After 26 years, Eileen Piper has finally won an apology from the Catholic Church for her daughter's abuse

It's taken 26 years, reams of legal documents and many tears, but Eileen Piper has done what she set out to do — cleared the name of her daughter, Stephanie, who was abused by a Catholic priest in the 1970s.

In December, Mrs Piper, 95, received a written apology from Melbourne's Archbishop, Peter Comensoli, and the Pallotine order of priests which, for years, had denied the crimes of Father Gerard Mulvale.

"I am relieved — but I'm still hurt," she told the ABC.

In the 1970s, Mrs Piper was an active parishioner at St Christopher's in the Melbourne suburb of Syndal, now part of Glen Waverley.

Her adopted daughter, Stephanie, became religious and, as a teenager, played guitar and sang in the church youth group, which is where she met Gerard Mulvale, about 1975.

Father Mulvale served at St Christopher's until 1979, when he was "suddenly" moved to another parish outside Melbourne.

Stephanie Piper alleged he made sexual advances, or worse, on at least eight occasions from 1975 to 1979 — including on one occasion after getting her drunk at a Chinese restaurant, and another time at the beach with other members of the youth group.

While she did not make a report to police until 1994, she spoke to her psychiatrist in 1992, revealing that Father Mulvale had pushed her out of a car when she refused to cooperate with him, and also locked her in the boot of the car.

"I didn't really know what Gerard was doing was wrong," Stephanie Piper told police, as revealed in a submission by Eileen Piper's lawyers in a special review of the case ordered by the church last year.

Mrs Piper was not aware of what was happening until her daughter was released from hospital after a suicide attempt in 1993 and confessed that she was no longer a virgin.

Church claimed Stephanie Piper was lying

Mrs Piper learned that Father Mulvale had threatened Stephanie and the family.

"She knew he was such an evil man, that he would have done it," Mrs Piper said.

After the confession, Eileen Piper told senior figures in the church, who investigated.

The Special Issues Committee convened by the church concluded Stephanie was lying.

The committee relied on evidence from another youth who attended St Christopher's, which discredited Stephanie.

"My knowledge of Stephanie Piper is that she creates fantasies and after a period of time actually believes they came true as fact," the man wrote in a le...

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