Archbishop Philip Wilson plans to work on despite Alzheimer’s diagnosis putting trial on hold

ARCHBISHOP Philip Wilson plans to remain head of Adelaide archdiocese for the next eight years despite his lawyers telling a Newcastle court on Tuesday that he had Alzheimer’s disease and might not be fit to stand trial.
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In a statement on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the shock diagnosis put his landmark trial for allegedly failing to report child sex allegations on hold, the archbishop, 67, told his Adelaide archdiocese he could see out his term until the mandatory retirement age of 75.

“I am aware that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is one that will alarm many people,” Archbishop Wilson said.

“An initial reaction by many people is to think that life is all but over, and that a person with such a diagnosis cannot continue to live a productive life and contribute to society. I am fully aware that some people will now judge me in this light. But I hope to prove them wrong!”

Archbishop Wilson said he had been prescribed medication “that may assist me greatly in slowing the progress of this disease, and indeed improve my present condition”.

“However, 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 may be beginning to impair my ability to function properly as archbishop, I will offer my resignation to the Holy Father.”

Archbishop Wilson said he had informed the Pope’s representative in , the Apostolic Nuncio, of his diagnosis and would provide him with medical reports and updated tests with his neurologist “during the years ahead”.

Archbishop Wilson did not appear in Newcastle Local Court on Tuesday for the expected start of a two-week trial after he was charged in March, 2015 with failing to report child sex allegations involving Hunter priest Jim Fletcher to police between 2004 and 2006 when Fletcher died in jail after his conviction.

Archbishop Wilson has pleaded not guilty to the landmark charge that made him the most senior Catholic in the world to be charged with such an offence. His three attempts to have the charge dismissed, including a NSW Court of Appeal application in June that was dismissed by three judges, were unsuccessful.

In his statement Archbishop Wilson said his recent problems started with a fall on October 11 where he was “unconscious for a small amount of time and I lost a lot of blood”.

The court heard he required eight sutures to a head wound when he was seen in an Adelaide hospital emergency department.

“In the weeks following this event, some of my colleagues noticed that I was not myself and advised me to have a number of medical tests.As a result of those tests, it was determined that I needed a pacemaker attached to my heart, and the neurological tests have diagnosed that I have Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

In court on Tuesday magistrate Caleb Franklin was told lawyers for Archbishop Wilson referred him to see a neurologist after they were concerned about his cognitive abilities during a meeting to discuss the Newcastle trial.

Adelaide neurologist Dr Andrew Lee told the court he gave a “working diagnosis” of Alzheimer’s disease after conducting three tests, including a “Montreal” test where Archbishop Wilson was unable to draw a clock and had difficulty drawing clock hands showing the time of 11.10am.

Archbishop Wilson was also unable to do a simple test of counting backward by seven from 100, or nominating words starting with the letter ‘f’ in under one minute.

Dr Lee agreed with barrister for the Crown, Gareth Harrison, that the archbishop might have been “malingering” in failing to complete some of the tests within the time frames. But he “didn’t get the impression he was trying to put this on”, Dr Lee said.

A YouTube video of Archbishop Wilson, posted by his diocese on October 31, might have seemed to show a senior cleric in command of his faculties, Dr Lee said. But slight verbal stumbles at several points, for a man as experienced a speaker as the archbishop, were further signs of the need for more intense assessment of his cognitive abilities, he said.

Magistrate Franklin adjourned the matter until Friday morning, when the court will hear if Archbishop Wilson can get an appointment to see a neuropsychologist for a further assessment, in time for the trial to start on Monday.

Mr Franklin rejected a Crown application to start the trial before Archbishop Wilson is assessed by the neuropsychologist, telling the court “If he’s not fit to stand trial then I can’t force the matter to proceed”.

But Mr Franklin expressed dissatisfaction with the timing of the archbishop’s adjournment application.

“I have to say it’s a completely unsatisfactory state of affairs it’sbeen left so late,” Mr Franklin said.

In his statement Archbishop Wilson said he was “at peace with the situation in which I now find myself”.

“I am in God’s hands and I trust in the love and care of the Lord on the journey of life I have before me,” he said.

“I ask that you take this information that I am providing to you calmly and peacefully. There is no cause for panic.

“I will continue to be present to you with all the love I have for the Archdiocese of Adelaide. And I intend to reach out to others who live with the Alzheimer’s condition and to be a sign of support and encouragement to them.”

The full statementTo the priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, and all the People of God in the Archdiocese of Adelaide,

I wish to share with you some important information about my health.

On October 11 this year, I had a nasty fall and injured my head. I was unconscious for a small amount of time and I lost a lot of blood. The blood thinner medication I take contributed to the significant blood loss.

In the weeks following this event, some of my colleagues noticed that I was not myself and advised me to have a number of medical tests.

As a result of those tests, it was determined that I needed a pacemaker attached to my heart, and the neurological tests have diagnosed that I have Alzheimer’s disease.

And all this has been occurring while I have been preparing for the trial that begins today (November 28, 2017) in Newcastle, NSW. I have informed the Court about my recent diagnoses which I hope will not prevent the process from at least starting. However, I am advised that it is now solely a matter for the Court to determine what will need to happen from this point.

Of course, I am aware that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is one that will alarm many people.

It is a present reality that much stigma is still associated with Alzheimer’s disease. An initial reaction by many people is to think that life is all but over, and that a person with such a diagnosis cannot continue to live a productive life and contribute to society. I am fully aware that some people will now judge me in this light. But I hope to prove them wrong!

I have been prescribed medication that may assist me greatly in slowing the progress of this disease and indeed improve my present condition and I will, of course, see my neurologist regularly for testing and medical support. However, if a point comes in the next 8 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.

I have informed Pope Francis’ Ambassador in , the Apostolic Nuncio, of my diagnoses and will provide him with the medical reports from my specialist physicians and I will update him regularly with the results of tests and consultations with my neurologist during the years ahead.

With the grace of God, I am at peace with the situation in which I now find myself. I am in God’s hands and I trust in the love and care of the Lord on the journey of life I have before me.

I ask that you take this information that I am providing to you calmly and peacefully. There is no cause for panic. I will continue to be present to you with all the love I have for the Archdiocese of Adelaide. And I intend to reach out to others who live with the Alzheimer’s condition and to be a sign of support and encouragement to them.

Yours sincerely

Most Rev Philip Wilson DD JCL

Archbishop of Adelaide

ARCHBISHOP Philip Wilson plans to remain head of Adelaide archdiocese for the next eight years despite his lawyers telling a Newcastle court on Tuesday that he had Alzheimer’s disease and might not be fit to stand trial.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

In a statement on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the shock diagnosis put his landmark trial for allegedly failing to report child sex allegations on hold, the archbishop, 67, told his Adelaide archdiocese he could see out his term until the mandatory retirement age of 75.

“I am aware that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is one that will alarm many people,” Archbishop Wilson said.

“An initial reaction by many people is to think that life is all but over, and that a person with such a diagnosis cannot continue to live a productive life and contribute to society. I am fully aware that some people will now judge me in this light. But I hope to prove them wrong!”

Archbishop Wilson said he had been prescribed medication “that may assist me greatly in slowing the progress of this disease, and indeed improve my present condition”.

“However, 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 may be beginning to impair my ability to function properly as archbishop, I will offer my resignation to the Holy Father.”

Archbishop Wilson said he had informed the Pope’s representative in , the Apostolic Nuncio, of his diagnosis and would provide him with medical reports and updated tests with his neurologist “during the years ahead”.

Archbishop Wilson did not appear in Newcastle Local Court on Tuesday for the expected start of a two-week trial after he was charged in March, 2015 with failing to report child sex allegations involving Hunter priest Jim Fletcher to police between 2004 and 2006 when Fletcher died in jail after his conviction.

Archbishop Wilson has pleaded not guilty to the landmark charge that made him the most senior Catholic in the world to be charged with such an offence. His three attempts to have the charge dismissed, including a NSW Court of Appeal application in June that was dismissed by three judges, were unsuccessful.

In his statement Archbishop Wilson said his recent problems started with a fall on October 11 where he was “unconscious for a small amount of time and I lost a lot of blood”.

The court heard he required eight sutures to a head wound when he was seen in an Adelaide hospital emergency department.

“In the weeks following this event, some of my colleagues noticed that I was not myself and advised me to have a number of medical tests.As a result of those tests, it was determined that I needed a pacemaker attached to my heart, and the neurological tests have diagnosed that I have Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

In court on Tuesday magistrate Caleb Franklin was told lawyers for Archbishop Wilson referred him to see a neurologist after they were concerned about his cognitive abilities during a meeting to discuss the Newcastle trial.

Adelaide neurologist Dr Andrew Lee told the court he gave a “working diagnosis” of Alzheimer’s disease after conducting three tests, including a “Montreal” test where Archbishop Wilson was unable to draw a clock and had difficulty drawing clock hands showing the time of 11.10am.

Archbishop Wilson was also unable to do a simple test of counting backward by seven from 100, or nominating words starting with the letter ‘f’ in under one minute.

Dr Lee agreed with barrister for the Crown, Gareth Harrison, that the archbishop might have been “malingering” in failing to complete some of the tests within the time frames. But he “didn’t get the impression he was trying to put this on”, Dr Lee said.

A YouTube video of Archbishop Wilson, posted by his diocese on October 31, might have seemed to show a senior cleric in command of his faculties, Dr Lee said. But slight verbal stumbles at several points, for a man as experienced a speaker as the archbishop, were further signs of the need for more intense assessment of his cognitive abilities, he said.

Magistrate Franklin adjourned the matter until Friday morning, when the court will hear if Archbishop Wilson can get an appointment to see a neuropsychologist for a further assessment, in time for the trial to start on Monday.

Mr Franklin rejected a Crown application to start the trial before Archbishop Wilson is assessed by the neuropsychologist, telling the court “If he’s not fit to stand trial then I can’t force the matter to proceed”.

But Mr Franklin expressed dissatisfaction with the timing of the archbishop’s adjournment application.

“I have to say it’s a completely unsatisfactory state of affairs it’sbeen left so late,” Mr Franklin said.

In his statement Archbishop Wilson said he was “at peace with the situation in which I now find myself”.

“I am in God’s hands and I trust in the love and care of the Lord on the journey of life I have before me,” he said.

“I ask that you take this information that I am providing to you calmly and peacefully. There is no cause for panic.

“I will continue to be present to you with all the love I have for the Archdiocese of Adelaide. And I intend to reach out to others who live with the Alzheimer’s condition and to be a sign of support and encouragement to them.”

The full statementTo the priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, and all the People of God in the Archdiocese of Adelaide,

I wish to share with you some important information about my health.

On October 11 this year, I had a nasty fall and injured my head. I was unconscious for a small amount of time and I lost a lot of blood. The blood thinner medication I take contributed to the significant blood loss.

In the weeks following this event, some of my colleagues noticed that I was not myself and advised me to have a number of medical tests.

As a result of those tests, it was determined that I needed a pacemaker attached to my heart, and the neurological tests have diagnosed that I have Alzheimer’s disease.

And all this has been occurring while I have been preparing for the trial that begins today (November 28, 2017) in Newcastle, NSW. I have informed the Court about my recent diagnoses which I hope will not prevent the process from at least starting. However, I am advised that it is now solely a matter for the Court to determine what will need to happen from this point.

Of course, I am aware that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is one that will alarm many people.

It is a present reality that much stigma is still associated with Alzheimer’s disease. An initial reaction by many people is to think that life is all but over, and that a person with such a diagnosis cannot continue to live a productive life and contribute to society. I am fully aware that some people will now judge me in this light. But I hope to prove them wrong!

I have been prescribed medication that may assist me greatly in slowing the progress of this disease and indeed improve my present condition and I will, of course, see my neurologist regularly for testing and medical support. However, if a point comes in the next 8 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.

I have informed Pope Francis’ Ambassador in , the Apostolic Nuncio, of my diagnoses and will provide him with the medical reports from my specialist physicians and I will update him regularly with the results of tests and consultations with my neurologist during the years ahead.

With the grace of God, I am at peace with the situation in which I now find myself. I am in God’s hands and I trust in the love and care of the Lord on the journey of life I have before me.

I ask that you take this information that I am providing to you calmly and peacefully. There is no cause for panic. I will continue to be present to you with all the love I have for the Archdiocese of Adelaide. And I intend to reach out to others who live with the Alzheimer’s condition and to be a sign of support and encouragement to them.

Yours sincerely

Most Rev Philip Wilson DD JCL

Archbishop of Adelaide