Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the former leading prelate in Great Britain who resigned from his position as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh last week, has acknowledged that there is some truth to sexual misconduct allegations made about him. He has also apologized for his behavior.
In a short but far-reaching statement issued late on Sunday [March 3rd], the 74-year-old stated that ‘there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.’
“The former archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and until recently the most senior Catholic in Britain, apologised and asked for forgiveness from those he had ‘offended’ and from the entire church.
Last week, three priests accused O’Brien of sexual misconduct, but at the time the cardinal denied the veracity of the allegations.
The Guardian noted how unusual it was for a prelate to make such an admission, and it also noted that his resignation may also have been caused by his call for a married priesthood:
“O’Brien’s resignation was remarkable in its speed; his apology is all but unprecedented in its frankness. Many sexual scandals or allegations of misconduct against individuals or the wider church have dragged on for years.
“The cardinal was forced out only three days before the pope retired last Thursday. There is growing speculation that the Vatican acted swiftly because O’Brien had challenged one of the church’s greatest orthodoxies – saying, in a BBC interview and only two days before the Observer story [the original article which broke the news of the sexual abuse accusations] was published, that priests ought to be allowed to marry and have children.”
The newspaper also quoted Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet, an influential Catholic periodical published in London:
“This is a shocking admission, but one that is in many ways welcome, not least because it seems Cardinal O’Brien must have been leading a double life, and that is now at an end.
“That must surely be a relief to him and a burden lifted. But it must also be a relief to Catholics in Scotland. The boil has been lanced, and it’s time to move on. Too many scandals in the Catholic church drag on and on, but this one has been dealt with speedily, and a line can be drawn.”
I agree with Pepinster. Cardinal O’Brien’s acknowledgement and apology show that he is on the road to acting with honesty and integrity, which is good both for himself and the entire church.