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UK Cardinal resigns amid allegations of homosexual advances to younger clergy

Monday, February 25, 2013

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, has resigned amid allegations that he made homosexual advances to younger clergy in his diocese.

O’Brien, the archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh since 1985, also said Monday he wouldn’t take part in the conclave to elect the next pope.

Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien
File photo: Scott Campbell, AP

In a statement Monday, the Vatican said that Pope Benedict XVI had formally accepted O’Brien’s resignation — submitted back in November because he is due to turn 75 next month, the normal retirement age for bishops.

But simultaneously, O’Brien issued a statement Monday saying he would skip the conclave because he didn’t want to become the focus of media attention at such a delicate time for the church.

O’Brien has said through his spokesman that he is contesting allegations made Sunday in a British newspaper that three priests and a former priest have filed complaints to the Vatican alleging that the cardinal acted inappropriately with them.

The Observer newspaper did not name the priests, but it said their allegations date back to the 1980s. There were no details about the alleged inappropriate behavior.

O’Brien who has been the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh since 1985, has been an outspoken opponent of plans to legalize same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom, and was named “bigot of the year” by the British LGBT advocacy group Stonewall UK last November.

“We trust there will now be a full investigation into the serious allegations made against Cardinal O’Brien,” said Colin MacFarlane, director of Stonewall UK’s Scotland offices. “We hope his successor will show a little more Christian charity towards openly gay people than the cardinal did himself.”

In 2009, O’Brien urged the Scottish National Party to abandon plans to give same-sex couples the same foster-parenting rights as straight ones, calling the idea “misguided” and saying that gay and lesbians were known for unstable relationships.

In a Daily Telegraph editorial in 2012, the cardinal urged people to stand up against a proposal to allow same-sex marriage, which he called “madness.”

He referred to same-sex marriage as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.”

O’Brien did not appear at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh to celebrate mass on Sunday, instead he was replaced by Bishop Stephen Robson, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, who made this statement at the cathedral:

“A number of allegations of inappropriate behavior have been made against the cardinal. The cardinal has sought legal advice and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time. There will be further statements in due course. As always in times of need such as this, we cannot not be saddened by the events of the last 24 hours.”

The four priests lodged their complaints in the week prior to Benedict announcing his resignation.

The former priest told the British press that O’Brien made an inappropriate approach to him in 1980, after night prayers, when he was a seminarian at St Andrew’s College.

The complainant, who is now married, says he resigned as a priest when Cardinal O’Brien was first made a bishop. He reportedly wrote in a statement, “I knew then he would always have power over me. It was assumed I left the priesthood to get married. I did not. I left to preserve my integrity.”

A second statement from another complainant said 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 behavior” 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.

O’Brien’s early resignation is believed to have been at the personal insistence of Benedict XVI, in one of his last acts as Pope.

O’Brien said in a statement that it was the Pope himself who had decided his resignation would take effect immediately.

O’Brien’s resignation comes on the heels of news reports that linked the resignation of Benedict XVI to the the contents of a secret dossier prepared for the pope by three cardinals who investigated the origins of the 2012 scandal over leaked Vatican documents.

The report suggested the revelations in the dossier included the discovery of blackmail, corruption and a network of gay prelates in the Vatican.

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29 more reader comments:

  1. We’re still the magical third rail!! :)

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:26am
  2. Shit just keep getting deeper

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:27am
  3. About time this stuff comes to light

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:27am
  4. supprise supprise….

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:28am
  5. ugh. gross.

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:30am
  6. one more down.

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:32am
  7. WOW

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:32am
  8. Why is it noteworthy that the advances were “homosexual”? If he was sexually harassing any of his subordinates shouldn’t that be sufficient to provoke a resignation?

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:32am
  9. oops!

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:35am
  10. It’s noteworthy because it’s a fact of the allegations. Are you suggesting they leave out the facts?

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:35am
  11. First the nazi pope now this tool bag! At this rate there will be no one left to run the joint and they is not a bad thing!

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:38am
  12. So much for the Catholic Church…great example for Christians. and then they condemn others….so many victims suffered because of their hidden agendas.

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:39am
  13. Oh my,here we go. I’ll make the popcorn.

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:39am
  14. As a person who was raised roman catholic, i am embarassed.

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:40am
  15. @Ian: Good point except that he has been so strident in taking such an anti-marriage equality position AND he has actually advocated allowing priests to marry. Stonewall, an LGBTQ advocacy group, has called him one of the most bigoted people in the UK, so I guess that’s why it’s appropriate to refer to the advances as ‘homosexual’.

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:52am
  16. let them all keep falling and stumbling out of the closet. its about time people see that cult for what it really is a bunch of repressed liars and criminals.

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:53am
  17. I would like to make the point that people do NOT resign because of “allegations”…

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 11:03am
  18. Child Molesters!

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 11:08am
  19. HA HA

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 11:33am
  20. LMAO

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 11:40am
  21. This is why I am no longer Catholic. No one ever hit on me while I was a kid.What am I chopped liver?

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 11:42am
  22. At least they weren’t children… :p

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 11:45am
  23. How the mighty have fallen in the Catholic hirachy over the sexual abuse scandal that was held in the deep secret files in the vatican.

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 12:24pm
  24. Guess same sex partners aren’t the only ones who should be allowed to get married. Time to stop living in the dark ages, maybe?

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 12:36pm
  25. Another hypocritcal bigot out of power.

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 1:11pm
  26. Shame!

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 1:17pm
  27. Methinks thou doth protest too much!!

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 1:21pm
  28. The most aggressive opponents are the ones with something to hide … others will follow …

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 2:11pm
  29. So a homosexual priest resigns and pedophile priests just move on to new territory. Sick!

    Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 2:57pm