Australian PM calls on pope to fire archbishop

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 July 2018
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Australian PM calls on pope to fire archbishop

  • The archbishop has long denied the charges and his legal team made four attempts to have the case thrown out
  • One of the highest-ranking church officials to be convicted on the charge

SYDNEY: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Thursday that Pope Francis must sack an Australian archbishop convicted of concealing child sex abuse.
In May, Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, became the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of not disclosing to police abuse by another priest.
Wilson, who was sentenced to a year’s detention this month, has stepped aside as archbishop of Adelaide in South Australia state, but has not resigned, insisting he will do so only if he is unsuccessful in an appeal.
Turnbull, who has previously called on Wilson to resign, escalated his criticism of the archbishop remaining in office.
“He should have resigned and the time has come for the Pope to sack him,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney. “I think the time has come now for the ultimate authority in the Church to take action and sack him.”
The archdiocese of Adelaide was not immediately available for comment.
The usual procedure is for a bishop to offer his resignation to the pope, but Wilson has said he will appeal the sentence and not resign unless he loses.
The Vatican had no comment on Turnbull’s remark, one of the sharpest interventions by a politician concerning the Catholic Church since former Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny accused the Holy See of obstructing investigations into sexual abuse by priests in 2011.
That prompted the Vatican to recall its ambassador in Ireland for consultations.
Lawyers for Wilson, who maintained his innocence throughout his trial, had argued that he did not know priest James Fletcher had committed child sex abuse throughout the 1970s. The court was told that two victims, one an altar boy, told Wilson of the abuse in 1976.
Fletcher was found guilty in 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse and died in jail in 2006 after a stroke.
Wilson remains on bail while he is assessed by prison authorities for home detention, instead of jail.
Diagnosed this year with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Wilson is to face court again on August 11, for a ruling on whether he will be imprisoned or allowed to serve his sentence in home detention.
Accusations of sexual abuse cover-ups have continued to rock the Catholic Church years after perpetrators of sexual abuse started regularly appearing before the courts.
In May, all 34 bishops in Chile offered to resign over allegations of a cover-up of sexual abuse.


Armed civilian border group member arrested in New Mexico

Updated 4 sec ago
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Armed civilian border group member arrested in New Mexico

  • Armed civilian groups have been a fixture on the border for years, especially when large numbers of migrants come. But, unlike previous times, many of the migrants crossing now are children
LAS CRUCES, N.M.: A New Mexico man belonging to an armed group that has detained Central American families near the US-Mexico border was arrested Saturday in a border community on a criminal complaint accusing him of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, authorities said.
The FBI said in a statement it arrested 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins in Sunland Park with the assistance of local police. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a separate statement that Hopkins was a member of the group that had stopped migrants.
Hopkins was booked into the Dona Ana County detention center in Las Cruces and it wasn’t immediately known whether he has an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
The FBI statement did not provide information on Hopkins’ background, and FBI spokesman Frank Fisher told The Associated Press that no additional information would be released until after Hopkins has an initial appearance Monday in federal court in Las Cruces.
The FBI said Hopkins is from Flora Vista, a rural community in northern New Mexico and approximately 353 miles (572 kilometers) north of Sunland Park, which is a suburb of El Paso, Texas.
The Sunland Park Police Department on Saturday referred an AP reporter to the FBI.
Balderas said in a statement that Hopkins “is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families. Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”
Federal authorities on Friday warned private groups to avoid policing the border after a string of videos on social media showed armed civilians detaining large groups of Central American families in New Mexico.
The videos posted earlier in the week show members of United Constitutional Patriots ordering family groups as small as seven and as large as several hundred to sit on the dirt with their children, some toddlers, waiting until Border Patrol agents arrive.
Customs and Border Protection said on its Twitter account that it “does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations that take enforcement matters into their own hands. Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.”
Jim Benvie, a spokesman for United Constitutional Patriots, did not immediately respond Saturday to a request for comment made via Facebook.
Benvie said in a video that the group’s members were assisting a “stressed and overstrained Border Patrol” and said the group is legally armed for self-defense and never points guns at migrants. The posted videos do not show them with firearms drawn.
Armed civilian groups have been a fixture on the border for years, especially when large numbers of migrants come. But, unlike previous times, many of the migrants crossing now are children.
In the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which has emerged as the second-busiest corridor for illegal crossings after Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, 86% of arrests in March were people who came as families or unaccompanied children.