Cardinal Keith O’Brien is to face a Vatican inquiry after publicly admitting his sexual conduct had at times “fallen below the standard expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”
The inquiry into the former head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is expected to begin after a new Pope is chosen, following the recent resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
O’Brien,74, resigned as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh just 36 hours after three serving priests and a former priest complained Archbishop Antonio Mennini — the pope representative to Britain — about what they alleged had been “inappropriate behavior” by O’Brien towards them in the 1980’s.
Following his resignation, the cardinal apologized to the Church and the people of Scotland on Sunday via a statement released through the press office of the church in Scotland.
According to BBC News, their religious correspondent reports that O’Brien has not been accused of anything illegal, so the Vatican inquiry will be an internal Church investigation and the results might not be made public.
The inquiry will be carried out by the Vatican under whoever is elected as the new Pope, not the Church in Scotland. Any resulting punishment will depend on the circumstances of his improper sexual conduct.
In the wake of his apology, O’Brien has been accused of hypocrisy given his outspoken stance against plans to legalize same-sex marriage in Scotland while he was in office. As a result, O’Brien was named “bigot of the year” by the gay rights charity Stonewall last year.
BBC News quotes sources in the Scottish Catholic Church as saying O’Brien had at first thought he might be able return to the church after his retirement scheduled to time with his 75th birthday next month.
Agence France-Presse reports that Vatican meetings by Cardinals begin today ahead of a conclave to decide the next pope. O’Brien who had previously been part of those invited to vote in the conclave has now opted out of attending.
There is speculation that the Vatican acted quickly to force O’Brien out before pope Benedict XVI retired last Thursday, because of the allegations and a recent interview with BBC Scotland in which the disgraced cleric said that priests should be allowed to marry and have children, The Guardian notes.
In his apology statement, O’Brien said he would now “spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”
It remains to be seen, if after a Vatican inquiry, that is considered enough.