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Cardinal accused of “inappropriate behaviour” resigns

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and the country's most senior Roman Catholic cleric, has stepped down from his position with immediate effect.

His resignation follows claims in yesterday's Observer newspaper that he had been guilty of "inappropriate behaviour" with three junior priests and one former priest over the past thirty years.

One of the four complainants said that he had received an "inappropriate approach" from O'Brien after night prayers.

It was as a consequence of this that he left the priesthood when O'Brien was promoted to bishop.

"I knew then he would always have power over me," he told the newspaper. "It was assumed I left the priesthood to get married. I did not. I left to preserve my integrity."

Another complainant spoke of "unwanted behaviour" by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session.

Cardinal O'Brien, who denied the allegations, was due to retire next month when he turns 75, but in a statement he has said: "The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today."

The cardinal's resignation means that he will not now be travelling to Rome to vote for the successor to Pope Benedict, who will also resign at the end of the month.

Following the allegations in yesterday's Observer, O'Brien missed celebrating Sunday mass in St Mary's cathedral in Edinburgh in honour of Benedict's eight years in the papacy.

His resignation is already being seen as part of a wider crisis for the Catholic Church in the lead-up to the conclave in March which will appoint Benedict's successor.

Last week claims were made by Italian newspaper La Repubblica that the current Pope's shock resignation was partly prompted by his alleged discovery of a "gay lobby" in the Vatican, some of whose members were being blackmailed.

Cardinal O'Brien has been a vociferous opponent of homosexuality and same-sex marriage which he has called a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right" which would "shame" the country.

In 2012 he was voted Stonewall's Bigot of the Year.

In a statement, O'Brien said: "I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest. Looking back over my years of ministry, for any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures I apologise to all whom I have offended."

Cardinal O'Brien's Archdiocese will be governed by an Apostolic Administrator until his successor is appointed by the next Pope.

 

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