... and then there’s the archbishop who won’t resign

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 28, 2018

While thirty Chilean bishops have submitted their resignation after being accused of covering up sexual abuse, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, Australia, has not resigned after being convicted in a court of law of the same offense.

Following his conviction, Archbishop Wilson said that he would step down from his position, leaving his vicar general in charge of the archdiocese, but would not resign. “He’s standing aside until process has run its course,” said an archdiocesan spokesman, whereas a resignation would be “forever.” The “process” in this case could mean either an appeal of the verdict or a prison sentence of up to two years.

Archbishop Wilson insists that he is innocent of the charges. So perhaps it is not unreasonable that he hopes to resume his duties after winning an appeal. But in this case, there’s more to the story.

At the age of 67, Archbishop Wilson is well short of the ordinary retirement age for Catholic prelates. But some bishops retire early because of health issues, and he could easily fit into that category. Last November, the archbishop’s lawyers asked for a postponement of his trial, because he was recovering from surgery to have a pacemaker installed. Of course many men have remained productive and vigorous for years after successful pacemaker surgery. But again, there’s more to the story. His lawyers also suggested that the archbishop might not be able to testify because of the effects of Alzeheimer’s disease.

Heart trouble. Alzheimer’s. A criminal conviction. Any one would be reason enough for a bishop’s resignation. Together, it’s overwhelming.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - May. 30, 2018 11:39 AM ET USA

    Many men facing odious criminal conviction, heart disease, and mental impairment might decide that the people they were supposed to serve would be better off with someone else at the helm. But Archbishop Wilson isn’t a man of that sort. His see is his personal property, darn it, and no one’s gonna pry his fingers off it until he’s good and ready!