Cardinal O’Brien steps down
Publication Date: 2013-03-01
Pope Benedict XVI accepted resignation of His Eminence before he himself left office
Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh on Monday, effective immediately.
Cardinal O’Brien had sent his resignation to the Vatican last year, due to age and health concerns, ahead of the mandatory retirement age of 75 that he reaches on March 17. The cardinal remains a cardinal elector until his 80th birthday but he is no longer travelling to the Vatican to take part in the conclave to elect the next Pope after Pope Benedict stepped down yesterday.
Last weekend it emerged that three priests and a former member of the clergy had made allegations of ‘inappropriate conduct’ against the cardinal to Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini, and that the Vatican was investigating their claims. Cardinal O’Brien is contesting the allegations and seeking legal advice.
In a dignified statement on his resignation, Cardinal O’Brien demonstrated his continued pastoral care for the Church by deciding to not attend the conclave to avoid detracting attention from its business.
“I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me—but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” he said. “I will pray with them and for them that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they will make the correct choice for the future good of the Church.”
The cardinal said that, due to his ‘indifferent health,’ he had tendered his resignation to the Pope last year, and that the Pope had provisionally accepted it. The Holy Father, who cleared urgent business prior to stepping down himself, decided that the resignation would take effect immediately and he would appoint an apostolic administrator for St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese until a successor was found.
Cardinal O’Brien said he was grateful for any opportunities to do good he’d had as archbishop and said sorry to anyone he had hurt.
“Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God,” he said. “For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended. I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest.”
Auxiliary Bishop Stephen Robson took his place at a Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Benedict at St Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday, with ‘a heavy heart.
First Minster Alex Salmond was among the first people to pay tribute to the departing archbishop and said his lifetime of good works should not be overlooked.
“I hear the news of Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation with the greatest sadness,” he said. “In all of my dealings with the cardinal, he has been a considerate and thoughtful leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, stalwart in his Faith but constructive in his approach.
“It would be a great pity if a lifetime of positive work was lost from comment in the circumstances of his resignation.”
Professor John Haldane—professor of philosophy at St Andrews University, adviser to the Pontifical Council for Culture, and one of Scotland’s most respected Catholic academics—said he believed the cardinal had made the right choice to resign immediately.
“I think in these circumstances, to go to Rome under the cloud of these allegations—even though they, at this stage, simply remain that—would not be helpful for him, it would attract attention,” he said.
Many Catholics have spoken in defence of Cardinal O’Brien after the allegations, and have called on his accusers to make their identities known.
This sentiment was articulated by prominent Catholic businessman Sir Tom Farmer, a good friend of Cardinal O’Brien’s, who said he was ‘very surprised’ at the news and that the cardinal is ‘a very good man.’
“No specific charges have been made beyond ‘inappropriate conduct’ and it is unfair and unacceptable that such a statement has been made by people who are being allowed to hide behind a cloud,” he said.
Peter Kearney, spokesman for Scotland’s bishops, said: “The faith of Catholics… is a personal faith in God. It will not be destroyed by events and controversies or the individual failings of anyone.”
- This story was reported in full in the March 1 print edition of the SCO.