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Monday 22 September 2014

Church criticised over O'Brien case

Published 03/03/2013 | 09:41

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The Cardinal stepped down from his post a day after the allegations by three priests and a former priest stretching back 30 years

A former priest who reported Cardinal Keith O'Brien to the Vatican over allegations of "inappropriate" behaviour has attacked the church's response to the complaints.

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The Cardinal, who was Britain's most senior Catholic cleric, stepped down from his post as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh a day after the allegations by three priests and a former priest stretching back 30 years were published last Sunday. The Cardinal is contesting the allegations and is taking legal advice.

The 74-year-old cleric tendered his resignation to Pope Benedict in November, citing age and "indifferent health". He had been widely expected to step down next month when he turns 75.

His resignation was accepted by the pope on February 18 but it was announced on Monday that it was taking place with immediate effect.

In the Observer, which first reported the story last week, the former priest, who remains anonymous, said he had been "disappointed" by the church's reaction.

He said: "There have been two sensations for me this week. One is feeling the hot breath of the media on the back of my neck and the other is sensing the cold disapproval of the church hierarchy for daring to break ranks. I feel like if they could crush me, they would.

"The vacuum the church has created has allowed whimsy and speculation to distort the truth, and the only support I have been offered is a cursory email with a couple of telephone numbers of counsellors hundreds of miles away from me."

Cardinal O'Brien is now Archbishop Emeritus of St Andrews and Edinburgh and has no role in the governance of the diocese.

He has not travelled to Rome for the conclave to elect the next pope meaning the church in Britain has no vote in the process.

The Scottish Catholic Media Office made no comment, but last week its director Peter Kearney said the Cardinal's resignation had not been accelerated because of the allegations.

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