Eileen Piper confronts Comensoli
Author: Ben Schneiders & Royce Millar
Publication: The Age
A 93-year-old woman publicly confronted the new Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne on Thursday with the harrowing story of how the clergy sexually abused her late daughter.
Eileen Piper, her face stricken with grief, presented Archbishop Peter Comensoli with a picture of her daughter Stephanie in her coffin after she took her own life in 1994. She was 32.
Twenty-four years later, Ms Piper says she is still seeking an apology from the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Comensoli, speaking at a Melbourne Press Club function on Thursday, walked from the stage to comfort the elderly Ms Piper, whose story was told by her lawyer Judy Courtin.
The church had not believed Stephanie’s allegations of rape and abuse at the hands of father Gerard Mulvale in suburban Syndal. He was later convicted of other sex crimes.
”Ms Piper would like the church to see this, and to see what the church ultimately drove her daughter to do,” Ms Courtin said. ”Your grace, this is Stephanie Piper’s ‘me too’ moment.”
”Stephanie was told the alleged sex crimes never happened and that basically she was a liar,” Ms Courtin said. ”Stephanie was threatened, untruths were manufactured, seriously tarnishing her character or, using the present day vernacular, there was victim-blaming and slut-shaming.”
Archbishop Comensoli earlier spoke of the “horrendous” crimes committed in the church and how they had shattered lives.
Survivors, he said, ”carry deep wounds of grief and anger at this profoundly shameful past and demand justice, healing and change, not just an apology.”
”As a survivor they were shattered further when church leaders failed to believe them,” he said.
”Yet people still want to say ‘I am a Catholic Christian and no monstrous perpetrator or compromised leader will take Jesus from me’.”
The new archbishop struck a more conciliatory tone than his predecessors in the role, George Pell and Denis Hart.