St Andrews Archbishop faces Vatican inquiry amid accusations of “inappropriate behaviour”


keith o'brien

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric, is expected to face a Vatican inquiry after admitting his sexual conduct had at times “fallen beneath the standards expected at the time.”

Cardinal O’Brien resigned from his position on 25 February amid accusa­tions of inappropriate conduct.

He is temporarily replaced by Arch­bishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, until a permanent appointment is made.

He tendered his resignation some time ago, but the Vatican retained the power to decide when it would take ef­fect.

Three active and one former priest from the diocese of St Andrews and Ed­inburgh reportedly lodged complaints to the Pope’s representative in Britain, nuncio Antonia Mennini.

Allegations included incidents of “in­appropriate approach and contact” and “unwanted behaviour”, which mainly happened in the 1980s.

In response to these allegations, O’Brien said that he was “very upset” and “doesn’t know who his accusers are and doesn’t know what they’re accusing him of.”

The Scottish Catholic Media Office (SCMO) stressed that the resignation was tendered last November, and he was already due to retire on 17 March 2013on his 75th birthday. The report from SCMO did not mention the allega­tions against O’Brien. Instead, it cited age and health issues as reasons for his resignation.

O’Brien sought legal advice but has since admitted to inappropriate behav­iour. From his statement on the SCMO, he said: “I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas… For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended”

He will not be taking part in the elec­tion of the new pope, saying: “I do not wish media attention in Rome to be fo­cused on me – but rather on Pope Ben­edict XVI and on his successor.”

This happened in the wake of the resignation of Pope Benedict, which it­self had led to issues of church abuses being raised. Some have speculated that the general image of the Roman Catholic Church is being undermined by scandals involving inappropriate clerical behav­iour, especially those involving children.

Tom Devine, a professor of Scottish history at Edinburgh University, wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “This is probably the gravest single public crisis to hit the Catholic Church in Scotland since the Reformation.”

Professor John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St An­drews, described the incident as a “turn­ing point” for the Church.

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Members of the LGBT protested when Cardinal O’Brien delivered a sermon in St Andrews

In a BBC report, Scotland’s First Min­ister, Alex Salmond, said: “None of us know the outcome of the investigation into the claims made against him but I have found him to be a good man for his church and country.”

O’Brien himself was a controversial figure even before this incident hap­pened. He was an outspoken critic of ho­mosexuality and once said that gay mar­riage was a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.” His controversial views earned him the title, Bigot of the Year in 2012 by Stonewall Scotland, a gay rights advocacy group.

In April, 2012, he visited the Univer­sity of St Andrews to give a sermon at St Salvator’s, a move that sparked wide­spread student protests.

The LGBT Society organised a silent protest outside the chapel, which was at­tended by almost one hundred students wearing coloured shirts.

The Society declined to comment on O’Brien’s resignation, nor on the allega­tions that were made against him. They stressed that their protest was directed against his words, and not his charac­ter. They hope that his public apology “brings comfort to those who were of­fended by his comments.”


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