Cardinal Keith O’Brien who was nominated as Bigot of the Year in last years Stonewall Awards is stepping down as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church following allegations of inappropriate behaviour made by three practicing priests and one former priest stretching back to the 1980s.
The cardinal, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, and Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh contests the claim but did not rebut them in his statement this morning.
The Cardinal apolologised to “all whom I have offended” for “any failures” during his ministry and confirmed he will not take part in electing a new pope, leaving Britain unrepresented at the coming conclave in Rome.
The Vatican confirmed the cardinal had stepped down from his post and his resignation had been accepted on February 18. Cardinal O’Brien confirmed he had tendered his resignation earlier this month as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh to take effect when he turned 75 next month, but Pope Benedict ruled the resignation would take effect from today.
The cardinal said:
“For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended”.
The Cardinal expressed particular strong views on abortion and homosexuality and was particulary offensive to gay people in the debate around same sex marriage in Scotland.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond commented:
“It would be a great pity if a lifetime of positive work was lost from comment in the circumstances of his resignation.
“None of us know the outcome of the investigation into the claims made against him but I have found him to be a good man for his church and country.”
Colin MacFarlane, director of the equality charity, Stonewall Scotland, which last year named the cardinal as Bigot of the Year said he hoped there would be a full investigation and that the cardinal’s successor would “show a little more Christian charity towards openly gay people than the cardinal did himself”.
The Equality Network, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality charity that led the Equal Marriage campaign in Scotland, where quick to respond to the news of the cardinals resignation.
Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said:
“It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the allegations made against Cardinal O’Brien. Of course we hope that the Catholic Church in Scotland will use the opportunity new leadership brings to reassess its opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. The Catholic Church does a huge amount of good work on issues like poverty, and it’s a shame that this important work is so often overshadowed by its position on issues of sexuality.”
Under Cardinal O’Brien’s leadership the Catholic Church in Scotland has made issues of sexuality a major focus, actively campaigning against every major step towards LGBT equality in the UK, including the introduction of Civil Partnerships, same-sex adoption, and same-sex marriage. Prior to Cardinal O’Brien’s tenure the Church also played an active role campaigning against the equal age of consent, and the repeal of Section 28 in Scotland.