New documents show two Catholic bishops helped paedophile priest John Joseph Farrell with his postgraduate thesis on another paedophile priest, Crikey can reveal.

The current bishops of the Dioceses of Maitland-Newcastle and Wagga Wagga, William Wright and Gerard Hanna respectively, assisted Farrell with his postgraduate masters of letters thesis at the University of New England between 1988 and 1991.

Throughout this period, Farrell focused his research on a historical case of paedophilia involving the first Bishop of the Diocese of Armidale, Timothy O’Mahoney, who was removed from his position by the Vatican in the mid-1870s after a Papal inquiry determined he’d fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl from the township of Armidale.

Farrell, who was profiled extensively under the pseudonym “Father F” during the Four Corners episode “Unholy Silence” in mid-2012, commenced his research into O’Mahoney soon after the charges of paedophilia, which had been made against Farrell by Damian Jurd, were dismissed in Narrabri Local Court in 1988. These charges were laid in response to Farrell’s activities as a priest within the Moree district of NSW between 1981 and 1984.

[How two Ballarat schoolboys took on a paedophile Christian Brother]

According to the recently retired ABC New England north-west journalist David Evans, who covered the story at the time, the magistrate assigned to the case, Ray Blissett, had been a parishioner of Farrell’s in the regional centre of Tamworth, after Farrell had previously been relocated by the Armidale Diocese from Moree in 1984.

Both Hanna and Wright are senior members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which is widely regarded as the leading organisation of the Roman Catholic Church within Australia. Last month, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference released an election statement, which focused heavily on promoting the Catholic Church as a champion of the rights of “the survivors of sexual abuse who have emerged from the shadows and whose voice is now being heard, crying out for redress and healing”.

This statement suggested that child abuse survivors, many of whom have told their stories to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, are now being viewed as being a part of a “throwaway culture”, as a result of the promotion of various same-sex and gender-diverse civil rights, such as marriage equality.

Farrell’s unpublished masters of letters thesis, entitled “The O’Mahoney Case, an Investigation into the Resignation of the First Catholic Bishop of Armidale, Australia”, is the 1991 thesis on paedophilia that the Catholic Dioceses of Armidale and Parramatta denied the existence of as a part of The Whitlam Report, which was commissioned by the aforementioned dioceses into Farrell’s activities in late 2012.

Crikey has seen a signed edition of Farrell’s updated thesis, entitled “A Great Storm Arose: The saga of the resignation of Bishop Timothy O’Mahoney”, which he self-published in 1999 and presented to one of his former academic supervisors at the University of New England in February 2002.

Throughout both the original masters of letters thesis from 1991 and the later self-publicised edition, Farrell, who was recently convicted of 79 offences of paedophilia and sentenced to a non-parole prison term of 18 years, repeatedly stated that “the use of allegations of sexual misconduct was a powerful method of wrecking an ecclesiastical career”, given how such allegations often receive “worldwide attention in the press”.

Farrell also repeatedly stated throughout both publications that “hush money” should only ever be paid out when the victims of “sexual misconduct” recanted their accusations in full via public statements.

Further documents highlight that Farrell also gave a public lecture on his masters of letters thesis into the O’Mahoney paedophilia scandal at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on November 14, 1993, on behalf of the Australian Catholic Historical Society, whose patron was the Archbishop of Sydney at the time, Cardinal Edward Clancy.

This occurred only a year after Farrell had been suspended from all priestly duties within the Catholic Church, during a meeting of the Church’s “Special Issues” Committee on September 12, 1992, in response to further child abuse allegations that had arisen around that time.

Crikey can also reveal that Farrell was elected to be a councillor of the Australian Catholic Historical Society in June 2011 during Cardinal George Pell’s tenure as patron, though that he was mysteriously removed from that position soon after his election was publicised.

[Quo Vadis, George Pell?]

Crikey has absolutely no reason to believe that Wright knew anything of Farrell’s criminal activities at the time. Wright provided academic assistance to Farrell between 1988 and 1991 in accordance with his tenure as the Vice-Rector of St Patrick’s Seminary in Manly.

Hanna was Farrell’s direct superior between 1984 and 1988 in Tamworth and later succeeded him as the parish priest of Moree between 1996 and 2003. The Whitlam Report highlighted many of the concerns that Hanna had regarding Farrell during his tenure in Tamworth.

This reporter has provided the resources obtained during their investigation into Father John Farrell to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse by subpoena.

Crikey has asked the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for comment but received no response.