ST Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill “Old Boy” classmates of Archbishop Philip Wilson aim to raise $60,000 to fund an appeal against his conviction for concealing child sexual abuse.
An email sent to the “Old Boys” after the appeal was lodged this week urged his classmates from 1963-68 to “contribute as much as you can”. An earlier email on Tuesday after Wilson started six-months home detention thanked four “Old Boys” for “putting their bodies on the line today” to “assist our friend Phil safely through the media pack” and deal with “aggressive jostling and emotional verbal abuse”.
But some recipients were outraged the email made no mention of a Wilson supporter telling Hunter abuse survivor Peter Gogarty “I haven’t got time for rubbish like you, mate”, and calling on the “Old Boys” to “please continue to keep our friend and classmate in your thoughts and prayers”.
“There’s nothing there about the victims of Jim Fletcher and their families and I think that’s totally wrong. There’s been 20 or 30 of these emails go out since the court case started and there’s never been any mention of sorrow that children were sexually abused by a Catholic priest,” one Old Boy recipient said.
A woman who attended Maitland-Newcastle youth groups run by Wilson in the 1970s, who received copies of “Old Boy” emails sent this week, including one that said the archbishop was convicted of “covering up information he supposedly knew about a paedophile priest”, sent an outraged email in reply.
“I believe you should keep your personal feelings about abusers/concealers to yourself and not try and garner support through an Old Boy’s Association. Not everyone is as blind as you and your friends,” the woman wrote.
“I notice there was nothing in your email… about deplorable comments to a victim, Peter Gogarty.
“As a person who has witnessed the culture of the diocesan priests, and also a close relative of children who were sexually abused, I take great offence that you can support Philip. Is this because he is an archbishop, and/or a young friend from school?
“Neither of these reasons make sense unless you have lived in this siocese. He DID cover up and did nothing to help those poor young children.”
Peter Gogarty said he had no problems with people supporting friends in court, but Wilson’s silence and his supporter’s “rubbish” criticism were an affront to Fletcher’s victims and their families and a denial of basic Christian compassion.
“If the job of Wilson’s supporter was to help Wilson in and out of the courtroom then who was he to be saying anything to me?” Mr Gogarty said.
“For him to react the way he did to me, when I was appealing to Philip to just say something to Fletcher’s victims and their family members, was just terrible.
“Philip’s classmates, all these good Catholic boys, don’t seem to get the basic Christian message about compassion and concern for others. Where in any of their emails is any thought for the victims of Jim Fletcher? Where is a word of compassion for Father Glen Walsh who took his own life before he was due to give evidence against Wilson?
“What does the school think about this?”
St Joseph’s College, Hunter’s Hill did not respond to a request for comment. The “Old Boys” group did not respond to a request for comment.