From the BBC:
Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric,
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, is stepping down as leader of the Scottish Catholic
It follows claims, which he contests, of inappropriate behaviour towards
priests dating back to the 1980s.
statement, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh apologised to those he had offended for
"failures" during his ministry.
The cardinal also confirmed he would not take part in the papal
This means Britain will be unrepresented in the election of a new
pontiff. The Vatican confirmed the cardinal has stepped down from his post.
The Scottish Catholic Media Office said Pope Benedict had accepted the
cardinal's resignation on 18 February, but the announcement of it has only just
Cardinal O'Brien said in his statement he had already tendered his
resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, due to take effect when
he turned 75 next month, but Pope Benedict "has now decided that my
resignation will take effect today".
Cardinal O’Brien’s full statement can be read here.
Guardian reports on the accusations against O’Brien:
Three priests and a former priest in
Scotland have reported the most senior Catholic clergyman in Britain, Cardinal
Keith O'Brien, to the Vatican over allegations of inappropriate
behaviour stretching back 30 years.
The four, from the diocese of
St Andrews and Edinburgh, have complained to nuncio Antonio Mennini, the
Vatican's ambassador to Britain, and demanded O'Brien's immediate resignation.
A spokesman for the cardinal said that the claims were contested.
O'Brien, who is due to retire next
month, has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights, condemning homosexuality
as immoral, opposing gay adoption, and most recently arguing that same-sex
marriages would be "harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual
well-being of those involved". Last year he was named "bigot of the
year" by the gay rights charity Stonewall.
The Telegraph’s Damian Thompson laments, “There
will now be no Briton in the Sistine Chapel when voting takes place”:
Watch out for real fireworks in
Scotland, where tribal Catholicism is dying off. Cardinal O'Brien was a
firebrand on the subject of gay sex and the unsuitability of homosexuals for
clerical office; his counterpart in Glasgow, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, is
even more outspoken, recently suggesting that a Scottish MP's death was
hastened by his homosexuality.
If the charges against O'Brien have any substance to them, then the
public credibility of the Scottish Catholic Church will collapse. And the
rejoicing of the enemies of conservative Catholicism, who are especially vocal
in Scotland, will be deafening.