A bishop has a memory lapse about the alleged crimes of an ex-priest

Broken Rites

By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 29 July 2015)

A retired Australian Catholic bishop, Most Reverend Ronald Mulkearns, has been forced to appear in court to answer questions about a former priest, Robert Claffey (now aged 70), who is charged with multiple incidents of indecent assault against seven children. In court on 29 July 2015, Bishop Mulkearns was forced to admit that, yes, he had known about Father Claffey’s “misbehaviour” but claimed that he could not remember the details.

Bishop Mulkearns (born in 1930) was the head of the Catholic Church throughout the western half of the state of Victoria (with his cathedral in the city of Ballarat), from 1971 to 1997. Father Robert Claffey worked in west Victorian parishes under Bishop Mulkearns in the 1970s and 1980s. Claffey is charged with having committed indecent assaults at various locations in western Victoria, including Ballarat, Warrnambool, Portland and Apollo Bay, between 1970 and 1992.

During a preliminary procedure in the Geelong Magistrates Court on 12 December 2014, the court was told that one of the alleged assaults involved Father Claffey going to a boy’s house and indecently assaulting him during the 1980s. Detective Sergeant Tim Kennedy, from the Sano Taskforce in the Victoria Police, told the court that the boy allegedly reported the assault to his father, who then allegedly reported it to Bishop Mulkearns. Claffey was then moved from his parish at Wendouree (in Ballarat) to another parish [in a different part of the diocese], Sergeant Kennedy said.

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