A UK newspaper says that the most senior Roman Catholic in the UK, 74 year old Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who is due to retire next month, faces accusations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ and has been reported to the Vatican.
Just days after the Vatican denied stories involving sex, money and gay priests, as reported here on Digital Journal, the UK Sunday broadsheet, The Observer, broke a story last night alleging Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the UK’s most senior Roman Catholic clergyman, had been reported to the Vatican and faces accusations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by three priests and a former priest.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien was born in Northern Ireland moving to Scotland as a child. He is now the only living Cardinal from Scotland and is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. Cardinal O’Brien studied chemistry at Edinburgh University before training for the Roman Catholic priesthood at St. Andrew's College, Drygrange in Scotland. He was ordained as a priest in 1965. Cardinal O’Brien rose to become leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and now heads its Conference of Bishops.
Cardinal O’Brien is well known for his staunch views on homosexuality and gay marriage. Last year gay rights campaigning organisation Stonewall came in for much criticism as it awarded Cardinal O’Brien its 2012 Stonewall Bigot of the Year prize, as Digital Journal reported.
He has also become known for taking a relaxed view on the possibility of Catholic priests marrying. Last year he spoke in favour of the Catholic Church overturning centuries of tradition and allowing priests to marry, saying that many priests struggled with celibacy. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Cardinal O’Brien said, “I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy... and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family.”
Last night, reports emerged in The Observer/Guardian online version that Cardinal O'Brien had been reported to the Vatican for inappropriate sexual behaviour. According to the paper, three Roman Catholic priests and one former priest have given statements to papal nuncio Antonio Mennini containing claims of sexual impropriety dating back the 1980s.
One of the complainants said that he required counselling after having an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with Cardinal O’Brien. Another complaint refers to Cardinal O’Brien having made an inappropriate approach to an 18 year old trainee priest who has since left the priesthood and married. In a third complaint, reference is made to a newly ordained priest being invited to spend a week at Cardinal O’Brien’s archbishop’s residence ‘getting to know’ O’Brien. This is alleged to have culminated in the young priest facing unwanted behaviour by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session.
In the Daily Mail today, it's reported that a spokesman for the Cardinal says that O’Brien contests the allegations. The same paper also reports that there have been calls for Cardinal O’Brien’s immediate resignation. As matters stand, Cardinal O’Brien would be making arrangements to travel to the Vatican next week to participate in the conclave charged with selecting the next Pope to succeed Pope Benedict XVI. According to The Observer/Guardian report, under canon law, no cardinal eligible to vote in the conclave can be prevented from doing so.