Bishop Bill (Or: Know Your Enemy)


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Newcastle- Maitland Bishop, Bill Wright (for detail see previous postings), has been appointed to the Catholic Church PR unit charged with dealing with the fall-out from the Royal Commission. “Bishop Bill” (until recently he was just “Father Bill”), has been ordered to appear before the New South Wales government enquiry into child sexual abuse in his diocese. The experience he gains in defending the indefensible there will greatly increase his value to the PR committee dealing with the much wider Royal Commission.

A Sydney lawyer representing victims of sexual abuse in claims against the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese says out-of-court settlements made by the church could be in excess of $15 million. “The Australian” newspaper reports that the diocese has settled cases with around 100 sexual abuse victims. The Diocese will not confirm the reports. “Bishop Bill” says it is not in anyone’s best interest to make known either the total number of settlements or the amount involved. Most would disagree.

The Newcastle-Maitland diocese likes to keep child abuse matters in-house. Instead of contacting the NSW enquiry directly, complainants are urged to contact its PR unit, “Zimmerman Services”. As its newsletter states, “If you want support in making contact with the Inquiry, the personnel at Zimmerman Services can help you to tell your truth to the Inquiry.” The good bishop says he welcomes the Royal Commission.

“Bishop Bill” was born on 26 October 1952 in Washington DC. He was educated in Sydney and the UK and completed his secondary schooling at Jesuit Fathers St Aloysius’ College in Milsons Point. He entered the Seminary for the Archdiocese of Sydney in 1971, studying first at St Columba’s College in Springwood in the Blue Mountains before proceeding to St Patrick’s College, Manly. Before Newcastle, he was the parish priest of Liverpool since 2009. He served as the Vice Rector of the Seminary between 1985 and 1991, and as an Assistant Secretary to the Bishops Conference in 1995. He has served as the Chairman of the Catholic Schools Board of the Archdiocese of Sydney and was the representative of the Western Deanery on the Council of Priests.

He is Australia’s youngest bishop and is obviously going somewhere – fast.

“Bishop Bill” must be a good fireman to be trusted with dousing the Newcastle problem. If he can get the Catholic Church to come up smelling like roses after the Royal Commission, he can probably look forward to becoming “Cardinal Bill” sometime soon.

TOMORROW: Catholic Church PR Unit: Maria Harries

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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