Melbourne Archbishop-elect Peter Comensoli says Wilson has taken the wrong 'path'

NSW Catholic Bishop Peter Comensoli says Archbishop Philip Wilson should resign because “the path he is taking is not of benefit for God’s people”.

The Broken Bay Bishop who will be installed as Archbishop of Melbourne in two weeks said Wilson’s refusal to resign after he was convicted of concealing a Hunter priest’s child sex crimes had led to a “terrible impasse”.

“Philip Wilson has chosen to not offer his resignation, and has rightly said he has a right to appeal, which he has done, but in all of that there remains what is good for the people of God in this circumstance, and most particularly, what would be good for the people of the Archdiocese of Adelaide,” Bishop Comensoli told the ABC’s Religion report today.

“For those reasons I think the path he is taking is not of benefit for God’s people in Adelaide, so I along with a number of other bishops have sought to counsel Philip in that regard.”

Bishop Comensoli is the first bishop to state publicly that he has encouraged Wilson to resign after Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge last week confirmed a number of Australian bishops had “offered their advice privately”, following calls by Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten for Wilson’s resignation.

Australia’s bishops respected Archbishop Wilson’s right to lodge an appeal but “we also recognise the ongoing pain this has caused survivors, especially those who were abused by Jim Fletcher”, Archbishop Coleridge said in a statement last week.

I think the path he is taking is not of benefit for God’s people in Adelaide, so I along with a number of other bishops have sought to counsel Philip in that regard.

Catholic Melbourne Archbishop-elect Peter Comensoli

Two of Fletcher’s victims, Daniel Feenan and Peter Gogarty, said the Pope should sack Wilson.

“As the only person in the world who can take decisive action in this regard, I urge you to dismiss him from his post immediately,” wrote Mr Gogarty, who was sexually abused by Fletcher in the 1970s, and whose calls for Wilson to resign or be dismissed were backed this week by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Bishop Comensoli said he did not know how he would react if he was in Wilson’s position.

“As someone who’s not trying to defend my name, and Philip is strongly holding to his innocence and I respect that, so how I would react I don’t know,” he said.

He said he hoped he would prioritise his “service to God’s people”.

Criticism of the bishops for not acting to secure Wilson’s resignation misunderstood their ability to act, he said.

“A bishop has a mandate from the Pope. I have no jurisdiction over a fellow bishop. I can call out until the cows come home for someone to resign or give up their diocese, and it might have some value by way of influence, but it has no authority about it.

“If the bishop is to be asked to resign it can only come from the Pope.”