Cardinal Keith O'brien Being Sued by Alleged Abuse Victim
By Simon Johnson
March 15, 2013
|Cardinal Keith O'Brien is being sued by a former seminarian who claims he was the victim of sexual misconduct Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
He is claiming the cardinal groped and kissed him during a visit to an unnamed seminary in the 1980s when he was 19. He made clear his ordeal was not an isolated incident.
The former seminarian is the first of the cardinal’s alleged victims to speak publicly about his experience, having known him since childhood, and said he is prepared to face the cleric in a courtroom to encourage others to come forward.
The man, who is now in his 50s and has asked to remain anonymous, told Glasgow's Herald newspaper he had instigated legal proceedings against both the cardinal and the Catholic Church.
He left the seminary several months after the alleged incident and decided only to break his silence after the recent revelations about the former archbishop’s sexual behaviour indicated there were other victims.
His solicitor has described his client as "totally credible" and his claims as "consistent and measured".
Cardinal O'Brien, who turns 75 on Sunday, has gone to ground following claims nearly three weeks ago that he "behaved inappropriately" towards three priests and a former priest in the 1980s.
Following the revelations, he was stood down from his post as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and subsequently admitted his sexual conduct had "fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal".
The former seminarian’s allegation related to a period when he attended a senior seminary college, following four years at Aberdeen's Blairs College for trainee priests.
He alleges that the cardinal, who was then rector of Blairs, invited him to his room after dinner in the seminary.
“We'd some sort of drink in his room, beer or wine. He was just chatting away about the past, the future and so on. He had been talking about himself, how he was going places, his career had been mapped out and that it was for God to decide,” he said.
“I can't remember the exact phrase he used but he told me he would always look after me and how good a priest I'd be. Until this stage I'd thought how excellent it would be to be a priest in his diocese.
"But that's when it happened ... after a few minutes he released me and I was able to make my excuses and go. As an adult looking back I ask myself how it could have happened. Neither of us was drunk."
Until cardinal’s recent misconduct came to light, he put his experience down to a one-off act of weakness, but now believes it was premeditated and part of a pattern of behaviour.
The man, who later married and had children and a successful career away from the church, said that only in the past few weeks did he eventually break his silence by telling a lifelong friend, another former trainee priest.
He described the unfolding events of the past fortnight as "like forcing myself to watch a movie I don't want to see" and said it had been "near-impossible to appear normal" since the full magnitude of events emerged.
The former seminarian is to undergo psychological assessment in the coming weeks, which could corroborate his claims, with his solicitor suing for both the trauma and loss of career.
Similar claims in the past have led to payouts in excess of ?50,000 in cases involving clerical and other abusers.
"When I spoke to the lawyer I broke down. I haven't been sleeping, I've been physically sick. If I didn't have any children I'd have no problem with anonymity. But at this stage I believe I would be prepared to face Keith in a court room,” he said.
"I know the truth. I'd still refer to him as Keith and ask him as a religious man under oath is he prepared to deny what I'm saying is the truth."
Cameron Fyfe, his solicitor, said: "I am currently preparing the case but hope in all the current circumstances that the Church may take a reasonable stand and consider settlement of the claim without the expense and trauma of a court action.
"I have acted for over 1,000 clients who have been victims of sexual and physical abuse. Over the years you learn to assess credibility. I have found this client to be totally credible.
“The information he has passed to me is consistent and measured. If the case does eventually require to go to court I think he would be an excellent witness."
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: "The Church is disturbed to hear of these allegations. Any complaints raised will be taken very seriously."