British cardinal in sexual abuse scandal

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigns amid claims of inappropriate behaviour

Pope accepts resignation of UK’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, who has been accused of ‘inappropriate acts’


Monday 25 February 2013 11.57 GMT

Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Cardinal Keith O’Brien is to resign amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the UK’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, has resigned as the head of the Scottish Catholic church after being accused of “inappropriate acts” towards fellow priests.

News that Pope Benedict had accepted the cardinal’s resignation as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh came after the Observer disclosed a series of allegations by three priests and one former priest.

O’Brien has denied the allegations and had been expected to continue in his post as archbishop until mid-March, when he was due to retire at age 75.

However, in a statement released by the church on Monday, it emerged that the pope had accepted O’Brien’s resignation a week ago, on 18 February.

In the statement, O’Brien apologised to any people he had let down and said he did not want the controversy to overshadow the election of the new pope.

“I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest,” he said. “Looking back over my years of ministry, for any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended.”

His resignation means the cardinal will not now take part in the election of a successor to Pope Benedict. This will leave Britain unrepresented in the process, as O’Brien was the only cardinal in the British Catholic churches with a vote in the conclave.

Although Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the archbishop emeritus of Westminster and former leader of Catholics in England and Wales, will attend pre-conclave meetings, he will not have a vote in the election itself as cardinals aged 80 and over are ineligible to vote. He is 80.

O’Brien, who missed celebrating mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday, had been due to fly out to the Vatican on Tuesday for the conclave.

His resignation is a heavy blow to the church and Benedict, whose papacy has been beset by repeated controversies over misconduct by clergy in Europe and the US and allegations of corruption and incompetence at the Vatican.

However, with the Vatican and Benedict’s successor facing a series of serious challenges to its reputation, O’Brien’s speedy retirement will allow the church to move quickly to settle this controversy.

The Observer reported that the four men came forward last week to demand his resignation largely because the complainants did not want O’Brien taking part in the papal election.

O’Brien said he had already agreed with Benedict that he would step down on 17 March as he was “approaching the age of seventy-five and at times in indifferent health”. The pope had now agreed he could resign immediately, he said, forcing the church to find an “apostolic administrator” to run the diocese until a new archbishop could be appointed.

Confirming he would not now go to the conclave, O’Brien said: “I thank Pope Benedict XVI for his kindness and courtesy to me and on my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Scotland, I wish him a long and happy retirement.

O’Brien has been an outspoken critic of gay rights, denouncing plans for the legalisation of same-sex marriage as “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved”. He was named bigot of the year in 2012 by the gay rights group Stonewall because of his central role in opposing gay marriage laws in Scotland.Colin Macfarlane, the director of Stonewall Scotland, called for a full inquiry into the claims against the former cardinal. “We trust that there will now be a full investigation into the serious allegations made against ex-cardinal O’Brien,” Macfarlane said. “We hope that his successor will show a little more Christian charity towards openly gay people than the former cardinal did himself.”

Gay rights campaigners react to Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation: here.

Cardinal O’Brien and the Vatican: Sex, Power and the Corruption of the Closet: here.

8 thoughts on “British cardinal in sexual abuse scandal

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