February 23 | comments icon 30 COMMENTS     print icon print


Cardinal O’Brien contests ‘inappropriate’ conduct allegations

The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who faces accusations by three priests and one former priest of the archdiocese, is seeking legal advice

Britain’s most senior Catholic clergyman has been reported to the Vatican over historical allegations of inappropriate behaviour, according to a UK Sunday newspaper, weeks before he is due to retire.

A spokesman for the Scottish bishops told the SCO tonight that: “Cardinal O’Brien contests these claims and is taking legal advice.”

Tomorrow’s Sunday Observer carries a report that three priests and one former priest have made a complaint against Cardinal Keith O’Brien (above), 74. The men-who submitted statements containing their claims to the office of nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini the week before Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation on February 11-have also demanded the cardinal’s immediate resignation, the newspaper reports.

The Sunday newspaper reports that the first allegation against the cardinal dates back to 1980, when he was spiritual director at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange.

His Eminence, who must tender his resignation on March 17 under Canon Law when he turns 75, passed over the role of the presidency of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland to Archbishop Philip Tartaglia last year.

Before his retirement, the cardinal will have a say at the Conclave of Cardinals in who succeeds Pope Benedict after His Holiness stands down on February 28. Following his retirement, Cardinal O’Brien will remain a cardinal elector until he turns 80.

Comments - 30 Responses

  1. A very unsettling development. I have always found the Cardinal to be outgoing and forthright. I can not understand why four adults suddenly bring out these allegations together at this time. If complaints are made to the Nuncio, why go to the press as well?
    There is something not right here.

    • Jim says:

      I think we have to leave the apologetics of the past behind us these days when it comes to the churches administration. It is tragic on both accounts. If the Cardinal had made mistakes in the past it is a political moral and spiritual tragedy which may have left deep wounds on others. He alone can answer to God like all of us. We all fall down.
      If 3 priests and an ex priest are making up a bunch of lies it’s equally as unthinkable and tragic. The only one we can defend in good faith is Christ himself everyone else is flawed.
      May God bless him and the priests as these are trying times

    • Brian Gillion says:

      I too have met his eminence on a few times and have nothing but respect for him, his obvious concern for the Church always came through and his love of his”Flock” was most apparent at Lourdes. I might disagree with some of his points of view, but I seriously doubt the timing of these persons. To me it seems that the secular society have engineered these to appear at a time when the our Church is going through a time of great concern in Rome. The Cardinal will remain in my prayers and I admire his stance. Please remember he had already tendered his resignation as required

    • Jean Anne Lyden Mitchell says:

      Clearly there is something not right. You don’t report to The Nuncio and then hi-jack procedure with trial by Media while refusing to be identified nor eluding to exactly what “Inappropriate behaviour” is.

  2. Praying hard for the Cardinal and for the Church during this crucial week

  3. jj says:

    Praying for the priests who have the courage to speak out. Perhaps there is hope for our Church after all. Men with integrity and the honesty to stand against hypocrisy of the hierarchy. I am very proud of them for taking a stance against inappropriate behaviour.

    • Maria Dorrian says:

      You, Sir, appear to be Judge and Jury! Isn’t it strange what people can say when they choose to remain anonymous.
      ‘jj’ – another armchair expert. I suggest you await the results of the investigation before jumping on the bandwagon.

    • Jean Anne Lyden Mitchell says:

      I wish that you had the courage to identify yourself JJ and not also remain anonymous. You know JJ – we are all Praying for these Priests as God only knows why they have acted so inappropriately in trial of The Cardinal by media. The timing of these yet unknown and unsubstantiated allegations absolutely stinks of payback for whatever disappointment? As serving Priests obligated to serve their community they are currently daily preaching the Gospel which is so relevant to all of this. Do their congregation to whom they preach not even deserve to know who they are? I do not want to be served by a Priest who has carried bitterness and resentment for 30 years without dealing with it and in the course of their duties they will have obviously counselled others in forgiveness while now eluding to what seems 30 years of their own pent up anger and resentment and of what?

      I pray that forgiveness is in abundance because it will be needed. Have courage and do not be afraid to be transparent. Their wish for trial by media is beyond comprehension. Do these people consider themselves above the procedures of the office to which they raised their concerns at the Vatican? My last question is how do these priests and ex-priest relate to one another? – Clearly they agreed on one course of action – to report their concern but further then dismissed that procedure by going to the media!

  4. Alison Boocock says:

    A message to the 3 priests and one ex-priest who have made allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour towards Cardinal O’Brien.

    You have brought the Cardinal’s name and position into disrepute publicly, but you yourselves are remaining anonymous. The public have been given the name of the Cardinal, therefore why aren’t we also being given your names – his four accusers?

    If you have any decency within you, make it an “even playing field” for both sides.

  5. Maria Dorrian says:

    When are these four so-called “men of integrity” going to be named? Accusations from faceless accusers have to have something strange about them. We are talking young adult men here, not children, who, considering they were are priest training college, must have had the intelligence and gumption to do something at the time – if it were true – and not wait thirty years when the Cardinal’s health is frail. These priests who remain in their parishes have been living a lie for thirty years and in my opinion, should leave the church as they have no integrity whatsoever and have made the church look foolish. We have no need of the anti-Catholic Press when we have these anti-Christs in the Catholic Church. If it WERE true, it was their moral duty to ensure that no one else would suffer what they are claiming. We have not been told what the inappropriate behaviour in their words was, and the fact that four of them have got together to bring down the Cardinal thirty years on is despicable. Cardinal Keith remains very much in my prayers, a very gentle, caring and prayerful man.

  6. Sister Marie Ursula says:

    I have been following this story from afar (Oregon, United States). The timing, anonymity, and release to the press raise red flags for me about the plaintiffs’ motives. Nevertheless, this must be excruciating for Cardinal O’Brien and for the very many who love him. I am keeping you-all in my heart-prayers, way out in the wilds of Oregon ~ where God still hears everything.

  7. Andrew says:

    It would be interesting to know the circumstances behind this disclosure by four individuals in their 50’s. How do they know each other and in what context did they meet to make their written statement of allegations to the Nuncio. These allegations have been put into the public forum and have deeply embarrassed a fellow member of the Church yet the accusers remain ‘hidden’. One man’s reputation is in tatters, while three accusers continue to serve in their parishes. If they are indeed men ‘of integrity’, then let them show it by identifying themselves – I am sure their parishioners would like to know.

  8. Gerry Lynch says:

    As Maria Dorrian says, why had these “victims” not the intelligence or gumption to come forward at the time? The timing and nature of the whole thing smacks of conspiracy to destroy the Cardinal, discredit his expressed views and undermine the Church.

  9. Jean Anne Lyden Mitchell says:

    Submission to The Telegraph http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100204332/cardinal-obrien-gay-sex-scandal-this-was-a-hit-job-that-succeeded-beyond-the-plotters-wildest-dreams/

    I and my family know Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien personally as a wonderful, compassionate, bright, intelligent, funny and tactile human being who has been a tremendous spiritual leader unafraid to speak out and speak up for the values that he holds dear including his belief that Priests should be allowed to marry and that the institution of Marriage is between a man and a woman. In the Scottish Government Consultation on same sex marriage 64% who responded said they also opposed the plans. When an honest poll is taken, a majority, 55%, agree that “marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman” yet the Cardinal was awarded “Bigot of The Year” by Stonewall for his opinion and leadership on the issue.

    We are deeply saddened to hear of The Cardinals Resignation and cannot understand why the parties who accuse him (of what) have chosen this time to do so especially as he had already intimated his intention to stand down when he retires at 75 years of age on March 17th. These accusations are an assault on all Catholics Worldwide and very damaging to our faith while nothing is yet proven. We are not surprised that The Cardinal would Resign rather than cause any distraction to the unfolding events in Rome as we prepare to elect and welcome the new Pope. Cardinal O’Brien has been an inspirational great leader and in our knowledge of him he is truly a good man.

    Whether these accusations are proven or not proven they are very damaging and should have been raised long ago and within the proper channels unless the opportunity to meddle was irresistible. The timing of this was well executed without a doubt and sadly from within. Every organisation or company suffer from internal politics and this demonstrates that the Church is no different with those raising complaint at the most pivotal and destructive moment.

    These executioners who (in cowardice or fear?) remain unidentified silent assassins leave The Cardinal unable to defend himself as he knows not of what he is accused! It is ludicrous that he has experienced trial by media while his accusers are no doubt sniggering in the side-lines at the catastrophic quake they have caused. I pray for the accusers because they need prayer and I have often read “Be careful what you pray for as you may get what you pray for and in time this may not be what you need” (or can live with).

    My last thought is this, just what if this is a great conspiracy, what greater slur to an eminent and well respected Cardinal who has been outspoken in relation to homosexuality and same sex marriage than to end his wonderfully charismatic and active service to the Roman Catholic Church with the accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” – (meaning exactly what?) and although not explicitly labelled deliberately leaves the media audience conjuring up a picture of gay activity? What if instead of being borne out of fact this entire media circus has been concocted and manipulated as payback for the Cardinals principled leadership of the faith? How then will the world view these accusers and how will they be held to account?

    At this time we especially hope and pray that the Cardinal is permitted to enjoy a well-earned retirement without complication.

  10. Alison Boocock says:

    I don’t believe these 4 priests have “courage”, as JJ above has said. On the contrary, they lack it by remaining anonymous – a cowardly action.

    St Thomas Aquinas said, “It is human to know the truth and to pursue it, to strengthen the daily threads of integrity”.

    I believe that the Cardinal is the RC Church’s “sacrificial lamb”.

  11. C Cunningham says:

    It is regrettable that a witch hunt is underway for the Cardinal’s accusers. The dynamic of abuse and the situation in the Church have historically made it impossible for victims of such reprehensible behaviour to come forth and name their abuser. Such is the misuse of authority within the Church one should rather fall onto one’s knees and pray for the emergence of truly holy people, especially holy priests who lead lives of humble service to the Church and whose lives are unencumbered by the trappings of office. The theology of conscience should be applauded, not denegrated.

  12. James says:

    I hope that the victims will take some comfort from the outcome of their actions and the admission of wrong doing by the Cardinal.I hope the defenders of the Cardinal will reflect and learn and read their accusations again in the light of the apology by the Cardinal issued today.

  13. George MacLean says:

    Well, well, well. The Sheep posting earlier in the week on this comment now have to face up to the fact that it took PRIESTS complaining to see ACTION in Scotland.

  14. Maria Dorrian says:

    I would like to have the opportunity to comment on the article in the Observer by Catherine Devaney wherein she attempts to justify the handling of this matter.

    “The answer is that people who have suffered trauma are not public property. They have the right to come to terms with it in their own time and express it in their own way, when they are ready. Being ready can simply be a collision of circumstances. Often, it’s as straightforward as realising you are not the only one.”

    And why is Cardinal O’Brien public property? Is this not trauma to this 75 year old man? Would he be the only one?
    Straightforward or common sense in realizing. How naive, these little lambs.

    “He has hurt others, probably worse, than he affected me. And that only became clear a few weeks ago.”

    It is about hurt. It was about truth and honesty. They were going to protect the public from this 75 year old man now after 30 years of what? Where was their concern and conscience 30 years ago, 20 years ago or even 10 years ago? Interesting what people expect from others and yet have not been truthful and honest themselves for thirty years. Surely it was their moral obligation to ensure that no other would be “more hurt” than they were?

    “Peter wrote to me saying it had been the worst week of his life. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. Each of those men spoke out knowing it could ruin their lives. Some of them were trying to work out what order they might be able to take refuge in if the Church disowned them for speaking.”

    Their concern seems to have been about themselves, not about the Church and truth and good conscience or what the Church would do with the Cardinal or he with himself. What has the Church taught them? What have they learned?

    “The Cardinal’s robes, do not make him more worthy of support than the men in ordinary clerical collars.”

    Nameless ordinary clerical collars get prayers. Nameless ordinary clerical collars have looked for support in the Church and then feared it would fail them so they went to the newspaper and now they fear they will still not get the support. Nameless ordinary clerical collars have not put themselves out there by name because they knew they went about this business by the wrong procedure. They should have known better.

    “The signs so far do not suggest a new era of openness. But, as the Church itself proclaims, redemption is always possible for a sinner.”
    These men can take comfort in that thought.

    “When Lenny told the others his dream, one said he, too, had dreamed about their situation. His dream had been simpler. Keith O’Brien had asked their forgiveness for his behaviour. All of them had granted it.”
    How would these men not imagine that, if it were so, the forgiveness would have come from the only source that they should know can totally forgive.

    They cannot justify to us why they took this direction, they need to live with it for the rest of their lives and ask for God’s forgiveness for their loss of faith in the church and the fact that it was their moral obligation to ensure that no other persons would be subjected to what they claim.

    Cardinal Keith – thank you for all you have done for us. Our love and prayers go with you.

    • Sister Marie Ursula says:

      I was not able to find this most recent Observer article online. I suppose I don’t need to. Some thoughts I have:

      1) Cardinal O’Brien has admitted to not living up to the ideals of his vocation and his office. He acknowledges that he has hurt people and asks forgiveness. He has not given specifics, to which, frankly, we are not entitled, because doing so could possibly reveal identities of other adults who, although in lesser positions of authority, were nevertheless adults, not children. To put it bluntly, Cardinal O’Brien has admitted that he is a “sinner.” Do we Catholics not admit that during every Mass (“Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”)? But we do rightly expect more of priests, bishops, cardinals of the Catholic Church.
      2) This present admission forced by worldwide public shaming at an opportune time does not mean that Cardinal O’Brien has not long ago acknowledged and turned away from this regrettable conduct through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
      3) The vow of celibacy is not the cause of many things it’s blamed for. If that were the case, adultery and incest would not exist. In my years of ministry and friendship, I cannot count the number of people (mostly women) who have confided in me that they were sexually abused as children or teenagers ~ usually by male relatives, mom’s boyfriend, stepfathers, trusted neighbors, teachers, etc. Of these, I know only one man who was abused as a teenager by a priest. This does not excuse the abusive priest, who knew better (as did the others, but the expectations for them seem to be lower). It does point to a serious cultural problem: When a culture denies the sacredness of sex (sacred because, for one reason, sex makes babies created in the image and likeness of God), anything goes. “Sacred” means among other things that God has standards, clearly spelled out in the Bible and in the teachings of the Church.
      4) One important good that could come from this: Instead of making Cardinal O’Brien the scapegoat bearing away into the desert the culture’s sexual sins, each individual could do some serious self-examination. How do or have we, ourselves, denied or ignored the holiness of sex with its clearly God-defined boundaries? This is a painful time but also a crucial opportunity for us to get it right and to make it right. Moving beyond our own hearts, we can see how much of the commercial world exploits sex ~ because it sells. It also influences our views and habits until we say “No.”

      Thanks for listening. I continue to keep Cardinal O’Brien and Scottish Catholics in my heart-prayers.

  15. Paul James says:

    I’ve read through these comments and whilst I understand a desire to protect the church and the faith I see no Christianity in the sad and unpleasant questioning of the veracity of the initial allegations. Accusing victims of cowardice/opportunism/lack of faith whilst automatically assuming the innocence of a member of the hierarchy is EXACTLY why and how the church’s name gets destroyed in the media – by attempting to cover up wrongdoing and by denying that a man of God could act in this way and by protecting the institution rather than its constituent members.

    Demanding the names of the victims is an incredibly saddening way to behave – I’ve never been so disappointed in people of faith. I see no demands to unveil the list of names of Savile’s abuse victims. I see no rush to name every single female rape victim. Why are these holy men being treated differently? Would knowing their identities make the charges any less serious? If you love the church and defend it so strongly, why does the former Cardinal get the benefit of the doubt but these other servants of Christ do not?

    Keith O’Brien admitted his crimes and sins – there is no reason to hound his victims.

    I’m no longer Catholic – I came here to read up from a Catholic perspective – and I fear for those close to me who remain devout if the comments here are indicative of how certain Catholics behave when their church is accused of misconduct. It is hardly surprising that secularism is on the increase and that there is a vocations crisis.

    P.S – One reason people use anonymous names on the internet is to be able to express themselves without fear of reprisal from possible aggression and repercussions which revealing their identity could lead to, a shield if you like. I can absolutely understand why the four men involved in this debacle kept their identities secret…

    • hugh davey says:

      With a name like yours …….Paul James……. I believe you will always be Catholic for I am sure these two Saints will be ever there to guide you and you will always be in my prayers
      I agree with most your comments .I dont believe we need to know who these priests are,they know who they are GOD KNOWS WHO THEY ARE and I am sure the Cardinal will know who they are even if he didnt when the news broke.I am sure that he has asked forgiveness of THE LORD many years ago
      and many times since we also know once we have confessed to GOD our slate is wiped clean, and he has since said sorry publicly for any hurt he had caused.
      We are all part of the mystical body of CHRIST and when part of this body is hurt the whole body feels it,so I feel the pain for these priests and the Cardinal just has they feel pain and I believe the only way to ease their pain is for those involved to get together and make PEACE with each other.
      Do you remember Augustine and his failings and he is a SAINT. We all need to look at our inner selves and ask if we are without sin,ask ourselves if we have commited any sexual sins just by lookiing at another person lustfully .Do we turn the TV off when a sexual scene appears? and we could go on and on with similar questions. I remember as a young child of about 7 yrs comin home from Sunday Massdad asked my sister and I to go into the shop to get 2 papers while he walked on ,we took him the N of the W and the People we didnt know….. he just got hold of them screwed them up and threw them over an hedge he then explained why. I am 73 now and I never forgot.
      Paul I have just read your comments again and I am so with.You are far more Catholic than you believe and when people tell me they arnt practicing I tell them how much I need them to strengthen my FAITH.
      we get the OBSERVER sent to us ever week and I admire the great FAITH of the SCOTS [ My wife of 47yrs being one] We have always taken an active part in our FAITH [church]

      We have great faith in the Cardinal and his support for what we believe. We also had great respect also for Cardinal Winning RIP
      Your prayers are special so i ask you and all OBSERVER readers to pray for the priets and Cardinal so that they might find that PEACE which only GOD can give.Please pray for us and our family. GOD BLESS…….You will always be in our prayers.

    • Maria Dorrian says:

      I was under the (evidently mistaken) impression that the facility to leave comments was open to people to give their opinion – whether or not others agree with it.

      Paul, I’m sorry you seem to have missed the point. We, as Catholics, are brought up to know that “The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy”. To harbour personal hatred for thirty years to the point of causing damage to the Church is unbecoming and hypocritical of priests who for every day of those thirty years have offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the altar, commemorating the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and who sit hearing confessions purporting to be like Jesus in mercy and compassion.

      Why did these men, who were greater than thou, lose faith in the Church (which they claim to represent) to follow procedure? It took them thirty years to protect the public from this named person. Yet now the named person was down to the last month of his position and they felt it was their duty to whom, to accelerate the review of the accusations? Yes, maybe the public should be informed as to who these men of little faith are, so that they can decide for themselves if they want to be led by those who do not walk the walk. I know what my decision would be if I were a parishioner of theirs! I don’t see any connection with the Savile case, indeed some of the victims did actually speak on TV and let us not forget that the Savile case was mainly about young children with difficult histories, and not supposedly intelligent adult males.

      I can only repeat that it is my opinion (and I know that of many others, including non-Catholics) that these priests did not have the good of the Catholic Church at heart when they plunged it into the damage caused by their going to the Press, after thirty years. We were told that the timing was to have coincided with Cardinal O’Brien’s retiral – obviously they did not want him to go out ‘on a high’. They then brought forward the date following the Pope’s resignation, to ensure that the Cardinal did not go to Rome.

      Devaney tells us they did not release their claims before now because they thought they were the only ones……and yet she tells us that a fifth person had already placed a complaint directly to Rome in October of last year. Perhaps I’m missing something, but that person who acted alone – did he not think he was the only one too? And yet he acted alone without the need to conspire with others.
      Enter an embittered individual who smugly commends their action and adds that he had two run ins with the Cardinal, one when he was retiring and had refused to move out of the church house as requested. So, following the revelations, the Cardinal is turfed out of his home. Bingo! Another old score is settled.

      We are then told (in the Daily Mail article) that the Cardinal has been told he has to live the rest of his life like a hermit. For crying out loud, which century are we living in, the 16th century? If the man had murdered someone he’d get four years and a clean slate.

      Nothing will persuade me otherwise that there has been a conspiracy of revenge for whatever motives. People who seek revenge do and say things that have terrible consequences but they, too, have to answer to their Maker!

      I leave you with a comment that was left on a Daily Mail online article -http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2288260/Disgraced-cardinal-Keith-OBrien-facing-possible-police-investigation-emerges-church-officials-told-live-hermit.html
      “There is a most unpleasant hate campaign going on against the Catholic Church and against Keith O’Brien personally. – Zac, Edinburgh, 5/3/2013 9:25 Well, its only fair isn’t it? We gays have had to put up with a hate campaign from the Catholic Church for 2000 years, its nice once in a while to get a bit of revenge.- TheKingsNewClothes , Londo_istan, United Kingdom, 05/3/2013”
      Just about sums it up!

  16. I had a dream, the new Pope sends Scotland 200 missionary priests, appoints new bishops in the vacant sees, accepting their ( the elderly clergy’s) retirements. Pray for the Pope.
    It is the year of faith after all…………

  17. Sir please do not print my letter which you have altered. If you do not wish to publish my letter as sent (as a non “leading” catholic), show me the courtesy of a response, but do not just change my e-mail and put my name against it. That is not Catholic.
    Apology will be acceptable.

  18. Jim Monan says:


  19. Andrew Walker says:

    May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the Communion of saints be with us, and all those near and dear to us, now and for evermore. Amen.

  20. This particular article, “Cardinal O

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