SYDNEY – The Archbishop of the Australian city of Adelaide, accused of covering up a case of sexual abuse of a 10-year-boy in the 1970s, is set to appear in court on Wednesday after a court found him fit to stand trial.
Philip Wilson, Archbishop of Adelaide since 2001, was charged in 2015 for failing to report the abuses committed by late priest James Fletcher, with whom he shared a house in Maitland-Newcastle in the state of New South Wales.
Wilson’s lawyers had argued that the 67-year-old prelate, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease that impacted his cognitive functions, was not in a position to stand trial.
However, on the basis of a medical report on Wednesday, the Newcastle court ruled that Wilson is fit enough to testify, according to local news agency AAP.
The archbishop, who faces a two-year prison sentence if found guilty, was charged after extensive police investigation uncovered several such cases of cover-ups of former and current clerics in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese.
The Catholic Church, with a strong presence in Australia, had received complaints from 4,500 people regarding alleged abuses of children by some 1,880 members of this institution, especially brothers and priests, between 1980-2015, although some cases go back to the 1920s.
Earlier this year, several Australian archbishops had admitted that the response of the Catholic Church in the country to pedophilia cases tantamount to criminal negligence.