Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, is stepping down as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church. It follows allegations – which he contests – of inappropriate behaviour towards priests dating from the 1980s. In a statement, he apologised to those he had offended during his ministry. The cardinal confirmed he would not take part in the election for a successor to the Pope – leaving Britain unrepresented in the election. Cardinal O’Brien said in a statement he had already tendered his resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, due to take effect when he turned 75 next month, but Pope Benedict “has now decided that my resignation will take effect today”. He said the pontiff would appoint an apostolic administrator to govern the archdiocese in his place until his successor is appointed.
More on O’Brien’s accusers:
The former priest claims Cardinal O’Brien made an inappropriate approach to him in 1980, after night prayers, when he was a seminarian at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange. The complainant says he resigned as a priest when Cardinal O’Brien was first made a bishop. A second statement from another complainant says he was living in a parish when he was visited by O’Brien, and inappropriate contact took place between them. A third complainant alleges dealing with what he describes as “unwanted behaviour” by the cardinal in the 1980s after some late-night drinking. And the fourth complainant claims the cardinal used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact.
In November the British LGBT rights group Stonewall denounced O’Brien as their “Bigot Of The Year” after he described gay relationships as “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and compared marriage equality to child abuse and slavery.
Here’s an excerpt from O’Brien’s statement.
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 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.