Church leaders protected this criminal priest, Father Gerard Mulvale, resulting in a victim's suicide

  • By a Broken Rites researcher

The Catholic Church harboured a paedophile priest (Gerard Mulvale) in a Melbourne parish, enabling him to sexually target the parish's youth group. This church-abuse (and the church's culture of cover-up) disrupted the lives of these youngsters, driving one of them (Stephanie Piper) to die by suicide. In 2017 (23 years after the suicide), Stephanie's mother Eileen Piper (now aged 92) is speaking publicly (through the media), demanding a full apology from church leaders for having inflicted this paedophile priest on these youngsters and for putting them in danger.

Broken Rites has been researching the Father Mulvale matter since 1993.

Normally Broken Rites does not reveal the real names of church-victims; we usually make up a new name for each victim. However, in 2017, Eileen Piper is allowing the media to publish her real name and also Stephanie's name, and therefore Broken Rites is following Eileen's example.


Father Gerard Joseph Mulvale (born in Western Australia on 17 July 1948) was a member of the small Pallottine order of Catholic priests, which is based in Western Australia. The Pallottines also have a small presence in Melbourne, providing priests for one of the Melbourne archdiocese’s parishes — St Christopher’s at Syndal, near Glen Waverley, in Melbourne's east.

Mulvale was a trainee priest in Melbourne for the Pallottines from 1975 (when he was 27). He ran a youth group at St Christopher’s parish, consisting of boys and girls about 14 or 15. After being ordained on 18 August 1979, he ministered at St Christopher's parish until 1981.

According to evidence, Mulvale took a sexual interest in both males and females. He had an invasive hands-on approach to both sexes.

In early December 1994, Mulvale (then aged 46) was arrested in Western Australia, where he was a chaplain at St John of God Hospital, Murdoch. Extradited to Victoria, he was charged in the Melbourne Magistrates Court with 120 offences against four teenagers from Mulvale’s youth group at St Christopher’s – two males (let's call them"Mick" and "Graeme") and two females (Stephanie Piper and "Diana").

A Broken Rites researcher was in court during the proceedings and has examined court documents.

Mulvale was eventually convicted of indecently assaulting the two males.

The charges regarding the two females did not proceed.

  • DIANA: For family reasons (as explained later in this article), "Diana" exercised her right to withdraw from the case.
  • STEPHANIE: In the lead-up to the court proceedings, the church authorities harassed Stephanie, seeking to destroy her evidence. This resulted in Stephanie dying by suicide before the court case began, and therefore, with Stephanie no longer alive to give evidence in court, the prosecutors were forced to drop Stephanie's case.

Other victims

Stephanie, Mick, Graeme and Diana were not the only persons who complained about Mulvale's sex-abuse. These four were merely those whose story reached the police.

Two other Mulvale victims ("Basil" and "Zelda") have contacted Broken Rites (separately) but these two have not exercised their right to speak to the police. And, judging from other Australia-wide research into church-abuse, there could well be further Mulvale victims who are remaining silent about Mulvale's abuse..

Stephanie’s suicide attempt

Evidence was given (in police statements and/or in court) that Mulvale formed friendships with some members of his youth group. He would entertain a boy or girl on church premises or take them on outings.

It was stated in court that Mulvale had a problem with alcohol consumption. Also, he would bring alcohol on outings, supplying it to his young companions.

One member of the youth group, Stephanie Piper (born 1961), was an extremely devout Catholic. She met Mulvale in the youth group in 1976 when she was 15. She regarded Mulvale as a confidant and she would discuss life’s troubles with him.

Stephanie told Mulvale that she was an adopted child. Mulvale told her that he, too, had been an adopted child.

Sometimes Mulvale would take Stephanie and “Mick” out together but sometimes she and Mulvale were alone.

At least one of Mulvale’s outings (when Stephanie was 17, before Mulvale’s ordination) ended up in an extremely late night -- and this alarmed Stephanie’s mother, Eileen. The mother said later that she began doubting that Mulvale was suitable to become a priest.

On 4 February 1993, aged 31, Stephanie attempted suicide. While recovering, she told her parents about various troubles -- and one of these, she alleged, was that Mulvale had molested her on several occasions when she was 17.

Her distraught mother (a devout Catholic) complained to the offending organization, the Melbourne archdiocese (instead of complaining to the police). An “investigation” was initiated by the archdiocese's vicar-general (that is, the chief administrator), Monsignor Gerald Cudmore, assisted by Jesuit priest Brian Fleming. The archdiocese alerted Mulvale's mates, the Pallottine Fathers, about the complaint. As a result, Mulvale was “tipped off” about it.

The Pallotines went into damage-control. One of the male victims, “Mick”, later gave court evidence, alleging that the Pallottines set out to discredit Stephanie, seeking to prevent bad publicity. Mick's evidence is reported fully in the transcript of the magistrate’s committal hearing. Broken Rites has examined a transcript of the committal evidence.

Mick told the court that, when Stephanie's mother complained to the archdiocese about Mulvale in 1993, she named Mick as a friend of Stephanie and Mulvale. Mick alleged that a Pallottine priest, Father John Flynn, contacted him about Stephanie's complaint and instructed him to write and sign a statement for the church, discrediting Stephanie. Mick alleged that Father Flynn told him "that we had to put Stephanie down and make her seem thoroughly horrible" (committal transcript, pages 79 and 86). Mick said: "The object of this letter was to make Stephanie the villain" (p. 87) and Father Flynn “told me what to say and how I was to say it" (court transcript, page 85).

Mick said Father Flynn knew in 1979 that Mulvale “was having sex with me”. [But this did not deter the Pallottines from ordaining Mulvale.] However (Mick alleged) Father Flynn asked him in 1993 not to tell the police about his sexual relationship with Mulvale (transcript pages 78, 92, 100).

In August 1993, Mick received a letter from the vicar-general of the Melbourne archdiocese, Monsignor Gerald Cudmore, thanking him for signing the statement about Stephanie. Cudmore told Mick that “everything has been quietened”.

Cudmore told Stephanie’s mother that the church would take no further action about Mulvale.

Rebuffed by the church, Stephanie then contacted the Victoria Police child-protection detectives (now known as the Sexual Offences and Child-abuse Investigation Team, or SOCIT) and made a written, sworn statement about the alleged incidents.

The SOCIT police made inquiries among St Chrisopher’s parishioners and soon found three more alleged victims of Mulvale -- Graeme, Diana and Mick -- who were prepared to speak to the police. Stephanie’s mother Eileen now felt vindicated about having complained about Mulvale, as the police believed that there was more to the Mulvale story than the church had admitted.

The death of Stephanie

Still feeling devastated by the church’s denigration of her, Stephanie attempted suicide again on 19 January 1994 and this time she succeeded.

Therefore, because of the loss of the alleged victim, the prosecution was forced to drop all the charges involving Stephanie.

Mick said in court he believed that the church statement condemning Stephanie, and signed by him, drove her to commit suicide (committal transcript page 91). Mick felt that his actions contributed to Stephanie's death. Overwhelmed by guilt, Mick made failed attempts in 1994-5 to take his own life.

Graeme and Diana

Other teenagers, also, confided in Mulvale about life matters. At 15 years of age, according to court documents, “Graeme” (born 1964) was having a sexual relationship with a girl and felt guilty about this. He sought counselling and guidance from Mulvale. Mulvale then allegedly made sexual advances to Graeme. Mulvale threatened to tell Graeme's parents about the boy having sex with the girl. Thus, Mulvale blackmailed Graeme into participating in sexual activity with Mulvale. The first of the charged incidents occurred in the St Christopher’s presbytery (parish house). Later, Graeme tried to evade sexual encounters with Mulvale but Mulvale persisted, still allegedly using the threat of blackmail.

Graeme later had a new girlfriend (“Diana”) and became sexually involved with her. Subsequently, it was alleged, Mulvale sexually abused Diana. Mulvale was charged with one incident involving Diana. However, when the court hearing approached in 1995, Diana exercised her right to withdraw from the case because she thought the case might cause embarrassment in her new private life (she was now married, with children). So the prosecution agreed to drop Diana’s charge. No details were given in court about the alleged Diana incident.

At the committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in June 1995, Mulvale was ordered to stand trial on charges of indecent assault and gross indecency involving the two remaining complainants -- Graeme and Mick.

In November 1995, Mulvale appeared before Judge Roland Williams in the Melbourne County Court.

The matter of Graeme was dealt with first. By now, the prosecution and the defence had come to an understanding regarding the Graeme case. A number of incidents involving Graeme (including one particularly aggravated incident) were withdrawn. Therefore, Mulvale agreed to plead guilty to one incident of indecent assault and one incident of gross indecency, relating to Graeme. The court regarded these as merely “representative” charges -- representing a much more extensive pattern of behaviour. Mulvale was automatically convicted on these two incidents. Therefore, no jury trial was needed regarding the Graeme case. The sentencing of Mulvale regarding Graeme was adjourned until after the charges regarding Mick had been dealt with.

The story of Mick

Before Graeme, Mulvale had already been sexually abusing Mick. Mick, too, had sought counseling from Mulvale on sexual matters. Unlike Graeme (who was feeling guilty about heterosexual activity), Mick was worried about homosexual feelings. Mick (born 1962) testified that he told Mulvale about this at age 15 (when he was in Year 10 at school). Mulvale allegedly told the boy not to worry and that that he too (Mulvale) was attracted to males.

Mulvale then seduced Mick, with multiple (but non-penetrative) sexual incidents. At the trial, Mulvale was charged only with incidents that occurred before Mick’s 16th birthday. After the sexual experience with Mulvale, Mick went on to have a disrupted adolescence and adulthood. By the time of Mulvale’s trial in 1995, Mick (then aged 33) was dying from AIDS. Mulvale’s legal team used every opportunity to prolong the proceedings, knowing that Mick's death would end the charges (as had happened with Stephanie’s death).

Mulvale pleaded not guilty to the charges brought by Mick. This meant the case would be heard before a jury, resulting in more delay. But, for legal reasons, the jury could not be told that Mulvale had already pleaded guilty to other charges (regarding Graeme), nor could the jury be told about Stephanie or Diana.

The Pallottines engaged expensive legal counsel in an attempt to have Mulvale acquitted on the grounds that, if these sexual encounters occurred, Mick consented. The prosecution, however, contested the claim of consent, and maintained that the abuse of Mick began before his 16th birthday (and therefore “consent” from a child could not be used as a defence).

The jury returned a verdict of guilty on three incidents and not guilty on two other incidents. (Other alleged incidents regarding Mick had been withdrawn.)

[In October 1996, nearly a year after the trial, Mick died from AIDS.]


On 3 November 1995 in the Melbourne County Court, Mulvale (then aged 47) was sentenced (regarding Graeme and Mick) to a total of three years jail, with parole after 27 months (the Court of Appeal later allowed him parole after 18 months).

Judge Williams told the court that, if the position of the church in the community was declining, then it was due, at least in part, to scandals such as this.

Graeme told journalists outside the court that some priests and parishioners knew in the late 1970s and early ‘80s about Mulvale's sexual abuse. Graeme said he was aware of other victims who had not come forward.

Immediately after the sentencing, the Pallottine Order advertised in suburban newspapers near St Christopher's parish, seeking to contact other victims who had been "hurt by Pallottines". [That is, the Pallottines expected that there were further Mulvale victims.] The advertisements offered free "counselling" by a certain psychologist [who works for the Catholic Church].

Victims using such a church-run counselling service, however, may discover that the church obtains information damaging to any future civil claims by the victims against the church for compensation. Also, the information can be used to limit the amount of the church’s liability.

The church authorities have refused to make any restitution (even an apology) to the family of Stephanie Piper, because Stephanie's suicide prevented her from getting Mulvale convicted regarding Stephanie.

  • To see some media items about Stephanie Piper and her mother Eileen in February 2017, go to the sub-heading "Eileen speaks to the media", at the end of this article.

Father Mulvale and "Mister Shaw"

Gerard Mulvale was born in Western Australia on 17 July 1948 to a woman named Ruby Shaw. He was later adopted by a woman named Mary Mulvale and this is how he grew up with the surname Mulvale. After gaining release from jail in 1997 on parole, Mulvale changed his surname to his birth mother's name — Shaw. He then studied at Murdoch University.

Broken Rites has inspected a master's thesis, which was submitted to Murdoch University in 2003 by "Gerrard George Shaw". On page 82 of the thesis, Gerrard Shaw says he was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, on 17 July 1948. This is the same date of birth that Gerard Mulvale gave in the Melbourne County Court in 1995.

Gerrard Shaw's thesis is about "the lives of my grandfather George Shaw and his daughters Ruby, Janie and Maggie". Gerrard Shaw evidently does not remember much about Ruby Shaw from his childhood. He says he was officially adopted by Mary Mulvale in 1956 when he was aged seven. Mary Mulvale, by then aged 60, was living in a State housing commission home in Perth (thesis, page 60).

Gerrard Shaw says that he attended Catholic schools and was an altar boy. After a rebellious childhood, he says, he entered the St Charles seminary in Perth at age 16 “to begin preparation for the Catholic priesthood by completing my secondary studies” (page 78) but he was there only one year. A few years later, he entered a seminary in Melbourne and was ordained in Melbourne as a Catholic priest (p .80). [This is how he became Father Gerard Mulvale.]

The thesis, which is available on the internet, spells Shaw’s first name as Gerrard, with a double-R. When he was Father Mulvale, however, the Australian Catholic Directory spelt his first name as Gerard, with a single R.

More about "Mister Shaw"

During Gerard Mulvale’s court proceedings, the defence stated that, as well as being an adopted child, he had an Aboriginal connection in his ancestry.

In his university thesis, Gerrard Shaw says that he learned about the Aboriginal component when he was aged 45 [i.e., about 1993, the year in which Father Gerard Mulvale was arrested]. He says he researched his background and found that his grandfather was a part-Aboriginal named George Shaw (thesis, page 5).

In 2003, the website of the Yorgum Aboriginal Counselling Service in Western Australia stated that in 2003 Gerrard Shaw was currently acting as a "counsellor" with the Yorgum Aboriginal Counselling Service in 2003.

Eileen Piper speaks to the media

In February 2017, Eileen Piper (now aged 92) was interviewed by several media outlets about how the church authorities had failed to apologise to her for inflicting the paedophuile Father Gerard Mulvale on her daughter Stephanie's youth group in Melbourne's Syndal parish. For example:-

  • To see (and hear) Eileen telling Stephanie's story on Australia's "7.30" television program on 6 February 2017, click HERE.
  • To hear Eileen being interviewed by Neil Mitchell on Melbourne radio 3AW on 14 February 2017, click HERE.
  • On 11 February 2017, The Australian newspaper published a news item about Eileen Piper and Stephanie (on page 6) and an opinion article written by Eileen about the church's cover-up (on page 12). To see the Page 12 article by Eileen, click HERE.

Broken Rites is interested in doing further research about Gerard Mulvale's time in the Catholic priesthood and how the church authorities covered up for him while he was committing his crimes against young people.