Philip Wilson (bishop)

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His Grace The Most Reverend
Philip Wilson
8th Archbishop of Adelaide
Church St Francis Xavier's Cathedral
Archdiocese Adelaide
Province Adelaide
Installed 3 December 2001
Predecessor Leonard Faulkner
Other posts Bishop of Wollongong
(1996 – 2001)
President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
(2006 – present)
Ordination 23 August 1975 (priest) in
Consecration 10 July 1996 (bishop) in BHP Stadium, Unanderra
Personal details
Birth name Philip Edward Wilson
Born (1950-10-02)2 October 1950
Cessnock, New South Wales
Nationality Australian
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents Joan and John Wilson
Occupation Roman Catholic bishop
Profession Cleric
Alma mater St Patrick's Seminary, Manly;
Catholic Institute of Sydney
Styles of
Philip Wilson
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Grace
Religious style Archbishop
Posthumous style not applicable

Philip Edward Wilson (born 2 October 1950, Cessnock, New South Wales) is an Australian prelate. Wilson is the eighth Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, appointed in 2001 and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference since 2006. He served as a priest in what is now the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. After serving as Vicar-General of that diocese and studying in the United States, Wilson was appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Wollongong, where he gained a reputation as a "healing bishop" for handling child-abuse scandals.[1]

Early life[edit]

Wilson was born on to Joan and John Wilson, the eldest of five children, and received his primary and secondary education from St Patrick's Primary School, Cessnock, and St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill.[2][3] By his mid-teens, Wilson had decided to enter the priesthood,[4] and on his completion of high school, at the age of 18, he entered St Patrick's Seminary, Manly.[3] In 1974, he received a Bachelor of Theology from the Catholic Institute of Sydney.[2]


Following his ordination in 1975, Wilson's first posting was to the parish of East Maitland, New South Wales, where he served as an assistant priest, an experience he referred to as a "wonderful highlight of my career." In 1977-78 he undertook studies in religious education in New York. In 1978, he returned to Australia where he was appointed Director of Religious Education in the Diocese of Maitland (now the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle). After being appointed parish priest of Maitland in 1983, Wilson was promoted to Vicar-General, Diocesan Management and Administration in 1987.[3] From 1990-95, Wilson studied canon law in Washington D.C., where he received a Licentiate of Canon Law,[citation needed] and was made a Prelate of Honour by Pope John Paul II.[2]

Bishop of Wollongong[edit]

In 1996, Wilson was appointed to replace Bishop William Murray as Bishop of Wollongong, and on 10 July, he was consecrated by Cardinal Edward Clancy.[2][3] Aged 45, Wilson became the youngest Catholic bishop in Australia.[5]

During his time as Bishop of Wollongong, Wilson was tasked with dealing with an alleged culture of inadequate responses to child abuse by clergy within the diocese. Wilson's predecessor, Bishop Murray, had been criticised during public hearings of the Wood Royal Commission for not acting on allegations of sexual misconduct within the diocese, and had admitted publicly that he did not know how to deal with them.[6] Upon the delivery of the findings of the Wood Commission, Wilson issued a formal apology to the victims of abuse by clergy within the diocese.[6]

Archbishop of Adelaide[edit]

In November 2000, Pope John Paul II appointed Wilson to the position of coadjutor Archbishop of Adelaide,[7] in anticipation of the retirement of Leonard Faulkner, who was Archbishop of Adelaide at the time. Aged only 50, this appointment made Wilson the youngest Catholic Archbishop in Australia.[8] The announcement of Wilson's promotion brought praise for the Bishop from public figures in Wollongong,[9] with the Lord Mayor saying he had "...played a leading role in restoring the credibility of the Catholic Church here."[10] Archbishop Faulkner described him as "...a very pastoral man and a man of the people and very gifted academically."[7]

Wilson's welcome Mass, held in Adelaide's St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral on 1 February 2001, was the first Mass in Australia to be broadcast on the internet,[11] recording a reported 40,000 views.[12] Wilson spend most of 2001 learning about the archdiocese while acting as coadjutor,[13] and was installed at a Mass on 3 December, which was attended by about 35 bishops, more than 200 priests and the Governor of South Australia, Marjorie Jackson-Nelson.[14] He celebrated Mass for the first time in St Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Adelaide on 9 December 2001.[2]

In 2002, Wilson became the first Australian archbishop to be invited to address a session of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The session was held in the wake of an emergency meeting between American bishops and Pope John Paul II regarding the sex-abuse crisis within the Church. Wilson was selected to address the conference because of his experience dealing with clerical crimes while bishop of Wollongong.[1]

Allegations of mishandling incidents of reported sexual abuse of children[edit]

In May 2010, Wilson came under pressure regarding two incidents relating to sexual abuse in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. The first of these cases related to the alleged sexual assault of two girls by Father Dennis McAlinden, a priest in the diocese, in 1985. Wilson, the diocese's Vicar General at the time, was sent to speak to parents at the school where the assault was alleged to have taken place. The principal told the media, Wilson's response was to remove McAlindon from his position and provide help for him.[15] In fact, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), "McAlinden was ... transferred to a remote parish in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Over the next decade he sexually assaulted five more girls under the age of 10".[15]

In 1995, Wilson was again asked by bishop Leo Clarke to deal with the case, requesting that he take statements from the alleged victims. Wilson took the statements and returned them to the bishop. ABC reported that the statements were never provided to police, and instead, Clarke defrocked McAlinden, with the promise "that his 'good name' would be protected".[15] In addition, in a statement to ABC, Wilson said he told Clarke that McAlinden should have been confronted in 1985 and, that as far as he was aware, this had occurred. He denied involvement in McAlinden's transfer to Western Australia or his defrocking.[16]

The second set of allegations were revealed by the ABC's Lateline program in mid-May 2010. A victim of convicted paedophile James Fletcher (a priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese) alleged that Wilson should have been aware of, and did not act upon, Fletcher's sexually assaulting him.[15] According to the ABC, "[The victim said] Archbishop Philip Wilson was a priest living in the bishop's house in Maitland when Fletcher was also living there in the late 1970s, and that Philip Wilson should have been aware that he was being sexually abused in Fletcher's upstairs bedroom."[15] Wilson denied having any knowledge of the assault, and stated that he had not been living in the house at the time, but in a flat behind the residence.[16][17]


  1. ^ a b James, Colin (12 June 2002). "`Healing bishop' to help US priests with abuse crisis". Adelaide Advertiser. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Biography - Archbishop Philip Wilson". The Archdiocese of Adelaide. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d Devlin, Rebekah (3 May 2003). "Life lived for the glory of God". The Adelaide Advertiser. 
  4. ^ Devlin, Rebekah (1 December 2001). "In God he trusts". The Adelaide Advertiser. 
  5. ^ Hartgerink, Nick (2 December 2000). "Youngest Bishop Fulfilled Difficult Mission". Illawarra Mercury. 
  6. ^ a b McInerney, Paul (27 August 1997). "Bishop Regrets Events That Shocked Region". Illawarra Mercury. 
  7. ^ a b James, Colin (1 December 2000). "Pope appoints Adelaide's new Archbishop". The Adelaide Advertiser. Retrieved 28 May 2010. 
  8. ^ Turk, Louise (2 December 2000). "Higher Calling". Illawarra Mercury. 
  9. ^ "Community Leaders Pay Tribute". Illawarra Mercury. 2 December 2000. 
  10. ^ "Bishop Honoured". Illawarra Mercury. 20 December 2000. 
  11. ^ "Mass Internet audience". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). 21 January 2001. 
  12. ^ "The revolutionary ChurchCam". The Adelaide Advertiser. 12 February 2001. 
  13. ^ James, Colin (1 February 2001). "New archbishop hungry to learn". The Adelaide Advertiser. 
  14. ^ "Tickets remain for Installation Mass". Adelaide Advertiser. 26 November 2001. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Crittenden, Stephen (18 May 2010). "Archbishop's handling of abuse claims challenged". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  16. ^ a b Crittenden, Stephen; Smith, Suzanne (17 May 2010). "Archbishop under fire over alleged abuse cover-up" (Transcript). Lateline (Australia: ABC). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  17. ^ "Adelaide archbishop: Senator's interference in abuse case was 'unjust'". Catholic News Service. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
William Edward Murray
Bishop of Wollongong
1996 – 2001
Succeeded by
Peter Ingham
Preceded by
Leonard Faulkner
Archbishop of Adelaide
2001 – present
Succeeded by