In his first public speech since his installation as Archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli has been confronted by the 93-year-old mother of an abuse victim who took her own life in 1994. Source: ABC News.
Eileen Piper asked the Archbishop to look at a photo of her daughter Stephanie Piper lying dead in her coffin.
The Church has long denied Stephanie Piper was abused by Fr Gerard Mulvale in the 1970s, accusing her of fabricating the story due to mental illness. Mulvale was convicted the year after Stephanie’s death of abusing two boys from his youth group.
Mrs Piper’s lawyer, Judy Courtin, asked Archbishop Comensoli to “rectify this wrong”. “Please receive this dossier, read it, meet with Mrs Piper, and take action to bring an end to this horror,” Ms Courtin said.
The Archbishop walked from the stage to Mrs Piper and took the photo in his hand.
“I’d like to be able to meet with you,” Archbishop Comensoli said. “But then I need to consider your own circumstances and the circumstances of what happened to Stephanie, and then I’ll be able to respond further.”
It was an immediate test of the new Archbishop’s promise to make himself available to all victims of sexual abuse who wanted to meet with him.
Archbishop Comensoli said he had already met with abuse survivors in Victoria before officially taking over as Archbishop three weeks ago. He said his message to those he met was, “I hear you, I believe you. What can I do”.
In his speech, Archbishop Comensoli said the Church needed to lose its “corporate” image.
“The work of priests has become more managerial in word and deed,” he said at the Melbourne Press Club. “The language of honour has become entitlement. We have become big in stature, arguably at the cost of humbleness.”
Asked if he would forgive a Catholic priest who confessed to sexual abuse, Archbishop Comensoli did not hesitate.
“Absolutely yes,” he said. “And not just then forgiveness – then I will see what we can do in terms of the action that goes with that forgiveness.”
Archbishop: Church must earn back trust (Melbourne Press Club)