Four priests say Britain’s leading Catholoic homophobe made ‘inappropriate’ advances and contact, one claims a ‘relationship’. O’Brien disputes accusations
Four priests, one who has now left the church, have accused Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien of ‘inappropriate behavior’ over 30 years.
The Cardinal’s spokesman has said their claims are contested. He is apparently taking legal advice.
O’Brien has previously compared gay marriage to slavery, claiming it is a ‘violation of human rights’ and slammed its planned introduction by the Scottish and parliament and Westminster as ‘madness’.
According to The Observer, which broke the story, the four are all based in the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
They have complained to the Vatican’s ambassador in the UK, Antonio Mennini, and want O’Brien’s immediate resignation. In particular they don’t want him to take part in choosing the next Pope.
They are apparently concerned the Catholic hierarchy will sweep their concerns under the carpet and they want the conclave which chooses the next pope to be ‘clean’. But nuncio Mennini has noted their courage in making the allegations.
Benedict XVI’s papacy has been marked by claims of sexual abuse by priests.
Last week Italian newspaper La Repubblica says he left because of a ‘gay ring’ with ‘influence’ over Vatican affairs. The Vatican has denied the claims, saying they are intended to influence the election of the next pontiff.
But others have suggested his quick exit is due to further revelations likely to break soon in the largest pedophilia scandal in history – a scandal he is accused of mismanaging in his previous job when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
In one of the new allegations, O’Brien is accused of approaching a young priest he was counseling over personal problems. The priest’s statement to the nuncio’s office says the cardinal used night prayers to initiate ‘inappropriate contact’.
It is claimed O’Brien kept contact with that priest and found a chance to have at least one other intimate situation. The Guardian online reports the priest as saying the Cardinal is charismatic and that he found his interest in him both troubling and flattering.
Another priest reports he was spending a week ‘getting to know’ O’Brien in the 1980s when they had a late-night drinking session. He claims he found himself fending off what he calls unwanted behavior.
While a third priest claims he was happily working in his parish when the archbishop visited and ‘inappropriate contact’ took place.
The other accusation dates from 1980. It comes from an ex-priest who says he was a 20-year-old at a seminary, St Andrew’s College, Drygrange, and O’Brien was his ‘spiritual director’.
The statement says O’Brien made an ‘inappropriate’ approach after night prayers.
He claims the incident made him depressed and while he was ordained, he quit the church when O’Brien became a bishop. He later married.
‘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,’ the Observer quotes him as saying.
‘You have to understand, the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him,’ the ex-priest added.
Last year O’Brien launched several attacks on the Scottish and Westminster governments in his self declared ‘war’ on same-sex marriage.
Just this week he has said priests should be allowed to marry but gays should not.
He has compared gay people to prisoners and said they were ‘captives of sexual aberrations’.
Last year he won the Bigot of the Year Award from leading UK gay rights organization Stonewall, amid a storm of protest whipped up by his supporters.
O’Brien is due to retire next month. The allegations against him were submitted at the start of this month.