philip wilson
Archbishop Philip Wilson arrives at Newcastle Local Court in Newcastle, Australia, May 22, 2018. AAP/Peter Lorimer/via REUTERS

Australian archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, was found guilty Tuesday of covering up child sex abuses in the 1970s, making him the most senior Catholic priest in the world to be charged and convicted of the offence.

The Adelaide archbishop covered up the abuse of four altar boys by a pedophile priest in the Hunter region of New South Wales.

The verdict in the Newcastle local court on Tuesday came after a magistrate-only trial, and Wilson faces imprisonment of maximum two years. Gareth Harrison, the prosecutor, told Wilson he had to be jailed for what he had done to deter others from trying to protect the Catholic Church.

“I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps,” Wilson said while expressing his disappointment at the decision, reported the Guardian.

Wilson stated during his rise from junior priest to church administrator, he had no knowledge about the sexually-abusive behavior of fellow-priests.

He rose to the top of the Australian church and was made in charge of managing the organization’s response to clergy sexual abuse.

Wilson became part of the “Australian bishops National Committee for Professional Standards” that came into existence in 1996 to supervise the management of the church's sexual-abuse crisis.

In 2001, when worldwide Catholic hierarchy was being accused of having covered up clergy sex-abuse crimes, Wilson was made the chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

In April 2018, he was charged of concealing child sex abuse committed by Fr. James Fletcher during the 1970s. Witnesses said they complained to Wilson of the abuse but he failed to follow up, reported the Guardian.

Former altar boy Peter Creigh, one of his victims, told the court he had informed Wilson about the abuse in detail in 1976. Wilson has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and claimed he did not remember the conversation he had with Creigh.

However, the Magistrate rejected the archbishops' claims and found Creigh to be a reliable witness.

Wilson also declared he would not resign until doctors advised him the Alzheimer’s disease was affecting his ability to do his job.

“If a point comes in the next eight years before my mandatory retirement as Archbishop of Adelaide, at 75 years of age, and I am advised by my doctors that the effects of Alzheimer’s disease might be beginning to impair my ability to function properly as archbishop, I will offer my resignation to the Holy Father,” he said.

Fr. James Fletcher on the other hand was found guilty on nine counts of child sexual abuse in 2004 and died in jail of a stroke in 2006.