Wilson, the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged with concealing child sexual abuse, told the Newcastle Local Court today he met James Fletcher in late 2004 in the Hunter region a day after a family told him their son had been abused by the priest.
Wilson, who’d worked in the same parish as Fletcher and lived with him briefly in the 1980s, said he visited the priest’s mother to offer her support given the anguish she was suffering after Fletcher was charged.
The archbishop, now 67, said he been there for about 20 minutes when Fletcher appeared unexpectedly. They then talked for a few minutes.
Wilson said he did not ask Fletcher who the boy was who had allegedly been abused.
“It’s not the sort of thing you go around inquiring about … it was an awkward situation,” Wilson told the court today.
“I didn’t go there to discuss the allegations of his behaviour.”
Asked by prosecutor Gareth Harrison if he had wished Fletcher well for his upcoming trial, Wilson said: “No, I didn’t.”
Wilson said when his fellow priest told him he was innocent, he replied it was up to the courts to decide.
Fletcher was found guilty in December 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse and died in jail of a stroke in 2006.
Wilson denied the meeting with Fletcher would have triggered his memory of claims by two former altar boys who allegedly told him in 1976 that Fletcher abused them.
One of the victims, Peter Creigh, has told the court he told Wilson – then an assistant priest – about the abuse because he thought he could trust him and he’d report Fletcher.
Creigh said he remembered telling Wilson, who did not go to the police, how Fletcher claimed the abuse had been acts of punishment for not doing his job properly as an altar boy.
Wilson, diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, earlier this week said he had no memory of the conversation in 1976.
The archbishop said he believed the conversation likely never happened because he would have remembered to this day if a teenage boy had told him in graphic details how a fellow priest abused him.
Asked by Harrison on Thursday if he believed Creigh had been abused by Fletcher, Wilson said: “There is no reason to doubt the evidence Mr Creigh has given (about the abuse).”
Wilson says he has no memory of seeing a second altar boy who claimed Fletcher had abused him in 1976. The trial continues.
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