Cardinal Keith O’Brien ‘asked for forgiveness’, funeral told

Controversial cleric, who admitted sexual misconduct, had life of ‘lights and darknesses’

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, pictured in 2003, who died last month. Photograph:  Alistair Linford/PA

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, pictured in 2003, who died last month. Photograph: Alistair Linford/PA


Irish-born Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who was once the Catholic Church’s most senior cleric in Britain, asked in his will for forgiveness from those he offended, mourners at his funeral were told.

The 80-year-old, who was born in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, and grew up in Scotland, resigned as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in 2013 after he was forced to admit sexual misconduct.

Three priests and one former priest had alleged that he had behaved improperly towards them during the 1980s at a time when he was publicly condemning homosexuality, same-sex relationships and gay marriage. He died last month in a Newcastle hospital following a fall.

His funeral was led by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and among the 200 mourners were Archbishop Edward Adams, the Papal Nuncio to Britain, around 40 priests, and nuns.

“In recent days, as we all know, the life of Cardinal Keith has been laid bare. We all know its lights and its darkness and we need not spend time talking about them even more because he himself gave us the key words to keep in mind,” said Cardinal Nichols.

Graces and blessings

“In his last will and testament he wrote ‘I ask for forgiveness of all I have offended in this life. I thank God for the many graces and blessings He has given me especially the Sacrament of Holy Orders’,” he continued, quoting the Irishman’s last words.

Despite having failings, Cardinal Nichols said there was “great goodness” in Cardinal O’Brien’s life, not least his determination to help the poor during his time leading the Catholic Church in Scotland.

His successor in Edinburgh, Archbishop Leo Cushley, said: “In life, Cardinal O’ Brien may have divided opinion – in death, however, I think all can be united in praying for the repose of his soul, for comfort for his grieving family and that support and solace be given to those whom he offended, hurt and let down. May he rest in peace.”

In his resignation statement five years ago, Cardinal O’Brien apologised for his failures: “My sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”