Family turned to Adelaide Archbishop Wilson after learning son abused by priest Jim Fletcher

LANDMARK: Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson outside Newcastle courthouse on Friday where he appeared for allegedly concealing child sex allegations. The case will resume in April. Picture: Darren Pateman
LANDMARK: Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson outside Newcastle courthouse on Friday where he appeared for allegedly concealing child sex allegations. The case will resume in April. Picture: Darren Pateman

A MAITLAND mother described how, “at a loss” after discovering her son had been sexually abused by Hunter priest Jim Fletcher, she turned to her friend Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson.

“I classed him a family friend and we didn’t know what to do,” the woman, who cannot be identified, told Newcastle Local Court on Friday.

“I was at a loss so decided to ring him. I told him [my son] had been abused by James Fletcher. He said there was nothing much he could do, it was out of his area and to ring Michael Malone.”

Adelaide Archbishop Wilson is the most senior cleric in the world to be charged with concealing child sex allegations. He denies he concealed the allegations, made against Fletcher.

The man at the centre of the landmark trial gave evidence earlier this week that he allegedly told Archbishop Wilson, when he was a young Hunter priest in 1976, that he’d been abused as a 10-year-old altar boy.

In Newcastle Local Court on Friday witnesses gave evidence of their attempts to get help from Archbishop Wilson when a relative revealed years later he too was sexually abused by Fletcher. 

The Maitland woman said she heard about Fletcher being charged with child sex offences on the radio in 2003 and she called her children to ask if they had been abused, which they denied.

But in 2004 when Fletcher called her daughter to ask for a character reference as part of his court proceedings, her son disclosed that he’d been abused as a boy.

The woman said in the months after calling Archbishop Wilson, he came from Adelaide to visit the family.

She told the court that Archbishop Wilson sat in her kitchen and told her he did not know about her son being abused, but she did not believe him.

Family members told how after going public about the abuse allegations they were shunned by parishioners in Maitland. 

“No-one would talk to us at church,” the woman’s daughter said.

The daughter gave evidence that in 2009, after Archbishop Wilson found out the family had not received any compensation from the church, he sent them a cheque for $1000 of his own money. The family returned it. The case was adjourned to April, 2018.