Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, acknowledged Sunday that he had been guilty of sexual misconduct, a week after he announced his resignation and said he would not attend the conclave to choose the next pope. The moves followed revelations that three current and one former priest had accused him of inappropriate sexual contact dating back decades.
Cardinal O’Brien, the head of the church in Scotland, is the highest-ranking figure in the church’s recent history to make such an admission.
“I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal,” Cardinal O’Brien, 74, said in a statement.
The statement stunned many in the Scottish church and beyond. Some said the cardinal’s statement appeared to raise the possibility that the undefined sexual activities he acknowledged may not be restricted to the known allegations, the earliest of which relates to 1980. Ordained in 1965, he became an archbishop in 1985, but was not named cardinal until 2003.
Scotland’s Roman Catholic archbishop is contesting accusations of “inappropriate behavior” with priests, claims leveled as Cardinal Keith O’Brien prepares to join the conclave that will choose a new pope.
British newspaper The Observer reported Sunday that three priests and one former priest have leveled allegations against O’Brien that date back 30 years. The Observer did not recount details of the claims or identify any of O’Brien’s accusers, but said one of the priests alleged “that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him.”
O’Brien did not attend Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday, but the Scottish Catholic Media Office told CNN that the cardinal “contests these claims and is taking legal advice.”
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His accusers took their complaints to the Vatican representative in Britain and demanded O’Brien’s resignation, The Observer reported. At the Vatican, Father Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the church, told reporters that Pope Benedict XVI has been informed of the allegations.
The leader of the Catholic church in Scotland has used his Easter address to attack “aggressive secularism”, suggesting there were “those who would indeed try to destroy our Christian heritage and culture and take God from the public square”.
He made the address as David Cameron publicly endorsed the “enormous contribution” of Christian values to Britain, days before he welcomes senior churchmen to Downing Street for an Easter celebration.
Is it just me, or does there seem to be a pandemic of Severe Irony Deficiency among modern clergy?