The controversial and outspoken leader of the Scottish Catholic Church is stepping down following allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards four priests in the 1980s; O’Brien denies the allegations are true. The Cardinal was due to step down when he reached 75 next month but will leave officer sooner than originally planned.
The Vatican confirmed the news which will mean the UK will be without representation as the Catholic Church elects a new Pope as Benedict XVI steps from the position. 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. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor. However, I will pray with them and for them that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they will make the correct choice for the future good of the Church.”
Cardinal Keith O’Brien tenure as head of the Catholic Church in Scotland may very well be remembered for his outspoken – and often controversial – opposition to gay marriage. The Cardinal compared the introduce of same-sex marriage to slavery and warned the ruling SNP administration it would lose Catholic votes if it allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry.
In light of his strong opposition to gay rights it’s unsurprising his decision to step down isn’t regretted by gay rights groups. Colin MacFarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, said “We trust there will be a full investigation into the serious allegations made against Cardinal Keith O’Brien. We hope that his successor will show a little more Christian charity towards openly gay people than the cardinal did himself”
While O’Brien was unwilling to compromise the Church’s teachings on homosexuality last week he stated that rules should be changed to allow priests to marry.