Fiercely anti-gay cardinal quits over "inappropriate acts"
Cardinal O'Brien recently called gay marriage "a grotesque subversion." Now he has resigned after priests accused him of making homosexual advances.
- Severin Carrell and Sam Jones
- United Kingdom
- February 26, 2013
The pope has forced the abrupt resignation of Britain's most senior Roman Catholic as the church made a frantic attempt to minimise the impact of allegations of "inappropriate acts" committed by Cardinal Keith O'Brien against fellow priests.
O'Brien stood down as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh the day after the Observer published accusations by three serving priests and a former priest about his conduct towards them during the 1980s.
He issued a statement in which he ambiguously apologised for "any failures" and to those he had "offended", and announced that he would no longer travel to the Vatican to help select a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who retires at 8pm on Thursday. O'Brien had been due to be the only British cardinal with a vote.
The cardinal revealed in his statement that he had been asked by the outgoing pope to stand down immediately. Already due to retire next month, the cardinal stated: "The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today."
Senior Catholics said his resignation was intended to stop the allegations turning into a crisis. The church is already under pressure over unrelated abuse and corruption scandals in other dioceses.
Professor John Haldane, one of Scotland's senior Catholic theologians and an adviser to the Vatican, said O'Brien's decision was "shocking and sad" but, given the timing of the allegations and the "inevitable" media interest, it was not a surprise. "He would not want that burden to fall upon the church and the pope at what is obviously a critical moment in the life of the Roman Catholic community," Haldane said.
But the move led critics to demand that other cardinals at the centre of scandals over failures to report sex abuse by priests – including Roger Mahony, emeritus archbishop of Los Angeles, and Seán Brady, the primate of all Ireland – "recuse" themselves from the papal conclave, citing O'Brien's decision as a precedent.
Insiders said O'Brien's abrupt departure had left the Scottish Catholic church, which he had led for 10 years, disoriented and shocked. One source said it meant that only three out of eight Scottish dioceses now have full-time, permanent bishops in charge.
In a detailed statement, O'Brien said: "I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest. 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.
"I also ask God's blessing on my brother cardinals who will soon gather in Rome to elect his successor. I will not join them for this conclave in person. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor."
That statement did not repeat his earlier denials at the weekend rebutting the allegations. After he failed to appear on Sunday to take a mass at St Mary's cathedral celebrating Pope Benedict's eight years as pontiff, his deputy hinted that O'Brien was considering his future.
Full Story: Pope forces out Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Source: The Guardian