A REMORSELESS paedophile priest who preyed on children over three decades is likely to die behind bars after being jailed for 18 years and four months.Robert Claffey has been compared with Australia’s worst paedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, who he worked alongside in the Catholic Church’s Ballarat diocese.
Like Ridsdale he was today condemned to spend what is expected to be the rest of his life behind bars with his lawyer saying ill health could make his jail term a death sentence.
Claffey must serve a minimum non parole period of 13 years and four months in jail for the abuse of 12 kids, meaning he will be 86 before becoming eligible for parole.
In total the disgraced priest has now admitted molesting 14 kids during his career, first raping a young girl less than a year after his 1969 ordination.
Church officials became aware of Claffey’s offending but failed to do anything more to stop the abuse than shuffle him between parishes until the late 1980s when he was forced to resign from a parish.
But he was soon reappointed as an assistant priest to another parish.
One move saw Claffey replace Ridsdale at the church’s Apollo Bay parish, meaning one serial paedophile had been replaced by another.
One boy was molested as Claffey dressed for mass, while a little girl was abused while Claffey was dressed in his vestments.
Another was preyed upon two days after his brother was killed. Claffey had visited him to offer pastoral support.
County Court Judge Felicity Hampel described Claffey’s abuse as shameful, dubbing him a “paedophilic sexual predator”.
“This is a truly appalling litany of offending,” she said.
“A number of your victims actively resisted, but you persisted, following them, chasing them, holding them down.
“Faith is a great comfort to many people and you took it from them,” she said.
Claffey was due to stand trial but pleaded guilty to 19 charges at the last minute instead.
Prosecutors withdrew two charges with Claffey pleading guilty to counts of buggery, indecent assault and sexual penetration of a child.
Judge Hampel said the pleas of guilty were not indicative of any sign of remorse.
Claffey has never apologised to any of his victims.
Claffey abused children in Ballarat, Warrnambool, Apollo Bay and Portland between 1970 and 1992 with all of the offending happening under the watch of Bishop Ronald Mulkearns.
At the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Bishop Mulkearns admitted mishandling cases of sexual abuse while bishop.
“I certainly wanted to protect the reputation of the church,” he said.
In 1998 Claffey admitted indecently assaulting two boys after a family member died.
For that offending he was placed on a good behaviour bond.