Father Price was well known to Edith and her classmates for his impromptu lolly scrambles at their Catholic primary school in country New South Wales. In the mid-1950s, when she was six years old, the parish priest would invite her class to follow him outside where he would throw sweets in the air while children frantically tried to catch as many as they could.
But away from the schoolyard, Edith told the Commissioner, she came to know a very different side of the clergyman.
‘My mother was a devout Catholic and welcomed him into our home. He always wanted my younger sister and me to sit on his knee, and from when I was about nine he’d put his hand in my underpants and grab my pubic area. He’d grab my hand and rub it down his penis.
'I couldn’t understand why it was hard, it was very frightening and confusing. This, in front of Mum, who would be sitting on the other side of the dining table. I can’t understand how she didn’t see some kind of look on my face.’
As Edith became older, she refused to sit on the priest’s lap, but remembered Price found other ways to molest her.
‘Mum would always make me walk him out to his car. He’d put his arm around me in the hallway, Mum would be behind us, and he’d try and grab my breast. I’d always be trying to pull away from him.’
One day when she was about 12, Edith told her mother the priest had been touching her inappropriately while ‘being hard’, and that on her visits to sweep the presbytery would make up excuses to pull her pants down and spank her.
‘Either Mum didn’t believe me or didn’t want to know about it, and totally ignored me. She always thought priests and nuns were like gods on earth.
'I became quite cheeky and was often in trouble with her. I felt she didn’t like me because I’d said something about a priest, and she continued to welcome him into the house. If you dobbed in a priest, you wouldn’t get to heaven, that was her belief.’
Edith described Price’s involvement in her wedding as being one of her greatest regrets.
‘Mum wanted us married by him, and I wish I’d stood up against her and said no.’
In the 1970s, Edith had two children – a girl and a boy.
‘Price only sent a card when I had my daughter, and Mum said, “Oh, he only likes little girls”. Then she asked if I was going to take my baby girl to see him, and I said, “You’ve got to be joking, I wouldn’t let him touch her with a 40-foot pole”. She said, “Some men are just a bit kinky”, so I’ve been angry towards my mum for a long time.’
In the 1990s, Edith’s sister revealed that Price had also abused her. The news came as a devastating blow to Edith, who always felt she’d ‘protected’ her younger sister.
‘I grew up thinking it only happened to me, and always felt I’d prevented it from happening to her. I was the only person she’d ever told.’
More than 10 years passed before Edith and her sister reported the abuse. Edith wrote to the bishop in the 2000s, who, she said, advised her to contact Towards Healing. Later she met with a Towards Healing representative.
‘I had to tell him everything that had happened, and he took notes but to my knowledge he didn’t have any qualifications, he was a parishioner. He came back with a statement and I got to thinking I didn’t really like the Towards Healing process, so I sought legal advice.’
Later the same year, Edith said, the lawyer advised that due to the statute of limitations, she was virtually barred from the court.
‘He said he’d write to George Pell, which he did, and then I never heard from him since. He wouldn’t return my calls after that.’
Apart from herself and her sister, Edith said she’s since become aware of 12 others who say Price sexually abused them, including one of her friends.
‘I found out he’d digitally raped girls, including my sister. She’s had a terrible time, worse than me.’
Edith accepted 10 counselling sessions offered through Towards Healing, but described the general process as a ‘big fail’.
‘They basically said they’re not responsible: there’s been no money, no written apology. They hide their paedophile priests, they abuse children and they get away with it. I hate the Catholic Church.’