Scottish Cardinal O’Brien steps down

The Archbishop of Edinburgh and Saint Andrews, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, resigned today after allegations of “improper behavior” with young priests. He will not take part in the forthcoming conclave.


The highest ranking dignitary of the Catholic Church in Britain, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has resigned. This was announced by the Catholic Church of Scotland on Monday. According to the release, Pope Benedict XVI. had already accepted the resignation on February 18. O’Brien himself announced the Pope had assigned his resignation as Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh for February 25.

O’Brien had so far been among the 117 Cardinals who are eligible to vote in the election of the new Pope after the resignation announcement of Pope Benedict XVI. Now he declared he will not take part in the Conclave to the election. He justified his retirement with the fact, that he did not want to draw media attention in Rome on his person. These should be focused on Pope Benedikt and his successor. The 74-year-old is the only British clergyman who should belong to the conclave.

On Sunday, several priests raised serious accusations against O’Brien. He had shown “inappropriate behaviour” at various nocturnal occurrences, the Sunday newspaper “The Observer” reported an alleged complaint to the Vatican. Thus, it is about occurrences that happend 33 years ago, and that where reported before the resignaton of Pope benedict XVI., by a former and three priests in office.

According to the report, the former priest who is now married, accuses the Cardinal, to have approached him in 1980 as a spiritual director at the seminary in an inappropriate way. He had been too scared to report the incident, but became depressed later an. When O’Brien had been ordained as Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh in 1985, he had resigned the priesthood to preserve his integrity. “I knew then he would always have power over me.”, the former priest is cited.

According to the report, also the three priests accused O’Brien of “inappropriate contact”. All four had hesitated to raise their complaint. However, they wanted that the conclave that will elect Pope Benedict’s successor, to be “clean”. The allegations were already raised before Pope Benedikt had announced his resignation.

The complainants now fear that the Vatican could now not thoroughly examine the allegations in order not to burden the conclave. “The Pope was informed about the problems now the matter is in his hands”, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said on the report.

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