Black Collar Crime
A Catholic priest indecently assaulted two boys after their sister died in a road accident, a court was told. The priest started visiting the boys' house after the accident to "comfort" them at bed-time.
Father Robert Patrick Claffey was a priest of the Ballarat Diocese in western VIctoria. He pleaded guilty in Ballarat Magistrates Court on 18 February 1998 to having indecently assaulted the two boys, brothers aged 12 and 13, by touching their bodies on several occasions in 1978 while the boys were in bed.
Neither brother knew that the other had been molested by Fr Bob Claffey until they discussed the matter in their twenties.
The boys were part of a devout Catholic family, which was friendly with Father (later Archbishop) George Pell and Father (later Bishop) Peter Connors.
Magistrate Rowan McIndoe placed Robert Claffey on a good-behaviour bond.
The case was reported in the Ballarat "Courier" on 19 February 1998 and in the Warrnambool "Standard" on 25 February 1998.
Father Bob Claffey ministered in the 1970s at Terang (St Thomas's parish), Warrnambool (St Joseph's) and Apollo Bay (Our Lady Star of the Sea parish), all in south-western Victoria. During the 1980s, he was in charge of the Wendouree parish (Our Lady Help of Christians), situated in the city of Ballarat, with a junior priest as his assistant. However, Claffey was listed in the 1990 Australian Catholic directory as being "on leave". In 1991-2 he was sent as an assistant priest at Portland (All Saints parish), under the supervision of a senior priest, Father Eric Bryant. About August 1992, Claffey was suddenly removed from the Portland parish, without time for the customary parish farewell. He was listed in 1994 as being "on leave". The Ballarat diocese did not give Bob Claffey another parish appointment. In 1997, the two Ballarat brothers contacted the Victoria Police and were interviewed by the sexual offences and child abuse unit, resulting in the Ballarat court case in 1998.
When he appeared in court in 1998, Robert Claffey was aged 55 and living in Geelong East.