Cardinal Keith ’Brien
London, Feb. 25: A day after a newspaper accused him of committing “inappropriate acts” in his relations with three priests and one former priest, Cardinal Keith ’Brien said today that he had resigned as Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric.
But he made no specific public comment on the account in The Observer newspaper yesterday, which said accusations dating back to the 1980s had been forwarded to the Vatican.
Cardinal ’Brien also said he would not attend the deliberations at the Vatican over the selection of a new pope to replace Pope Benedict XVI, who stunned the Catholic world by announcing his own resignation on February 11.
The cardinal’s dramatic move only days before Benedict’s formal departure on Thursday seemed likely to darken the shadow over the final days of a troubled papacy and the delicate transition to a new pope, evoking some of the most vexing issues of Benedict’s almost eight-year-reign.
A statement issued by the media office of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland said Cardinal ’Brien had informed the pope some time ago of his intention to resign as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh as his 75th birthday approached on March 17 but no date had been set. The pope has accepted that the resignation, Cardinal ’Brien said.
The pope’s own resignation is set to come into force on Thursday. The cardinal said in the statement: “The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today, February 25, 2013, and that he will appoint an apostolic administrator to govern the archdiocese in my place until my successor as archbishop is appointed.”
“In the meantime I will give every assistance to the apostolic administrator and to our new archbishop, once he is appointed, as I prepare to move into retirement.”
“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,” he said.
“I also ask God’s blessing on my brother cardinals who will soon gather in Rome to elect” Benedict’s successor. “ I will not join them for this conclave in person. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me — but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal ’Brien, whose office had initially said he would fly to Rome before the conclave, has been the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland since 1985, and was named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003. He was among the cardinals who attended the conclave that chose Benedict as John Paul’s successor in 2005.
The announcement came a day after The Observer newspaper reported that four men had made the complaints to the pope’s diplomatic representative in Britain, Antonio Mennini, and that the complaints had reached Archbishop Mennini in the week before Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on February 11.
Cardinal ’Brien had been scheduled to lead a Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh yesterday morning, an occasion dedicated to a celebration of Benedict’s papacy. But he did not appear for the Mass. Instead, a statement was made on his behalf by Bishop Stephen Robson, an auxiliary prelate in the Edinburgh diocese.
“A number of allegations of inappropriate behaviour have been made against the cardinal,” the church statement said. “The cardinal has sought legal advice, and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time. There will be further statements in due course.”
The Observer article said that one of the four men involved in the complaints against the cardinal had later left the priesthood and married, unable to reconcile himself to the idea of spending a lifetime under Cardinal ’Brien’s authority.