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.


New Zealand crews reenter coal mine 8 years after 29 killed

This handout photo from the Pike River Family Reference Group taken on and recieved by AFP on May 21, 2019 shows family members and workers hugging after the re-opening of the entrance to the Pike River Mine where 29 miners lost their lives in an explosion in 2010 in the north west of the South Island of New Zealand. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2019
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New Zealand crews reenter coal mine 8 years after 29 killed

  • The plan won’t allow access into the inner workings of the mine, which are blocked by a massive rockfall

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Crews in New Zealand on Tuesday reentered an underground coal mine where a methane explosion killed 29 workers more than eight years ago, raising hopes among family members that they might find bodies and new evidence that leads to criminal charges.
Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton was killed in the explosion, said the families had been fighting for this ever since the Pike River mine exploded.
“We did it. We won,” she said.
She said it had been a “hugely emotional” day for the families and it was a moving experience to watch people going back into the mine. She said they hope the crews can recover electronic equipment that indicates what went wrong, much like the black box in a plane.
“The families are all hoping that the team going in, with their forensic expertise, will find new evidence for future prosecutions against those who allowed the mine to blow up in first place,” she said.
Nigel Hampton, a lawyer who is acting for the families, said that if they discover what ignited the methane, it could help link acts of negligence with the deaths of the miners and result in charges such as manslaughter.
“There’s still a long way to go yet, but it’s possible,” he said.
Two workers escaped the mine after the deadly November 2010 explosion. After several more explosions, the mine was sealed shut with a concrete barrier.
New Zealand’s previous conservative government concluded the mine remained too unsafe to reenter. But the liberal government elected in 2017, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, reconsidered.
“New Zealand is not a country where 29 people can die at work without real accountability,” said Andrew Little, the minister responsible for Pike River reentry. “That is not who we are. And that is why today we have fulfilled our promise. Today we have returned.”
The plan won’t allow access into the inner workings of the mine, which are blocked by a massive rockfall. It remains unclear how many miners were on either side of the rockfall at the time of the explosion or how many bodies might be recovered.
New Zealand police said they’ll be examining any new evidence from the mine, which they could use to file charges.
An earlier investigation concluded the Pike River Coal company had exposed miners to unacceptable risks as it strove to meet financial targets. The report found the company ignored 21 warnings that methane gas had accumulated to explosive levels before the disaster.
The company, which went bankrupt, didn’t contest labor violation charges against it.
Labor violation charges against former chief executive Peter Whittall were dismissed after he and the company made a financial settlement, a development which angered many of the grieving families. New Zealand’s Supreme Court later ruled the settlement was unlawful.
Whittall moved to Australia about five years ago.