Vatican orders new probe into disgraced Scottish cardinal
In-depth archdiocesan inquiry may be unprecedented
Ex-Cardinal O'Brien (picture: National Catholic Reporter)
- Joshua J. McElwee for National Catholic Reporter
- United Kingdom
- April 7, 2014
The Vatican has appointed a bishop known for aggressively investigating cases of sexual abuse to take testimony of clergy alleging sexual misconduct in Scotland's archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, where Cardinal Keith O'Brien was archbishop until resigning under disgrace in February 2013.
The archdiocese's current leader, Archbishop Leo Cushley, announced the investigation in two letters sent to his clergy Tuesday.
The letters, which were obtained by NCR Thursday from a priest of the archdiocese, announce what may be the first instance of an investigation by the Vatican of sexual misconduct by one of the church's cardinals, who are normally considered nearly above reproach in the Vatican's hierarchical structure.
O'Brien, who had served as the archbishop of Edinburgh since 1985, resigned abruptly just days before Pope Benedict XVI abdicated in February 2013, following allegations by three priests and one former priest of the Scottish archdiocese that the cardinal had inappropriate sexual relations with them dating back some 30 years.
Tuesday's letters from Cushley state that Pope Francis has asked the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops to send Maltese Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna to "listen to and report the testimony offered by past and present members of the clergy ... concerning any incidents of sexual misconduct committed against them by other members of the clergy whomsoever."
Scicluna, Cushley states, will visit the archdiocese April 8-10 and "will be available to listen" on those days. The Maltese bishop, Cushley writes, has also asked those who wish to speak with him to "prepare their narrative in writing."
Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, a noted canon and civil lawyer widely known for his advocacy and work on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, said in a brief interview Thursday he had "never heard" of such an investigation before.
"That's very unusual indeed," said Doyle. "I've never heard of a cardinal being investigated like this by the Holy See."
Jesuit Fr. John O'Malley, a noted church historian who has written books on the Second Vatican and Trent Councils and a history of the popes, likewise said he "could not recall" a similar instance of an archdiocese or cardinal being investigated.
Doyle said that although O'Brien is not specifically mentioned in the documents, it seems the pope is asking Scicluna to begin building evidence specific to the disgraced cardinal.
"This is just a preliminary so that they're looking around but it's pretty clear what they're doing and why they're doing it," said Doyle.
Source: National Catholic Reporter