The Daily Telegraph
December 10, 2013
THE Catholic Church has admitted paying at least $43 million in hush money to victims of its paedophile priests, as the church’s barrister outraged victims yesterday by quoting from the Bible.
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.
The royal commission into child sex abuse was yesterday also told how a Brisbane Catholic priest, Father Frank Derriman, ran a cult-like group sexually abusing young girls and giving them all the surname Brown, borrowed from the Peanuts comic strip’s Charlie Brown.
As the church apologised for its behaviour through the commission, survivors who were abused as children in orphanages and homes, walked out of the Sydney hearing in tears when the church’s counsel, Peter Gray SC quoted from the Gospel of Mark.
“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.
He said the church, which should have been a sacred place of children, as described in the Bible, admitted it had failed them.
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 Catholic Church has come under the spotlight of the royal commission into instutionalised responses to child sex abuse as it looks at how the Towards Healing process worked and the role played by the church’s own Catholic Church Insurance.
It is the first time the church has been forced to reveal the extent of compensation paid to victims, although it does not include out-of-court settlements or other payments made outside the Towards Healing process.
Counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness SC, said that between January 1996 and September 2013, $43 million had been paid by all church authorities with the Christian Brothers the most notorious.
The second largest number of complaints were made against the Marist Brothers and then the De La Salle Brothers.
In that time, 2215 victims had approached the Towards Healing process and 1700 people went ahead with it, although not all were pursued or substantiated.
The most complaints, 43 per cent, were made against religious brothers, 21 per cent against diocesan priests and 14 per cent against religious priests. Most of the abuse happened between 1950 to 1980 in orphanages and schools.
Ms Furness said that the highest compensation was $850,000 paid to the victim of a Sydney diocese priest.
Towards Healing, set up in 1996 to act as a way for people to tell their stories, receive pastoral care, an apology and reparation but in some cases, they had to sign a deed agreeing to keep the details secret and even promise not to make “disparaging remarks” about the church, the commission heard.
The Archbishop of Brisbane, the Rev Mark Coleridge, this month wrote to one victim, Joan Isaacs, about his disappointment that “confidentiality clauses were considered necessary at the time.”
Archbishop Coleridge is among the church hierarchy including the Bishop of Lismore, Rev Geoffrey Jarrett, former provincials of the Marist Brothers and the former Marist Brothers director for professional standards, Brother Alexis Turton, who will be giving evidence.
I WAS FORCED TO JOIN PRIEST’S SEX CULT Janet Fife-Yeomans
TEACHER Joan Isaacs yesterday claimed a Catholic priest ran a cult-like group sexually abusing young girls and gave them the surname Brown, as in Charlie Brown from the Peanuts comic.
Her voice wavering, Mrs Isaacs told the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Sydney how one member of the Brown 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.
He lied that he was terminally ill and wanted to have sex before he died. During holy communion he put his fingers in her mouth.
“Frank Derriman used the Peanut comic as a platform and used the surname Brown in reference to himself, the other three children and me,” Mrs Isaacs, who was known as Junkie Brown, said.
“(He) created a cult-like group which included myself and three other children.”
The royal commission heard that, despite being convicted of indecently assaulting Mrs Isaacs and jailed, Derriman remained technically a priest and it was not until 2011 that the Archbishop of Brisbane wrote to him threatening to begin formal proceedings to have him stripped of his status.
He is now married and working as a social worker in Victoria.
Her shocking evidence and bravery in speaking out drew gasps from the packed public gallery in Sydney and she left the witness box to loud applause.
The royal commission is focusing on the Catholic Church’s controversial Towards Healing process – meant to help abuse victims like Mrs Isaacs.
“There’s a time in your life when you have to stand up for what is right and that time for me is now,” Mrs Isaacs, 60, said. “I needed to be free of those chains before I died.”
She said 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 and a sewing machine.
Mrs Isaacs said she was 14 and 15 when she was abused by Derriman, who was a priest of the Archdiocese of Brisbane and chaplain of Brisbane’s Sacred Heart Sandgate in 1967 and 1968.
She said he formed the Brown family to weaken her ties with her real family and “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.
It was 30 years before she went to the police – after she became a teacher in the Archdiocese of Brisbane and found another priest, Father Ron McKeirnan, was deputy director of Catholic education. She knew he had sexually abused a number of children while a resident at Sacred Heart Presbytery.
WE BETRAYED YOUR TRUST, CHURCH ADMITS Janet Fife-Yeomans
IT was indefensible, shameful, heartbreaking and a betrayal of trust.
That is how the Catholic Church described its behaviour in dealing with the paedophiles in the church as it appeared before the royal commission for the first time yesterday.
“This is a searing and decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Church in Australia,” counsel Peter Gray SC said in an opening statement for the Truth Justice and Healing Council.
The council was formed to represent the dioceses and religious institutions within the Catholic Church before the royal commission.
Mr Gray peppered his statement with quotes from the Bible, from poets and from St Augustine.
He said that the church leaders acknowledged that some of them had put protecting the reputation of the church before the protection of children and their families and had betrayed the trust “of their own people and the expectations of the wider community”.