Former Catholic Bishop remembers priest 'misbehaving' in a 'sexual way', court told

By Margaret Paul
ABC News
July 29, 2015

Former bishop Ronald Mulkearns (left) arrived at court accompanied by his lawyer, David Grace.

The former Catholic Bishop of Ballarat remembers a former priest who is facing indecent assault charges "misbehaving", the Geelong Magistrate's Court has heard.

Robert Claffey pleaded not guilty to more than 10 charges of indecent assault at various locations in western Victoria, including Ballarat, Warrnambool, Portland and Apollo Bay, between 1970 and 1992.

Ronald Mulkearns was the Bishop of Ballarat between 1971 and 1997.

It is believed this is the first time Bishop Mulkearns has given evidence under oath about sexual abuse in the diocese under his watch.

He has previously been excused from giving evidence at the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse in religious settings for health reasons.

Bishop Mulkearns told the Geelong Magistrates Court he had "no specific recollections" of the alleged offences while Claffey was the priest at Wendouree.

But said he remembered Claffey misbehaving "in a sexual way".

The court was presented with a note signed by Bishop Mulkearns, detailing a meeting he had with Father Claffey about a complaint of "improper behaviour" with the 13-year-old son of a parishioner.

Bishop Mulkearns told the court he wrote the note, but cannot remember it.

"There seemed to be some difference in emphasis but his statement was that 'what he did was wrong' and he was not trying to suggest otherwise," the letter said.

Claffey resigned the next day.

He will appear in the County Court in August.


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