The Archbishop of Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has been forced to resign just days before the Pope Benedict XVI steps down, leaving Great Britain without a representative at the upcoming papal conclave. O'Brien, who heads the Catholic Church in Scotland and was the only British Cardinal eligible to vote for the new pope, has recently been accused of "inappropriate behavior" with some of his priests. He denies all the charges, but the growing storm over the accusations had created an unwelcome distraction at a pivotal time for the Chruch, and threatened to throw a cloud over the upcoming conclave. O'Brien announced that the Pope has accepted his resignation and he won't be going to Rome next month for the vote.
The accusations against O'Brien date back to 1980 and were made by three priests and one former preist, who said he left the Church because was unable to serve under the Cardinal. He claims Cardinal O'Brien "made an 'inappropriate approach' to him after night prayers when he was an 18-year-old seminarian." The others also complained of "inappropriate contact" and "unwanted attention" from OBrien.
O'Brien has been a somewhat controversial figure in the majority Anglican nation, speaking out harsly against homosexuality, gay marriage, and abortion. However, he did recently state that the new pope should consider relaxing the rules on celibacy among the clergy.
The Vatican said they would investigate the accusations, but it's not known if they will drop the matter now that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted O'Brien's resignation. He would have retired in a few weeks anyway, when he turns 75, but his participation in the selection of the next pope would have been the cap on a long and successful career. According to the Vatican, he could still participate in the conclave, since he is technically still a Cardinal, but since the resignation is meant to avert controversy, he won't be going to Rome.
Pope Benedict's resignation takes effect on Thursday. The Catholic Church of Scotland released a statement from O'Brien, which is posted below.
"Approaching the age of seventy-five and at times in indifferent health, I tendered my resignation as Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh to Pope Benedict XVI some months ago. I was happy to know that he accepted my resignation ‘nunc pro tunc’ – (now – but to take effect later) on 13 November 2012. The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today, 25 February 2013, and that he will appoint an Apostolic Administrator to govern the Archdiocese in my place until my successor as Archbishop is appointed. In the meantime I will give every assistance to the Apostolic Administrator and to our new Archbishop, once he is appointed, as I prepare to move into retirement.
I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest. Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended
I thank Pope Benedict XVI for his kindness and courtesy to me and on my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Scotland, I wish him a long and happy retirement. I also ask God’s blessing on my brother Cardinals who will soon gather in Rome to elect his successor. I will not join them for this Conclave in person. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focussed on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his Successor. However, 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.
May God who has blessed me so often in my ministry continue to bless and help me in the years which remain for me on earth and may he shower his blessings on all the peoples of Scotland especially those I was privileged to serve in a special way in the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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