Pope Francis Strips Disgraced Cardinal Keith O’brien of Privileges but Not Title

By John Bingham
March 20, 2015

Cardinal Keith O’Brien who resigned over 'inappropriate' behaviour Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the disgraced former head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has formally “resigned” the role of Cardinal – but keeps his title.

Pope Francis has ordered the former Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh – who stepped down two years ago after revelations that he made sexual advances to priests – to live a “strictly private life” of prayer and penance, banned from taking part in any future “public, religious or civil events”.

The Cardinal has been living in effective exile in England under arrangements agreed by the Vatican which bars him from setting foot in Scotland.

His former archdiocese has bought a house in a quiet cul-de-sac in Northumberland for him to live out his retirement.

In a short statement he said he was “deeply sorry” to his victims, remarking that his “sexual conduct” had “fallen below the standards expected”.

He said the Pope had accepted his “resignation from the rights and duties of a Cardinal” which include a vote in any Conclave to elect a future Pope.

But the official announcement from the Vatican continued to afford him the description of “His Eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien, archbishop emeritus of St Andrews and Edinburgh”.

The Church also disclosed that the Cardinal O’Brien had been granted a private meeting with Pope Francis in Rome before the ban was announced.

A leading support group for victims of clerical abuse said the announcement showed there was still a lack of openness from the Vatican on the issue, despite promises of firm action.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien (left) greets Pope Benedict on his visit to the UK (Getty images)

Barbara Dorris of SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) said: “Two full years after he admitted sexual misconduct, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has resigned.

“But as it has done with dozens of abusive prelates, the Vatican is disclosing nothing about O’Brien’s wrongdoing.”

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 March 3 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."

The Most Rev Leo Cushley, the new Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, 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.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien with Pope John Paul in 2003 (Getty)

“Cardinal O’Brien’s behaviour distressed many, demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic.

“I therefore acknowledge and welcome his apology to those affected by his behaviour and also to the people of Scotland, especially the Catholic community.”

It follows an investigation by Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who was sent by Pope Francis as a personal envoy on a fact-finding mission last year.

After the scandal broke

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.”








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