurer and third-highest official, would stand trial on sexual abuse charges related to his time as the archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney. Pell is accused of ignoring misconduct accusations against priests.