Vatican to investigate top Catholic cleric O’Brien over ‘inappropriate acts’

 

Allegations of inappropriate behaviour made against Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric are being investigated by the Pope, the Vatican said today.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, 74, missed Sunday Mass today after complaints made against him by three priests and a former priest were reported in a Sunday newspaper.

The cardinal, the only British cleric who will have a say in choosing the new Pope when Benedict XVI stands down on 28 February, contests the claims and is taking legal advice, a spokesman said.

Three priests and a former priest from the Cardinal’s St Andrews and Edinburgh Diocese made the allegations, which were reported to the Pope’s representative in Britain two weeks ago.

A spokesman for the Vatican said today: “the Pope is informed about the problem and the question is now in his hands.”

Cardinal O’Brien is due to travel to the Vatican to take part in the conclave to elect a new Pope.  The complaints against him relate to several instances of alleged “inappropriate behaviour” in the 1980s, The Observer reported. A former priest claims Cardinal O’Brien made an inappropriate approach to him in 1980 when he was a seminarian at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange. The complainant said he resigned as a priest when Cardinal O’Brien was made a bishop, because he feared the cardinal “would always have power over me”.

Three other complaints, all made by serving priests, allege inappropriate contact and “unwanted behaviour” – in one instance following alleged late-night drinking. Cardinal O’Brien is yet to comment on the allegations.

Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church, said: “Cardinal O’Brien contests these claims and is taking legal advice.”

The cardinal, who was born in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, has been the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh since 1985, missed Sunday Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh today, citing legal advice. His auxiliary, Bishop Stephen Robson made a statement at the Cathedral, saying that the Church “cannot not be saddened” by the news.

“The cardinal has sought legal advice and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time,” he said. “As always in times of need such as this we cannot not be saddened by the events of the last 24 hours.”

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme today that he was “very sad” to hear the allegations. He said that it would be for Cardinal O’Brien himself to decide whether or not to go to Rome to attend the conclave.

“These allegations have not been proved in any way so I think he will have to decide whether he goes or not,” he said. He added that the Catholic Church had entered an age of “transparency” and that all abuse allegations are now “examined clearly and honestly and appropriate action is taken”.

The claims against Cardinal O’Brien come as four other senior Catholics face calls not to attend the conclave in Rome, following a range of abuse and cover-up allegations. Roman Catholics in the USA have delivered a petition to Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former Archbishop of Los Angeles, asking him not to go to Rome following allegations he protected priests accused of child sex abuse from criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, tipped as an outside contender to be the new Pope, was last week questioned by lawyers investigating allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, over how soon he knew of the allegations and how quickly he made them public.

Ireland’s Cardinal Sean Brady has also faced calls not to attend the conclave, because of an alleged cover-up on behalf of a serial child abuser within the priesthood and in Belgium, radio station Vivacité launched a poll on Friday asking listeners whether Cardinal Godfried Daneels, accused of covering for priests involved in abuse allegations in 2010, should go to the conclave.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£120 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: The Humanities Department of this ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Music Teacher

£120 - £180 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Newham Position: Music Start dat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Sutton Position: Science teacher S...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee