No media witch-hunt on Wilson

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I refer to the article by Alan Atkinson published 12 July posing the question 'whether the pursuit of Wilson could in any sense be described as a witch-hunt', and making the suggestion that despite the court's judgment against him Wilson 'believes he has told the truth and is unwilling to give in to what he perceives to be a witch-hunt'. 

Philip WilsonIn May 2018 Archbishop Wilson was convicted of concealing a serious indictable offence relating to the sexual abuse of a teenage boy by a priest in his diocese. Wilson is the highest ranking Catholic cleric to be convicted of such an offence. The Church's response to this episode should be of particular interest.

Wilson was convicted of concealing knowledge of the egregious crimes of Father James Fletcher, who sexually assaulted five teenage boys and died in jail. It was also the finding of the court that Wilson in 2004 failed to inform the police investigating Fletcher of the reports he had received in the 1970s, even though, in the finding of the court, he would surely have remembered them. 

The Editor of Eureka Street confirmed on 16 July that neither he nor Alan Atkinson had read the judgment against Wilson before the article was published. Atkinson's article is not labelled as 'opinion'.

The media played an important role in giving voice to victims of abuse by clergy. That reportage led to questions about the responsibility of Church hierarchy to act on information of abuse. The media did not conduct a 'witch-hunt'.  

The concealment matters which eventually led to Wilson's conviction arose not from stories in the media, but from in camera evidence during the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry led by Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor, Margaret Cunneen. Throughout that Inquiry, Wilson's name was carefully suppressed from publication and the details of that part of the Inquiry were subject of a confidential volume of Cunneen's report that still has not been published. 

Atkinson recites in some detail circumstances surrounding an ABC report of May 2010 concerning Archbishop Wilson's knowledge of the activities of paedophile priest James Fletcher. Atkinson repeats a claim by Wilson's local media manager that the ABC sent a series of questions about the issue to Wilson on the morning of its late night broadcast, and that Wilson felt he was being 'ambushed' by the ABC.

 

"Wilson has the right to appeal, and this has been acknowledged in the media. But meanwhile, it is the bishops and senior clergy, not to mention the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, who are calling for Wilson's resignation."

 

Wilson first made these claims in 2010 and they were answered by the ABC at that time. In fact, the ABC had been in contact with Wilson's media manager for over a week talking about the story and questions that might arise. Wilson was given more than 10 hours to answer the formal written questions that had been discussed with his media manager for a week prior.  

The ABC has also long since clarified its reporting about the age of one of Fletcher's victims, Peter Gogarty, at the time he was being abused by Fletcher in the Bishop's House in Maitland. Mr Gogarty has indicated that he was abused from the age of 12, and that the abuse continued over a number of years, including from the time he was 15 in the Bishop's House where Wilson visited and later lived for a time with Fletcher. Wilson has always maintained that he was unaware that the abuse was going on.  

Of course, Wilson has the right to appeal, and this has been acknowledged in the media. But meanwhile, it is the bishops and senior clergy, not to mention the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, who are calling for Wilson's resignation. The letter issued by the current Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Bishop Bill Wright, following Wilson's sentencing, is worth quoting at length here:

'Our grief is first of all for the two teenage boys who, the court found, reported abuse by Fletcher to the then 26-year-old Fr Wilson in 1976 and a year or two later. Their trust was betrayed when no effective action was taken and they were deprived of the care they should have received at the time. Fletcher went on to abuse other boys, and we grieve for the harm done to them as we realise the dreadful truth that this could have been prevented by timely action against Fletcher.'

Noting Wilson's 'vigorous actions against child abusers' as Bishop of Wollongong and later as Archbishop of Adelaide, Bishop Wright nonetheless states that he accepts the judgement of the court:

'Child sexual abuse is an appalling crime for the lasting harm it inflicts on those abused, their families and ultimately our whole national community. Archbishop Wilson is a long-time friend and colleague of mine, and almost like a member of my family. But in these matters all of us must rigorously set aside such considerations in the interests of justice and the protection of children.'

Eureka Street's unconditioned publication of Atkinson's article stands in contrast to Bishop Wright's rigorous acceptance of the court's judgement on Archbishop Wilson.

 

 

Suzanne SmithSuzanne Smith is an award winning ABC television and online investigative journalist. She is currently senior investigative journalist with the ABC True Crime Unit.

 

 

 

Letter to the editor from Peter Gogarty

I am a survivor of sexual abuse by Fr Fletcher. It was me who first made a complaint to NSW police that Wilson knew what Fletcher had been up to. It was me who wrote an opinion piece for Fairfax asking what Wilson knew and when. It was me who appeared on ABC TV naming the Archbishop. By extension, it must be me who initiated the witch-hunt and stirred up public hysteria.

Credit where it is due to Mr Atkinson who notes that he deplores the sexual abuse of children and the concealment of that abuse. However, as a journalist writing in a Jesuit publication, I am not sure it is reasonable for him to suggest that Wilson has been 'stoned by all and sundry in the national village square'.

No one I know — victim, supporter or reporter — has ever sought anything other than accountability from people in the Catholic Church (including Wilson) who until relatively recently were insisting that the Church knew nothing about the child abusers in their ranks — a now thoroughly discredited claim.

It is also, I suggest, unrealistic for Mr Atkinson to think the media won't report on such a high profile case, or ignore public demands for the Archbishop's resignation or dismissal.

Here are a few irrefutable facts ...

READ FULL RESPONSE FROM ADVOCATE AND SURVIVOR OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE PETER GOGARTY

 

 

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Topic tags: Suzanne Smith, Archbishop Philip Wilson, Alan Atkinson, clergy sexual abuse

 

 

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Existing comments

Having read both Alan Atkinson's article and now this article by Suzanne Smith my response is primarily of sadness. For the young victims no court case will wipe away what has happened to them. For the Catholic church tears, and profound change, seem to me to be the only reaction. And for the media, both secular and faith-based, a strong commitment to truth-telling and letting people speak.
Pam | 19 July 2018


Congratulations to Eureka Street for publishing both Suzanne Smith and Alan Atkinson's articles. Thank you Suzanne for your highly balanced and valuable contribution to this debate. Philip Wilson does have every right to appeal, but we must recognise the considerable damage this lack of accountability is doing to our Church.
Garry Nolan | 19 July 2018


Ms Smith points out: ‘The Editor of Eureka Street confirmed on 16 July that neither he nor Alan Atkinson had read the judgment against Wilson before the article was published.’ Readers need to understand that it is near impossible for anyone to read the judgment unless they jump some bureaucratic hoops and then make their way to Newcastle, prepared to sit for some hours in the public waiting room under scrutiny to ensure that no copy is made of the 59 page judgment. It is outrageous that a redacted copy of the judgment has not been made publicly available so that members of the public might assess the law and evidence, while of course ensuring the anonymity of any complainant who did not want their identity disclosed.

I have jumped the hoops. I did drive to Newcastle. I sat for hours in a public waiting room and took notes under supervision. I have read the judgment. Here is the email trail of what I wrote in order to get access. So good luck to any other conscientious citizen who would like to form a fully informed view on the decision.

I first wrote to the court on 25 May 2018, saying: ‘I would like to obtain a copy of Magistrate Stone’s decision in the Wilson case delivered at the Newcastle court on 22 May 2018. Could you please advise the procedure and what payment may be required.’ I then spoke to a court officer in Sydney and wrote again on 25 May 2018: ‘I have now spoken to a court officer in Sydney who informs me that the decision delivered by Magistrate Stone in open court on 22 May in relation to Philip Wilson cannot be made available to a mere member of the public, even on the payment of prescribed fees. This surprised me. I was told that I would need to explain who I am and why I wanted a copy of the decision. Being a lawyer, and sometime professor of law, this surprised me even more. But if that is what the administration of justice has come to, I am happy to provide these details. As to who I am, you will find a brief CV at https://jesuit.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Frank-Brennan-2.pdf. If you require further details, please ask. As to why I want a copy, being a priest and a lawyer in the Catholic Church who has been a long time commentator on issues to do with the Church, the law, and the public square, it is essential that I be familiar with the law as it develops in this field. You will be aware that this decision is being hailed as a “world first” internationally. It’s just that those of us not able to be in the courtroom on 22 May are none the wiser as to what the new law and its application is. This is very regrettable in terms of the application of the rule of law, especially when I am being asked to provide expert commentary on the decision. If you require further reasons for this request, please advise. I would be happy to pay any fees required for a copy of the judgment. Thanks for your assistance.’

I then wrote again saying, ‘This link gives you an idea of the sort of commentary I am required to give: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/father-frank-brennan-says-adelaide-archbishop/9788922. I have received a request to write a more detailed analysis of the judgment. You will appreciate that given the international media coverage of the judgment, time is of the essence.’

I wrote again on 28 May 2018 saying, ‘As you know, I have been making inquiries since last Friday about obtaining a copy of the decision delivered at your court on 22 May 2018 by Magistrate Stone in relation to Philip Wilson. On Friday, I spoke to a court official who told me that I would need to give an explanation of who I was and why I wanted a copy of the judgment. As you know, that rather surprised me. But I provided the information promptly and in good faith. Then having received no response from you, I asked if there was a need for me to provide any further information. Could I ask that you do one of two things. Could you give me the name and phone number of a person to whom I can speak about the mechanics of obtaining a copy of the judgment or about the reasons why I am not to be provided with a copy of the judgment. Alternatively, could you by email let me know what more I need to do. I have already given the assurance that I will pay any necessary fees. If I receive no response from you tomorrow, would it be fair for me to assume that you will not be responding to my emails, and thus it will be necessary to pursue alternative courses than direct approaches to the court for a copy of the court’s decision?’

I then wrote again saying, ‘I have now been informed by another person who is seeking access to the Wilson judgment that the court is unwilling to make copies of the judgment available to members of the public. I am further advised that I can attend the courthouse and view a copy of the judgment, and that is the only way that a member of the public who was not in open court on 22 May can accurately access what was decided by the magistrate on 22 May in “open court”. I hereby apply to the court seeking permission to come to the court TODAY and read a copy of the judgment. As I will have to travel from Sydney, I will need to set out shortly. I would appreciate it if you could advise me immediately on receipt of this email if you intend to deny approval for any access to the judgment today.’

I then received a response: ‘I acknowledge receipt of your request and apologise for the delay in responding. As a non-party to the proceedings, I am satisfied that you have disclosed sufficient interest and reasons for access to the documents to be granted. Accordingly, leave has been granted to allow you to have access to the decision of Magistrate Stone in the matter of Phillip Wilson. Access to the document can be facilitated at the Registry counter of Newcastle Courthouse any weekday between 9am and 4.30pm. You should bring your identification with you and present that to staff at the registry counter. Approval has been given to inspect the document only, and no copies can be taken or will be provided, however you can make hand written notes. It should be noted that a Non Publication Order exists in respect to identifying two of the victims in the proceedings, which can be confirmed upon your attendance. The proceedings have been adjourned to 19 June 2018 for sentence. Please don’t hesitate to contact myself should you have any further enquiries.’

There has to be a better way ensuring the rule of law is protected for the well being of all citizens. I agree with Ms Smith if she be implying that it would be better if all commentators (and query, even editors) on this difficult legal matter had first read the judgment. But they would need to be able to access the judgment. I daresay that the editor of Eureka Street and Mr Atkinson were in no position to do as I did. And I am sure Ms Smith would not be suggesting that they be precluded from comment (or from publishing comment, including hers) merely because the State of New South Wales has decided to put legal reasoning and findings of fact beyond the reasonable reach of citizens with a genuine interest in the application of a novel penal provision.


Frank Brennan SJ | 19 July 2018


Gary Nolan, what substantive damage is Archbishop Wilson's appealing of his conviction doing that has not already been done to the Church's standing in this sorry affair? Fair-minded people who know and respect the provisions of law available to all citizens in our democratic society would, I think, be disturbed if not scandalized by capitulation in the face of media and political pressure at the expense of a basic natural right not being exercised.
John | 19 July 2018


Would that the rigour of Fr Brennan's investigative efforts were as evident in much of the demonstrably biased reporting of Archbishop Wilson's case. Thank you, Frank.
John | 19 July 2018


Technically Bishop Wilson is accountable for not reporting the abuse of those young boys but he deserves some compassion. The culture of the Catholic Church at the time did not encourage such diligence. This is now evident from the work of the Royal Commission. Wilson was a naive and inexperienced priest not long out of the seminary. He later acted appropriately in similar cases as a Bishop in Wollongong and Adelaide. This is why it seems that the sentence of home detention seems reasonable given his age and health. This is one of those cases where the real culprit is the Church clerical culture and accountability. Like others, I believe that Bishop Wilson should resign because he has been convicted and the office of Bishop has been deeply tainted. He is also symbolic of the somewhat corrupt culture which allowed abuse of children to continue unchecked. It does seem odd that in a country where there is separation of church and state, there are high level politicians calling for the Bishop’s resignation, however. The fact that Wilson has disregarded the advice of his fellow bishops to resign surely indicates another problem with church accountability. My deepest sympathy to all those young boys who have been so terribly hurt.
Kate Sommerville | 19 July 2018


It is a witchunt. The ABC like mainstream media is viscerally anti- Catholic. They delight in hounding anyone who falls foul of their views. Archbishop Wilson was a young naive priest when his ‘offence’ took place, it’s easy to use a 2018 lens to judge actions of 40 years ago. Archbishop Wilson has gone onto set in place processes to help victims. But that’s ignored. It’s for the Church to help him decide what to do. Not Turnbull or Shorten’s who are baying for his blood to look good in the populist media.
Rosemary Sheehan | 20 July 2018


Garry Nolan: Amen! Frank Brennan: Thank you for going to such extraordinary lengths in pursuit of accuracy and truth, and for telling us what you were up against. Kate Sommerville: The offence(s) for which Archbishop Wilson has been convicted took place 2004-2006. No appeal to naivety and inexperience can be made to excuse inaction during this period (even IF such appeal were validly made concerning earlier dates).
Richard Jupp | 20 July 2018


"Wilson was a naive and inexperienced priest not long out of the seminary", writes Kate Sommerville. I am a priest of a similar age to Archbishop Wilson. I was young and inexperienced when just out of the seminary. However, I was not naive in the seminary or just of out it. This defense appears quite often in discussions of pedophilia cases. In those years, I knew what pedophilia was and if a child had told me a fellow priest had sexually abused him, I would have done something about it - at the very least I would have reported the matter to our Archbishop. We may not have known that pedophilia is virtually incurable, but we did know that it was a vile crime and a serious sin! Naivety doesn't wash.
apjp2007 | 20 July 2018


I agree that Archbishop has every right to appeal, and should not resign until after his appeal. I also am of opinion that he is guilty. To my mind the reason the senior bishops of Australia are pushing for him to resign is that they hope things will settle down and be forgotten, because Wilson is the unlucky one to get court. Almost every other bishop in Australia has known about priest abuse in their diocese and only moved them from parish to parish. The best thing that could come from the 2020 council is to get rid of bishops.
Eddie Doherty | 20 July 2018


Apart from the problem with just 10 hours, why was Atkinson persecuted by his employer for raising any questions about accuracy or ambush?
Adrian | 20 July 2018


It is a fact that not many have read the magistrates judgement and that you cannot read it unless you go to Newcastle to read it. Thank you Frank Brennan and wouldn't it be nice if Michelle Guthrie at the ABC told her reporters to be more accurate in their reports. Furthermore, what rights do Shorten and Turnbull to call for the Archbishops sacking. I can think of many times these two have misled so many people on so many subjects on so many occasions that may be they are not fit and proper persons to hold the offices they currently do
PHIL ROWAN | 20 July 2018


Thank you for this. Real information is what id required and I think this article addresses that concern to a degree. I appreciate it and am pleased to see it presented here. This matter can be obfuscated by those with an interest to do so, but I think we see that and this article goes toward denying that it is allowed to be perpetrated without challenge. Thank you.
Tony Kelly | 20 July 2018


Sad personal episodes have taught me that when victims of CSA get into the criminal justice system they find a new adversarial world of different logic, time and vocabulary. Once sucked into it with lawyers especially expensive silks defending churchmen it's hard to see where Jesus and Christian values  fit. It's a bitter battleground with no winners. I just cannot see that this is the time for an A'bishop to be defending his citizens rights.   He's guilty as charged and has a lenient sentence. Would that he joined Jerome in his desert cave. Those who think there is cheering or scapegoating or witch hunting among the abused - come to our meetings of fortheinnocents, Melbourne Victims Cooperative and in good faith foundation ... you'll find no cheering  for the convictions of high flyers. You will witness sadness that churchmen put money, parsimonios structures and fail in pastoral care to victims, families and parishes before the healing of the abused and before addressing the root causes in Canon Law and celibacy as an absolute condition of priesthood in the Raman Rite ... other 20 Rites in union with Rome do not have celibacy. The RC and studies show while celibacy is not a cause of priestly abuse it sure is a contributing factor Peter McClellan saw celibacy as the flip side of the abuse coin. One item that has stuck with me from CBC East St Kilda 'Civics' was: The Law is open to all just like the Waldorf Towers Hotel in New York. Mike Parer
Michael Parer | 20 July 2018


When I was a child of 10 years of age I was playing with the next door neighbours children in their yard when a young man who was boarding there joined us and organised us into a game of "hide and seek". He told to "hide" but when I was about to take off he grabbed me and started to pull my pants down. I managed to escape unscathed and ran home and told my mother and father. After quickly checking to see that I was not injured in any way my raging father took off in pursuit of the man, but he had disappeared and was never seen again in neighbourhood.
John Morris | 20 July 2018


Firstly, it goes without saying the poor children who did suffer sexual abuse deserve nothing but care and compassion. Moving to the Archbishop Wilson case, it is gathering extra significance, perhaps because in his dogged self-belief, Wilson resists the long-drop solution advocated by both fair people, and also agenda-pursuers. How foolish to imagine there could be unbiased treatment of anything Catholic by the ABC - as Ms. Smith points out the Archbishop had all of 10 hours to peruse questions. Regarding awareness of paedophilia 40 years ago, and this is a vital ingredient, or it should be, surely it was an individual thing - not everybody was across it. I can absolutely vouch I knew ZERO about paedophilia back then, and nor was I alone among friends and siblings. Yes, we thought we knew it all, but we knew nothing. Had I been a novice in my job, aged 26 years, unacquainted with deviate sex, and desperately trying not to make waves, and had a couple of youngsters tell me happenings which seemed outside the realms of human experience, there's no way I'd have reported it. Might I then, be a candidate almost half a century later for an allegation about my decades old failure to report? Also, I hear of it being tough as a complainant in court, but imagine for a moment what it must be like for accused clergy who are actually innocent - and they DO exist. Unilaterally, accused clergy are considered pariahs, the media is vicious, potential witnesses are dead or demented, and while leeway on memory lapses/inaccurate details seem to be extended to complainants, not so for those struggling to defend themselves in today's harsh climate. I have no doubt an eventual day of justification will come for those accused who are innocent, as it has in other similar matters, but it will be much too late for most. Not all the clergy lined up for their day in court are guilty, but they'll struggle in a legal climate anxious to be fair to complainants. Vacuous blanket apologies are now routinely handed out in cases where the requisite "beyond a reasonable doubt" factor seemed to swing casually in the breeze.
Rose | 20 July 2018


Thanks to Eureka St for publishing this discussion. I am finding it very difficult to make a judgement on the rights and wrongs with so little publicly available knowledge, especially the court judgement. So, yes Archbishop Wilson does have the right to appeal, as does the Public Prosecutor in regard to his sentencing. However, as an active member of the Adelaide Archdiocese I think it is incumbent upon the Archbishop to resign now while legal proceedings are unfinished. The Archdiocese has already suffered 3 years of wearing the uncertainty of the outcome, the confusion about what the facts are, and the lack of leadership from a bishop able to serve the community without reserve. In the circumstances we have done very well, with a strong leadership team carrying a very difficult burden. However this can't be prolonged for an unknown length of time, and it needs to be recognized by all parties that whatever the final outcome, great damage has been done to the Archdiocese by Philip Wilson insisting on his "rights". But the larger problem is that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has failed to offer any leadership to the Church since the handing down of the Royal Commission findings. Virtually nothing has been said to Catholics about the process of forming a response, let alone inviting comment from us as to how to deal with the issues raised. This is now threatening to wreck the very exciting process of Plenary 2020, which is asking us in parishes to begin "open conversations" now on what the future of the Catholic Church is in Australia. Unless the failures of the past are first dealt with, failures of a hierarchical, closed culture, it will be impossible to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to people and through people. The Catholic Church in Australia is in crisis. Who will lead us through this to a Spirit-filled future?
Peter Laffan | 20 July 2018


As religion editor of The Age from 2002 to 2013, I spent much more time reporting on clergy sexual abuse than I am comfortable remembering. If Alan Atkinson was making a general comment about an anti-Catholic witchhunt, I could accept that, for much media commentary has been ignorantly hostile. But in Philip Wilson's case, I agree with Suzanne Smith. And the Church has to accept how damaging the abuse crisis has been. Many priests and lay Catholics recognised that at the time I began reporting, while the leadership was still digging in its heels and in denial. My point is this: however much journalists have erred, and we have, were it not for the reporting (especially the Boston Globe's investigations, but also by many in Australia), the situation would never have changed. Neither the Church, nor most police, nor the judicial system had much appetite to investigate and change until forced by the media. This tendency, by the way, is true of matters far beyond the Church. Consider how many Royal Commissions and inquiries have been forced by media revelations over the decades - you will find it is most of them.
Barney Zwartz | 20 July 2018


Barney, I so agree with what you have written here. It was many of your reports that supported me in my study and I have used them in my tutorials to inform students about such issues whenever it was relevant. I would also like to draw readers to the fact that for almost a century the Catholic Church 'controlled' the media, particularly in the USA and used its calls to boycott newspapers if ever there was even a hint of publishing a story involving a negative picture of the Catholic Church (see "Creating a Culture of Clergy Deviance", in Anson Shupe, ed., Wolves Within the Fold: Religious Leadership and Abuses of Power (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998: 118-132.) . It's no surprise then, that some media 'go to town' when it comes to reporting on the church. I also baulk at anti-Catholic flavour in media and media personalities, and it’s not hard to recognise when those who are in this for personal limelight reasons. But, yes, yes, yes, it is an absolute axiom that nothing much would have changed at all had the media not taken up the cause, (and even regardless of their reasons for doing so). Thank you for being a pioneer in this regard, and a good one.
Stephen de Weger (catholicmetoo.com) | 21 July 2018


Peter Laffan, the right of a person to defend his or her innocence is not merely an individual matter as you seem to imply in the case of Archbishop Wilson: any genuine right exercised affirms and protects the value enshrined in it for the benefit of all. This is indeed a critical time for the Church, as you recognize, and, please God, genuine renewal will come through a deepening sense of faith, discernment and participation on the part of all Catholics.
John | 23 July 2018


Smith gives herself away in saying that +Wilson was given 10 hours to respond! No person I know would face the press in circumstances as grave as his, given such short notice. Also, she disregards Atkinson's comment that he read detailed reports of the judgment by people in the court and from later readings of it. Unhelpful, I fear, given Brennan's explanation of how difficult it was for one in his position to access the judgment. Whatever our sympathies for Gogarty, he said on Victorian radio again recently that he had never personally taken his complaint directly to +Wilson. Again, the last paragraph of his response betrays his lack of certainty, and confirms my belief that he falls into the “he must have known” camp. Victims of abuse - and I am one of them - are notoriously susceptible to a kind of emotive reasoning that requires those who listen to take great care that they understand precisely what the victim is saying by very consciously setting aside their sympathies and biases so as to separate fact from impression. My prayer is to leave this matter with the courts, as airing it further offers little chance of justice being done.
Dr Michael Furtado | 23 July 2018


Yesterday I wrote again to the Registrar of the Newcastle Court asking in relation to the 59 page judgment in the Wilson case delivered on 22 May 2018: ‘Given that two months have now elapsed since the delivery of the decision, is there any prospect that you will be making a redacted copy of the judgment available simply omitting any material which would identify any complainant not wanting to be publicly identified? If not, would you ever be in a position to provide a copy of the judgment to concerned members of the public?’ Today, the Registrar replied, ‘It is highly unlikely that this will ever occur in respect to these current proceedings before the Local Court.’ So there you have it. We the public will NEVER have access to the substance of the judgment in the Wilson proceedings. This is outrageous. It is not the rule of law. I dare to suggest that if the judgment related to any person other than a Catholic bishop and to any issue of law other than failure to report child sexual abuse, there would have been all manner of academic, professional, media, and human rights groups expressing at least a note of mild concern. We're moving into dangerous waters.
Frank Brennan SJ | 25 July 2018


And the Catholic Church is pilloried for secrecy!
John | 26 July 2018


@Frank Brennan SJ | 25 July 2018 A serious genuine question: Why is this happening? Why is what you pointed out the case? Is the state protecting the Church. An interesting article relating to this issue can be found here - perhaps you know it. Worthwhile reading for anyone though. CONCEAL OR REVEAL? THE ROLE OF LAW IN BLACK COLLAR CRIME by Lesley Townsley (https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/bitstream/10453/3287/1/2006010089.pdf) : "This article reconsiders the way in which the State deals with the suppression or concealment of crimes, particularly child sexual abuse, by members of institutions such as churches."
Stephen de Weger (catholicmetoo.com) | 27 July 2018


My letter to the NSW Attorney General seeking public access to the judgment in the Philip Wilson case is included in Gerard Henderson's latest Media Watch: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/gerard-henderson/michelle-guthrie-needs-a-fact-checker-barrie-cassidys-mea-cuple/news-story/a5d429bb48fd7b4380baa2e442732fcc
Frank Brennan SJ | 03 August 2018


I note that Victoria has an Open Courts Act which sets out the duty to publish reasons, judgments or decisions. Section 16 provides, ‘Nothing in this Act limits or otherwise affects any duty of a court or tribunal to publish reasons for judgment or decisions, subject to the court or tribunal editing those reasons to the extent necessary to comply with any order of a court or tribunal or statutory provision restricting the publication of information.’
Frank Brennan SJ | 07 August 2018


Fr. Frank, I take it from your most recent post that you are still struggling to read/view a decipherable copy of the decision?
Anthony McBride | 09 August 2018


Anthony, no one can read the decision unless they first receive permission from the court, having then presented themselves at Newcastle court where they will be permitted to read the 59 pages under supervision in a public waiting area (without any desk). Australian courts and royal commissions are well used to providing the public with redacted documents blanking out material which could cause the identification of any person entitled not to be publicly identified. But the Newcastle Local Court has not done so, and will not even provide for a supervised reading of the judgment in Sydney. This has been a matter of considerable indifference to the media. But I think it matters, a lot. It's called the rule of law, rather than rule by the media interpreting the law for us. that's why I have written at length about the matter to the NSW Attorney-General. Watch this spot! The substance of the judgment should be available to the public. The point is really quite simple. The fact that the accused is a Catholic bishop should not make any difference to the approach taken by the court, the media, or the human rights interest groups.
Frank Brennan SJ | 09 August 2018


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I have interviewed Wilson just once, while working for the ABC in Adelaide. I am not a Catholic. I abhor sexual abuse and its concealment. I do not wish to debate the rights or wrongs of resignation but simply reflect on whether the pursuit of Wilson could be described as a witch-hunt and whether he might be a scapegoat for the sins of many.

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