Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson attended court yesterday, accused of concealing information about the abuse of an altar boy by a priest in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s, AAP/Nine News reports.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison told the Newcastle Local Court that Archbishop Wilson had allegedly been involved in a number of cases where he had tried to prevent abuse claims being reported to police from between 1976 and 2004 to protect the Church.
In his opening address, Mr Harrison said the evidence would show the Archbishop had failed to report widespread child abuse by the Catholic clergy and a teacher.
The prosecutor said Archbishop Wilson had been a priest at a parish in 1976 when an altar boy came to him in the presbytery to reveal he had been sexually abused by James Fletcher when he was 10 years old.
The altar boy claimed Archbishop Wilson was shocked by the abuse claims and promised to look into it but nothing happened.
Mr Harrison said another altar boy, aged between eight and nine years old, went to see Archbishop Wilson in the confessional box in late 1976 to complain about being abused by Fletcher but Archbishop Wilson told the boy he was lying.
Fletcher was convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing another young boy and died in prison in January 2006.
Defence barrister Stephen Odgers SC said a lot of the claims aired in court by the prosecutor were hearsay and would be inadmissible during Archbishop Wilson's trial.
Archbishop Wilson, 67, sat quietly in court behind his team of lawyers during the prosecutor's opening address.
He travelled to Newcastle from Adelaide yesterday to appear in court after having been found fit to stand trial.
He had been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease before meeting Adelaide neuropsychologist Emma Scamps on Tuesday afternoon to determine if he was capable of understanding the evidence to be given at his trial and to instruct his lawyers.
Dr Scamps believed Archbishop Wilson, who had a pacemaker fitted on November 22, had signs of cognitive impairment but was mentally well enough to stand trial.
The trial continues.
Archbishop accused of hiding abuse claims (Nine News)
Archbishop Philip Wilson alleged to have paid hush money (The Australian)