The archbishop, the paedophile priest, the compassionate church employee and the damage done

Rejected: Newcastle woman Anthea Halpin whose failed attempts to meet with Archbishop Philip Wilson in 2008 have changed history. Picture: Simone De Peak. IT’S one of the most spectacular own goals in Catholic Church history –how Archbishop Philip Wilson’s refusal to meet with a Newcastle child sex victim in 2008 laid the groundwork forhis conviction for concealing a crime, a special commission of inquiry and a royal commission.

It’s the extraordinary story of Anthea Halpin, notorious paedophile priest Denis McAlinden, the face-to-face apology from Wilson that never came and the documents that have helped change history.

It’s also the remarkable story of Maitland-Newcastle diocese child protection officer Helen Keevers’ key role in the Wilson case andher sudden deathdays before his conviction. Her memorial service was held only hours after Tuesday’s landmark decision that Wilson concealed the crimes of child sex offender priest Jim Fletcher.

For the first time theNewcastle Heraldcan reveal how Wilson’s refusal to meet with Mrs Halpin in 2008 –in part because she used “totally inappropriate” obscenities in some emails to him and wanted a face-to-faceapology –launched a series of events directly challenging the Vatican.

Archbishop Philip Wilson in 2008 to child sex victim Anthea HalpinHeraldafter articles naming McAlinden as a serial church child sex offender who left a trail of destruction across , Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, the Philippines and Ireland.

The articles, which named Wilson as the notary in the secret defrocking case, led to an historic apology from the then Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone to child sexual abuse victims. He also personally apologised to Mrs Halpin.

In 2008 Mrs Halpin, supported by Helen Keevers and survivor advocate Peter Gogarty, first contacted Wilson, by then Archbishop of Adelaide, seeking a meeting and an apology for his role in the McAlinden secret defrocking attempt.

Wilson said no.

Concerns: Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone and the late former diocese child protection officer Helen Keevers.

In a letter to Mrs Halpin on November 20, 2008 he said his involvement“ended at the moment that I handed the information to the bishop”.

“However, I would not want you to think I do not appreciate your situation,” Wilson wrote.

“Listening to your story (in 1995) has been one of the saddest experiences of my life. My heart on that day was filled with anger at what you recounted, and deep feelings of compassion for you.

“My heart is still full of the same compassion today. I have remembered you in my prayers constantly and have offered mass for you, asking the Lord to give you a deep sense of peace and healing.”

Archbishop Philip Wilson to Helen Keevers What planet do you live on? How come it was okay for Denis McAlinden to do the things he did to me as a little girl, but me getting angry about it now is unacceptable?

Anthea Halpin to Archbishop Philip WilsonHeraldcampaign for a royal commission that “got into my head”.

Strikeforce Lantle Detective Sergeant Jeff Little charged Wilson inMarch, 2015 with concealing thecrimes of Jim Fletcher. Wilsonwas convicted on Tuesday and will be sentenced in June.The decision came three weeks after Cardinal George Pell was committed to stand trial on sex charges, and five months after the royal commission released a final report withrecommendations challenging the Vatican and many of its core tenets.

“Wilson should have had that cuppa with me,” Mrs Halpin said.

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