Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Catholic clergyman
Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:4AM GMT
Britain’s most senior Catholic clergyman, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has been implicated in possible sexual abuse scandals dating back 30 years ago by three priests and a former priest in Scotland, local media reported.
Cardinal O’Brien, who is an outspoken opponent of gay rights, condemning homosexuality as immoral, has been reported to the Vatican by the four, from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, the daily The Guardian reported.
They complained to nuncio Antonio Mennini, the Vatican’s ambassador to Britain, that they had fallen victim to O’Brien’s inappropriate behaviour at the time, and called for his immediate resignation.
Their claims had been submitted to the nuncio’s office the week before Pope Benedict’s resignation on 11 February, nurturing speculations that Benedict’s shock move may be connected to further scandals to come. Allegations of sexual abuse by members of the church have dogged the papacy of Benedict XVI, who is to step down as pope at the end of this month.
One of the priests claims that the cardinal developed “an inappropriate relationship with him, resulting in a need for long-term psychological counseling”.
“It tends to cover up and protect the system at all costs,” said the complainant. “The church is beautiful, but it has a dark side and that has to do with accountability. If the system is to be improved, maybe it needs to be dismantled a bit.”
The first allegation against the cardinal dates back to 1980. The complainant, who is now married, was then an 18-year-old seminarian at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange, where O’Brien was his “spiritual director”. He claims O’Brien made an inappropriate approach after night prayers.
Out of fear, the seminarian says, he did not report the incident at the time.
“But my personality changed afterwards, so much so that my teachers told me I was becoming depressed. I was ordained but resigned when O’Brien was promoted to bishop. I knew then he would always have power over me. It was assumed I left the priesthood to get married. I did not. I left to preserve my integrity”, he said.
In a second statement, “Priest A” describes being happily settled in a parish when he claims he was visited by O’Brien and inappropriate contact between the two took place.
In a third statement, “Priest B” claims that he was starting his ministry in the 1980s when he was invited to spend a week “getting to know” O’Brien at the archbishop’s residence. He alleges that he found himself dealing with what he describes as unwanted behaviour by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session.
“Priest C” was a young priest the cardinal was counseling over personal problems. Priest C’s statement claims that O’Brien used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact.
They believed the cardinal abused his position. “You have to understand,” explains the ex-priest, “the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him.
“He’s more than your boss, more than the CEO of your company. He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold … he controls every aspect of your life. You can’t just kick him in the balls.”
Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic has recently said he believes priests should be able to marry if they wish to do so. Cardinal O’Brien said it was clear many priests struggled to cope with celibacy, and should be able to marry and have children.