LONDON — Britain’s leading gay-rights group said Monday that Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who stepped down from church leadership after admitting sexual misconduct, should apologize to gay people for his years of “vicious and cruel language” about them.
O’Brien has not directly addressed the allegations against him — which include “an inappropriate approach” to a seminarian after night prayers and “inappropriate contact” with another priest — but acknowledged Sunday that “my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”
“To those I have offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness,” he said.
O’Brien, 74, had been a staunch advocate of church teaching against homosexuality, calling same-sex marriage “a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” and saying that British government plans to legalize same-sex marriage would “shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world.”
Stonewall UK Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said Monday that the gay rights group noted “with sadness that the cardinal didn’t find it in him to apologize to gay people, their families and friends for the harm his vicious and cruel language caused.”
O’Brien resigned last week from his position as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh after being accused of inappropriate behavior by three priests and a former priest.
The Scottish Catholic Media Office said the complaints against O’Brien had been reported to the Vatican, and it expected there would be an investigation.
But the Vatican refused to confirm or deny Monday whether it was investigating O’Brien, and declined to say when it learned of the allegations against him.
Pressed to respond to reports of a purported fifth accuser, who reportedly approached the Vatican directly in October with accusations, another spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, read O’Brien’s statement and said the Vatican would say no more.
Until his abrupt resignation, O’Brien had been due to join cardinals from around the world in Rome for a conclave that will elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI. The cardinals met Monday, without O’Brien, for the first of their pre-conclave meetings.
Last year, Stonewall named O’Brien “Bigot of the Year” for his hard line on homosexuality.