A week after resigning amid allegations by four men Britain’s most senior catholic Cardinal O’Brien drops his denials and admits sexual misconduct.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien – Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric – has admitted sexual misconduct and said his actions fell below the standards expected of him as a priest.
He stepped down last Monday after allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards three priests and a former priest dating back to the 1980s were printed in a national newspaper.
In a statement issued tonight by the Catholic Church in Scotland, the Cardinal said he had initially contested what he called the “anonymous and non-specific” allegations which emerged against him.
But he added: “I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal. To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness…I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”
The cardinal, who initially said he was taking legal advice when the allegations against him first emerged, had been due to retire later this month when he turned 75.
“In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public,” he added. “Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.
“However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.
“To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness.
“To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise.
“I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”
Meanwhile, preparations for electing Roman Catholicism’s new leader begin in earnest on Monday as the College of Cardinals opens daily talks to sketch an identikit for the next pope and ponder who among them might fit it.
The idea is to have the new pope elected during next week and officially installed several days later so he can preside over the Holy Week ceremonies starting with Palm Sunday on March 24 and culminating in Easter the following Sunday.
Cardinal O’Brien has been one of Scotland’s most outspoken opponents of moves to legalise same-sex marriage. Last year his stance earned him the Bigot of the Year award from the gay rights group Stonewall.