Disgraced anti-gay Archbishop loses cardinal's privileges

20th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Pope Francis has accepted disgraced British cleric Keith O'Brien's resignation of the rights and privileges of a cardinal, the Vatican announced on Friday.

The unusual move comes two years after O'Brien stepped down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, having admitted inappropriate sexual behaviour towards priests in the 1980s.

At the time of his resignation, O'Brien was the most senior Catholic churchman in Britain and an outspoken critic of homosexuality -- which he described as a "moral degradation" -- and gay marriage.

He was exposed as a hypocrite when several priests who had been in his charge came forward with testimony that he had made sometimes unwanted sexual advances to them, often after late night drinking sessions.

In a statement, the Vatican said the resignation had been presented "after a long period of prayer" -- in other words without any reference to an internal church court.

"With this provision, His Holiness would like to manifest his pastoral solicitude to all the faithful of the Church in Scotland and to encourage them to continue with hope the path of renewal and reconciliation," the statement added.

O'Brien also issued a statement, repeating the public apology he made in March 2013.

"I then said that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me. For that I am deeply sorry.

"I thank Pope Francis for his fatherly care of me and of those I have offended in any way.

"I will continue to play no part in the public life of the Church in Scotland."

The Vatican ruling allows O'Brien to remain a priest and keep the formal title of cardinal, but he is no longer allowed to take part in any church forums, loses his status as an adviser to the pope and will not be welcome at any conclave to elect a future pope.

The pope's decision to accept O'Brien's resignation follows a private discussion between the two men, according to Scottish media reports, and the submission of a report by papal emissary Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who went on a fact-finding trip to Scotland last year.

The report's contents have not been made public. That and the length of time it has taken to reach a decision on O'Brien's status has seen the Church come under fire in Scotland, including from one of O'Brien's alleged victims.

The unnamed priest told Scotland's Daily Record last week that: "Scicluna's report must have burnt the varnish off the desk, but the Vatican can move at a glacial speed when it wants."

The former archbishop is spending his retirement living in self-imposed exile from Scotland in northern England in a house reportedly paid for by the Church.


© 2015 AFP

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