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Adelaide Archbishop's honesty in doubt: prosecutor

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A NSW magistrate has been told he should doubt the honesty of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson as his trial for allegedly covering up child sex abuse by a fellow priest winds up.

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Prosecutor Gareth Harrison told the Newcastle Local Court today that Wilson, the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged with concealing abuse, wanted to cover it up to protect the church’s reputation.

“Your honour should have doubts about his (Wilson’s) honesty,” Harrison told magistrate Robert Stone during his closing address.

Wilson is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease but claims medication has helped his memory.

The 67-year-old has told the court he can’t remember two altar boys telling him in 1976 they were abused by pedophile priest James Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region.

The defence argues Wilson is not guilty because the case is circumstantial and there’s no evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the archbishop was told about the abuse, believed it was true or remembered being told about it.

One of the abused altar boys, Peter Creigh, said he trusted that Wilson – then an assistant priest – would take action after he told him Fletcher had abused him in 1971 when he was 10.

But the clergyman did nothing and never reported the matter to police.

Creigh said Wilson had a “look of horror” on his face when told about Fletcher’s abuse. The former altar boy hadn’t told anyone else.

Harrison on Friday said Wilson asked Creigh during the 1976 conversation if he had confided in anyone else because he was “risk assessing”.

“He was sussing out how dangerous this situation might be for the church,” the prosecutor said.

“He didn’t want Mr Creigh to tell anyone because it would be an embarrassment to the church to say the least.

“The accused wanted it kept in-house. He wanted it covered up, which is why he did what he did … nothing.”

Another altar boy, who can’t be named, said he was about 11 in 1976 when he went into the confessional box to tell Wilson that Fletcher had abused him.

The witness claimed Wilson refused to believe him because Fletcher “was a good bloke” and ordered him to get out of the confessional box and say 10 Hail Marys as an act of contrition.

Fletcher was found guilty in December 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse and died in jail of a stroke in January 2006.

Wilson faces a maximum two years in jail if convicted. The trial continues.

– AAP

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