Catholic Church in Australia Paid $43,000,000 in Hush Money; Tone-Deaf Church Lawyer Quotes Scripture At Hearing

During Monday’s hearing of the Australian commission that investigates child sex abuse, it emerged that Australia’s Catholic Church has paid at least $43,000,000 in hush money to victims of pedophile clergy members.

It’s easy to miss the significance. This money wasn’t a settlement. The Church paid it on the express condition that priests’ misdeeds would be kept secret. And not just secret as in “out of the public eye”:

In some cases, victims were not even allowed to tell their husbands, wives or children about the secret settlements negotiated through the church’s controversial Towards Healing process.

Which doesn’t sound much like “healing” at all.

(Toby Zerna – News Limited)

Some of the recipients now say they felt pressured into accepting the deal. One abuse victim, teacher Joan Isaacs, explained that

… she had felt silenced for the past 12 years after reluctantly signing a confidentiality agreement through the church’s controversial Towards Healing process for a $30,000 settlement which, after she paid legal fees, left her with enough to buy $5000 worth of Coles-Myer shares [Coles-Myer was a chain of department stores] and a sewing machine. …

Her voice wavering, Mrs Isaacs told the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Sydney how one member of the [children's] group had Father Frank Derriman’s baby while the priest told them that, if they loved God, it was OK to have sex with him because he was God’s representative.

Also, Father Derriman pressured the children by claiming that he was terminally ill and longed to have sex before he died.

He had other tricks up his godly sleeve, too. Isaacs testified that Derriman

… “softened” her up for sex by making her read the novel Lolita and talking about sex during confessional. He referred to nuns “in a sexual manner” and celebrated June 25, which is the birth date of the baby who is the antichrist in the book Rosemary’s Baby, she said.

Derriman is no longer a priest, but don’t rejoice just yet:

He is now married and working as a social worker in Victoria.

The emotional low point of Monday’s proceedings came when Church attorney Peter Gray, after expressing his client’s regret for the “indefensible, shameful, heartbreaking … betrayal of trust,” nonetheless saw fit to quote Scripture — specifically, Matthew 19:14:

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such of these that the kingdom of God belongs,” Mr Gray said. …

With cries of “Good Lord, “What an insult” and “What a joke”, about a dozen people walked out of the commission. “It is particularly insensitive,” said Leonie Sheedy, who along with her six siblings grew up in 26 orphanages. “We suffered abuse and neglect as children and we really didn’t need to hear that Bible quote.”

The hearing marked the first occasion that the Catholic Church, called to account before a government commission, revealed the extent of compensation paid to hundreds of victims. (1,700 people entered the process offered by Towards Healing, though not all pursued it to the end, and the Church dismissed many claims.)

The $43 million in hush money does not include out-of-court settlements and other payments that weren’t made under the Towards Healing program.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • NathanExplosion

    Don’t worry Terry, I will fix that headline for you…

    A Black Eye for Atheism as Catholic Church in Australia Paid $43,000,000 in Hush Money; Tone-Deaf Church Lawyer Quotes Scripture At Hearing

    There, that looks better.

  • Rogue Medic

    Such an eloquent and persuasive argument.

    You completely convinced me that your position is valid.


  • Guest

    The only translation of this I can think of is “paying out hush money is a good thing”. In which case, my only reply is to wonder if you know what hush money is.

  • baal

    For $43 million they should have gone to court and had a court order sealing the records. I wonder if there is a public policy exception barring sealed records in Australia in certain case types.

  • Pitabred

    Are you implying that Catholics are atheists? That atheism is a religion? That if someone abuses someone else sexually they are atheists and not Catholic/Christian? Could you have been more unclear and/or dishonest had you tried? So many questions…

  • Richard Thomas

    Well, there IS a reason TIME also selected Hitler and Stalin (twice) as People of the Year. It’s not necessarily an honor.

  • chicago dyke, TOWAN

    sadly, No. that is not true. large, rich, powerful institutions rape and kill all the time, and get away with it. it’s called ‘corruption’ and our government and law enforcement are rife with it.

  • NathanExplosion

    Simply keeping the headline in line with Terry’s recent post where he randomly blames atheism for some non-atheism-related event.

  • NathanExplosion

    Glad I could be of help.

  • NathanExplosion
  • Richard Wade

    Any time someone thinks that calling the RCC an evil empire is hyperbole, refer them to this article.

  • JustinL

    Wasn’t that a George Carlin routine?

  • MN Atheist

    OK thanks for the info

  • Holytape

    When asked where the money was coming from, Father Inanout turned to the crowd assembled behind him and said, “We were wrong, tithing is supposed to be the prime rate +10%”

  • Richard Thomas

    How is he blaming atheism for this?

  • Whitney

    Here’s the real kicker: How have other branches of Christianity responded to this?

    Truly, the silence is deafening. No offers of help, even insincere ones. Think for a bit about what that really says.

  • heather


  • keddaw

    Imagine it was the BBC…

  • NathanExplosion

    That is a good question. You should ask him.