Pope Accepts Cardinal Keith O'brien's Resignation
March 20, 2015
Two years after he stood down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh after admitting sexual relationships dating back decades, Pope Francis has ordered the Cardinal no longer perform any public, religious or civil duties associated with the title.
The unprecedented move will be seen as a humiliation of the former leading cleric and will prevent him taking any future role in the selection of any new Pope.
The move has been welcomed by the Catholic Church in Scotland however, he will be allowed to retain in his Red Hat and is expected to stay in his temporary residence in north east England.
The sanction confirms the Vatican has now formally accepted the claims of the four priests who claimed Cardinal O'Brien's had been guilty of inappropriate sexual conduct with them.
A further seminarian also launched a civil action against the church claiming Cardinal O'Brien had made sexual contact with him in the late 1970s.
He has been effectively exiled from Scotland by the Vatican since May 2013 but retains some support amongst sections of the clergy and lay Catholics.
Both Pope Francis and Cardinal O'Brien have met in person to discuss the issue and sanctions. The Cardinal has also issued a renewed apology
His successor, Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh said Cardinal O'Brien's behaviour distressed many, demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic.
Archbishop Cushley said: "As most people are aware, Pope Francis is a good and prayerful man whose character embodies justice and mercy. I am confident therefore that the decision of the Holy Father is fair, equitable and proportionate,"
"I therefore acknowledge and welcome Cardinal O'Brien's apology to those affected by his behaviour and also to the people of Scotland, especially the Catholic community."
Today's announcement follows the decision by Pope Francis to send a personal envoy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, on a fact-finding mission to Scotland last year. Based upon that investigation, the content of which is fully know only to Pope Francis and Archbishop Scicluna, Pope Francis has reached his canonical conclusion.
Archbishop Cushley added: "For my own part, I would like to express sorrow and regret to those most distressed by the actions of my predecessor. I also pay tribute to those who had the courage to come forward to speak to Archbishop Scicluna. I hope now that all of us affected by this sad and regrettable episode will embrace a spirit of forgiveness, the only spirit that can heal any bitterness and hurt that still remains."
Cardinal O'Brien said: "I wish to repeat the apology which I made to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland some two years ago now on 3rd 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; and will dedicate the rest of my life in retirement, praying especially for the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, for Scotland, and for those I have offended in any way."
Archbishop Cushley has sent out a letter to be read as masses this weekend confirming the Pope has accepted Cardinal Keith O'Brien's resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and his retirement.
Only a Pope can approve a cardinal resigning his official status, and today's announcement is extremely rare in Church history.
The closest parallel to today's events came in 1927 when French Cardinal Louis Billot resigned from the Sacred College of Cardinals following a stormy meeting with Pope Pius XI. His resignation was accepted by the Pope eight days later.