THE resignation of the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in
Britain, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, will take effect today, after
allegations from priests that he perpetrated "inappropriate acts"
were published in a Sunday newspaper.
In a statement published today, the RC Archbishop of St Andrews
& Edinburgh, Cardinal O'Brien, said: "For any failures, I
apologise to all whom I have offended."
He first presented his resignation last November in view of his
75th birthday on 17 March this year, and it was accepted by the
Pope nunc pro tunc ("now for later"). Today, the Cardinal
said: "The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will
take effect today."
He will not join the other cardinals in Rome for the conclave to
elect the new Pope "in person". He said: "I do not wish media
attention in Rome to be focused on me - but rather on Pope Benedict
XVI and on his successor. However, I will pray with them and for
them that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they will make the
correct choice for the future good of the Church."
On Sunday, The Observer reported that three priests and
a former priest in Scotland had reported Cardinal O'Brien to the
Vatican over allegations of "inappropriate behaviour" dating back
to the 1980s. They complained to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop
Antonio Mennini, the week before the Pope's resignation on 11
February, and demanded Cardinal O'Brien's immediate resignation. A
spokesman for the Cardinal said that the allegations were
It is understood that the former priest, who is now married,
alleges that Cardinal O'Brien, who was his spiritual director at St
Andrew's College, Drygrange, made an "inappropriate approach after
night prayers". He resigned when O'Brien was elevated to the
episcopate: "I left to preserve my integrity."
One priest alleges that the Cardinal visited him in his parish,
where "inappropriate contact" between the two took place. Another
alleged "unwanted behaviour" by the Cardinal after a late-night
drinking session at the Archbishop's residence. The third priest
alleges that O'Brien used night prayers "as an excuse for
Last Friday, in an interview with BBC Scotland, Cardinal O'Brien
said that he believed that priests should be able to marry. While
some issues were "basic dogmatic beliefs" of "divine origin",
others were open to discussion: "I realise that many priests have
found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out
their priesthood and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to
whom they could get married and raise a family of their own."
Cardinal O'Brien has been an outspoken critic of gay marriage,
describing it as "a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted
human right" (
News, 9 March).