Cardinal apologises for sexual conduct
Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA Wire
Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien last night issued a statement of abject apology for sexual conduct that had “fallen below the standards expected of me”, following revelations in the British media last week that three priests and one ex-priest had complained about incidents of sexual harassment dating back to the 1980s.
The following day it was announced that the cardinal – an outspoken critic of plans to legalise same-sex marriage – would quit his post with immediate effect.
His resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI on February 18th. The cardinal had been due to retire later this month when he turned 75.
The Ballycastle, Co Antrim-born cleric, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, appeared initially to reject the accusations, saying that he was seeking legal advice.
Last night, however, he issued a statement admitting to sexual conduct that had “fallen below the standards expected of me”.
“In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them,” the statement read.
“However, 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.
“To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”
Cardinal O’Brien’s admission of guilt is rendered all the more dramatic by the fact that he is the prelate who last year labelled gay marriage “a grotesque subversion”.
At least one of the incidents involving Cardinal O’Brien took place during his time as rector of St Andrew’s College, where he served as spiritual director from 1978 to 1980.
After a night’s drinking, the then 42-year-old Cardinal O’Brien attempted to seduce a 20-year-old student.
The student, who was ordained in 1985, left the church when he discovered Cardinal O’Brien had been nominated archbishop of his diocese.