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Vic priest's victims as young as 4: court

AAP logoAAP 19/09/2016 Genevieve Gannon

A man who was molested by a pedophile priest has told a court how the clergyman preyed on him after coming into the family home offering "pastoral care" following the death of the victim's brother.

Robert Patrick Claffey, 73, pulled the boy onto his knee and after telling him it was okay to cry, began rubbing and fondling him.

The victim, who was 12 at the time, was one of 12 children Claffey has admitted sexually abusing while practising as a Catholic priest in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

At a pre-sentence hearing on Monday, the victim described the clergyman's premeditated scheme to gain access to the house as "nothing short of diabolical".

He said not a day goes by that he doesn't think about the assault.

"All I have are the memories that have been imprinted on my soul," the victim said.

Other victims told the Victorian County Court about the long-term effects of the abuse they suffered at Claffey's hands.

His first victim was a seven-year-old girl, assaulted while she was preparing to make her first communion.

One victim was as young as four when Claffey started his five-year campaign of abuse.

"It's bloody hard," another victim said, when invited to read a statement to the court. "It hurts too bloody much."

One man, who fought Claffey off with a cricket bat as a boy, told the court he felt guilty every time he saw the lists of children the priest abused, because he thought he could have prevented it by speaking up.

The court heard this victim had also been abused by notorious pedophile Gerald Ridsdale, who was replaced by Claffey at the coastal Victorian parish.

Another man said he had lost his faith.

"I have grown into a man who believes he cannot be loved."

Claffey, who had been on bail, was remanded into custody until he is sentenced next week.

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