Cardinal begs forgiveness over sexual advances on young clerics
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, formerly the most senior Catholic cleric in Britain, has signalled that he did make homosexual advances towards young priests.
He confessed that his "sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected" and asked for forgiveness from those he had "offended", as well as the entire Catholic Church and people of Scotland.
The former Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh – who a week ago had been due to take part in the election of the next pope – said he would withdraw completely from public life.
His admission came as fresh details emerged of the allegations of "inappropriate" behaviour against him by four men – three priests and one former priest.
The accusations included attempting to touch, kiss, or have sexual relations with them. One of the accusers also claimed that he had been warned not to let the allegations become public or risk "immense damage" to the church.
The admission will have a devastating effect on the church's attempt to get its message across. Cardinal O'Brien was the most high-profile and outspoken opponent of gay marriage in Britain, condemning it as a "grotesque subversion". He warned that the plans would open the way to "further aberrations".
His comments earned him the title "Bigot of the year" from the gay rights group Stonewall.
But last night Evan Davis, the BBC presenter, who is gay, posted a message on Twitter suggesting the Cardinal's rhetoric might have been a way of suppressing his own "torment".
He wrote: "I think people who struggle to suppress homosexual urges find expressing anti-gay views gives them fortitude in their torment."
In one of his last acts in office, Pope Benedict effectively sacked Cardinal O'Brien last Monday, 24 hours after the allegations of "inappropriate conduct" appeared in 'The Observer' newspaper.
Although the Cardinal had already tendered his resignation, the Pope made clear it was to take immediate effect.
The Cardinal also withdrew from the conclave meeting this month to elect Pope Emeritus Benedict's successor, in what Vatican historians said was a completely unprecedented move.
In a short statement, Cardinal O'Brien said: "I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.
"To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness." (© Daily Telegraph, London)