Before appearing in court to testify against a Catholic bishop, Pope Francis called the priest to the Vatican in 2016 to share his testimony. Francis wanted to know what the priest would say about a contested bishop and let him know that such public testimony was not appreciated.
Father Glen Walsh met with the Pope in 2016, The Sydney Morning Herald reports before testifying against Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson, who was accused of hiding allegations of sexual abuse of former acolytes in the Diocese of Newcastle-Maitland in the 1970s . After meeting with Pope Francis, Cardinal George Pell allegedly waited outside and raised his hand for the priest to kiss his ring. Walsh was allegedly told he had no future in the diocese weeks before the archbishop's trial. Just before he could testify, Walsh committed suicide. Wilson was found guilty of concealment in May 2018 based on evidence containing testimony from Walsh, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.
The explosive allegation about the papal meeting contained in The Altar Boys suggests that the pressure placed on priests who betray the Brotherhood has reached the Vatican and sparked calls for police investigations. Suzanne Smith, author of The Altar Boys and award-winning journalist. Her 27-year journalism career includes executive editorial roles with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, including Foreign Correspondent, Background Briefing, Radio National, ABC News and Radio Current Affairs. She was the lead investigative reporter and producer for Lateline on ABC TV, covering clergy cover-ups that helped spark institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Australia by the Royal Commission.
Father Walsh, whose story was made public through the release of The Altar Boys, was the star witness in the case against Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson when he met with the Pope on February 9, 2016. At the time he was the highest Catholic ever charged with obfuscation offenses.
Father Walsh later told confidants that the Pope had asked him why he was involved in a trial against an archbishop, what he was going to say in court and who was going with him. Father Walsh said he did not trust the interpreter and offered little detail.
It was the culmination of what Father Walsh saw as the Church's ongoing campaign to get him to adhere to the line of child sexual abuse. He was reportedly frozen from the Maitland-Newcastle diocese after defying the bishop in 2004 to report a fellow priest for child sexual abuse and was only reinstated in early 2017. In October 2017, Newcastle-Maitland Bishop Bill Wright announced that Father Walsh had no future in the diocese. Two weeks later, before he could testify, Father Walsh committed suicide. As a result of the book's publication, requests were made to investigate the circumstances surrounding Father Walsh's suicide.