Top British Cardinal Resigns After Allegations of "Inappropriate Behavior"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 25 2013 11:22 AM

Top British Cardinal Resigns After Allegations of "Inappropriate Behavior"

Cardinal Keith O'Brien poses for pictures following a conference on May 8, 2012, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Another week, another headache for the Catholic Church: Top British Cardinal Keith O'Brien has stepped down as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, just one day after a British paper reported on "allegations of inappropriate behaviour" against the cardinal.

According to the Observer, four current and former priests from O'Brien's diocese have reported the former archbishop to the Vatican and demanded his resignation. Here's the paper with more details on the complaints, which have been contested by the cardinal's office:

It is understood that the first allegation against the cardinal dates back to 1980. The complainant, who is now married, was then a 20-year-old seminarian at St Andrew's College, Drygrange, where O'Brien was his "spiritual director". The Observer understands that the statement claims O'Brien made an inappropriate approach after night prayers...In a second statement, "Priest A" describes being happily settled in a parish when he claims he was visited by O'Brien and inappropriate contact between the two took place...In a third statement, "Priest B" claims that he was starting his ministry in the 1980s when he was invited to spend a week "getting to know" O'Brien at the archbishop's residence. His statement alleges that he found himself dealing with what he describes as unwanted behaviour by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session..."Priest C" was a young priest the cardinal was counselling over personal problems. Priest C's statement claims that O'Brien used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact.

The Roman Catholic Church's media office in Scotland issued a statement indicating that O'Brien tendered his resignation on Feb. 18 and had previously indicated his intention to retire by his 75th birthday in mid-March. The cardinal didn't address the allegations in his acknowledgment of the pope's acceptance of his resignation on Monday. But, notably, he won't participate in the selection of Pope Benedict XVI's successor, despite still being a cardinal young enough to join the Conclave. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi declined to comment on the resignation at a news conference on Monday. The English translator at the Vatican, however, essentially offered papal procrastination as an explanation on the timing: "Because of the date of the pope's resignation, some things were held up a bit," Thomas Rosica said.

O'Brien has been outspoken in the United Kingdom on his negative views of homosexuality, winning the dubious honor of "Bigot of the Year" at the 2012 Stonewall awards.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.


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