Shamed Cardinal Keith O'Brien to Face Vatican Inquiry As He Admits Sexual Misconduct
By Nicola Stow
March 4, 2013
|Cardinal Keith O'Brien
THE ex-leader of the country's Catholics will face a probe by Vatican officials into allegations dating back more than 30 years.
SHAMED cardinal Keith O'Brien is set to face a Vatican inquiry after yesterday admitting to sexual misconduct.
Today, it was confirmed that complaints over O'Brien's conduct had been made to the Vatican.
A Scottish Catholic Media Office spokesman said: "We expect that they will be investigated and a conclusion drawn."
The inquiry is not likely to begin until after a new pope is chosen. It is understood the cardinal, who will not attend the conclave, is currently out of the country.
Last night, he confessed to sexual misconduct.
The retired leader of Scotland’s Catholics had previously denied allegations by five priests dating back more than 30 years.
But as details emerged of alleged “drunken fumblings” yesterday, he made an astonishing statement confirming his sexual conduct “had fallen below the standards expected of me”.
He also apologised and asked for forgiveness from those he had “offended”.
The complaints made against O’Brien to the Vatican by four priests and one former priest are reported to be of lewd, indecent behaviour, including inappropriate touching.
He is alleged to have made sexual advances towards them after drinking excessively.
A senior Church source said yesterday: “The commonality in the complaints is that he had too much to drink.
“It’s about allegations of lewd, bawdy, inappropriate behaviour ... touching, drunken fumblings.
“It’s at that level. It is qualitatively different from the idea of sexual abuse or anything involving children or vulnerable adults, which would constitute criminal behaviour.
“The view of the Church would be that this is immoral, not illegal. It would definitely come into the category of inappropriate behaviour.”
One of O’Brien’s alleged victims, a former priest who remains anonymous, attacked the Church’s response to the complaints yesterday, saying he fears the hierarchy would “crush” him if they could.
He said: “There have been two sensations for me this week. One is feeling the hot breath of the media on the back of my neck and the other is sensing the cold disapproval of the hierarchy for daring to break ranks.
“I feel like if they could crush me, they would.”
O’Brien resigned as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh last Monday, following complaints lodged this month from three priests and a former priest about events dating back to 1980.
They are centred on his time as spiritual director of St Andrew’s College in Drygrange, in the Borders.
It later emerged another priest had made a complaint in October last year, relating to an incident in 2001.
The cardinal, who had been archbishop since 1985 and was proclaimed cardinal in 2003, was one of the most strident voices against gay marriage in the UK.He was voted Bigot of the Year by gay rights group Stonewall.
Just days before his resignation, he had been talking about taking part in the conclave to elect a new pope – and issued a surprising statement suggesting priests should be allowed to marry.
As speculation mounted in the wake of the allegations against him emerging on February 24 – and his resignation the following day – the Catholic Church in Scotland said he contested the allegations and was taking legal advice.
Three days after the story broke, the Church denied his resignation was anything to do with the claims.
Spokesman Peter Kearney insisted that the announcement of his retirement a day after the story broke was a coincidence.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien's statement in full
But O’Brien’s explosive “sexual behaviour” admission yesterday revealed in black and white what lay behind his fall from grace.
Yesterday, historian Professor Tom Devine said the Catholic Church’s standing had been damaged over the last week.
He said: “Undoubtedly, the public reputation of the Church has been affected.
“This is why the process (investigating the allegations) has to take place speedily and effectively so that it will
eventually come into the public domain what exactly has happened.
“The Church has got to be seen to be doing this effectively and thoroughly.”
Many worshippers at last night’s Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh were left shocked and angry by O’Brien’s admission.
Financial markets worker James Devlin, 26, said: “The apology is too little, too late. He should have confessed his sins years ago. Who do we trust now?”
Full-time dad James Brown, 28, said: “I feel deceived. Whether or not he’s admitted it doesn’t matter – he did it. There needs to be some kind of inquiry.”
Sarah Jarvis, 32, said an urgent shake-up was needed within the Scottish Catholic Church.
The shop assistant added: “I can’t believe this has been covered up for so long. Drastic action is required to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Philip Ramsay, 66, said: “I couldn’t believe it. I felt let down, betrayed. To think the cardinal has hidden this for 30 years is utterly diabolical.”
Last night, gay rights group Stonewall said they didn’t want to make capital out of the downfall of the man they made Bigot of the Year.
Spokesman Colin McFarlane said: “Last week, we made our position quite clear – that we hope and expect the next cardinal to have a more tolerant and dignified attitude than O’Brien. That remains our position.”