Entries in Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh (2)


Cardinal Keith O'Brien Apologizes for Sexual Misconduct

George Doyle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A top cardinal who resigned last week amid sexual abuse allegations issued an apology Sunday and said there have been times his sexual conduct "has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal."

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, 74, the former Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, resigned last week following published reports that he made unwanted sexual advances toward four priests in Scotland in the 1980s.

O'Brien has been accused of committing "inappropriate acts" in his relations with three priests and one former priest from the diocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, British newspaper The Observer reported last Sunday.

The cardinal initially denied the claims, but said last week he would not participate in the conclave to choose the pope's successor because the allegations were a distraction. His immediate resignation was accepted Monday by Pope Benedict XVI.

O'Brien reversed course Sunday, issuing a statement asking for forgiveness.

"In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them," O'Brien said.

"However, 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," he said. "To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness.”

The apology offered no details of the alleged incidents.

O'Brien had been due to retire later this month when he turned 75. He will retain the title of cardinal.

As a cardinal under 80 years of age, O'Brien is eligible to attend the conclave to choose the next pope, however he has said he will not join the cardinal electors in Rome.

"I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland," O'Brien said Sunday.

With his absence, the number of cardinal electors drops to 115. The College of Cardinals is expected to meet Monday to set a date for the conclave, when they will sequester themselves in the Sistine Chapel to vote for the next pope.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Can a Voting Cardinal Skip the Papal Conclave?

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(ROME) -- Monday’s announcement by British Cardinal Keith O’Brien that he will not be attending the conclave begs the question: can he refuse to do so?

As of Monday, the pope accepted O’Brien’s resignation as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. But O’Brien retains the title of cardinal and is eligible to vote in the conclave.

He made it clear he does not intend to do so.

“I will not join them for this Conclave in person,” O’Brien said in a statement. “I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me -- but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his Successor.”

The Vatican has insisted all week that attendance is mandatory. Electing the new pope, officials have said, is one of a cardinal’s most important, most sacred jobs and no “political or worldly issues” should keep him from it.

The issue has come up repeatedly in the context of the church abuse scandal. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, Irish Cardinal Sean Brady and others have faced intense pressure in their communities to recuse themselves on moral grounds, amid evidence they covered up for pedophile priests.

President Obama’s outgoing ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Diaz reportedly said yesterday that Mahony should “reflect on the example set by the pope.”

“He certainly has the legal right to vote in the Conclave,” Diaz told Italy’s La Stampa. “But the Pope also had the right to continue as Pope but instead chose to step down.”

To do so would certainly be unusual. During the last conclave Cardinal Bernard Law’s participation was the focus of vehement protests. But he took his place in the Sistine Chapel nonetheless. (Law is now 81, making him too old to vote this year.)

But does canon law allow an eligible cardinal -- such as O’Brien, Mahony or Brady -- not to attend?

The answer appears to be yes, and not just because of medical emergency.

Typically, only cardinals with incapacitating illness are excused from their duties to attend the conclave. Last week Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Indonesia begged for precisely that reason, bringing the number of voting cardinals (under age 80) to 116.

In the past, voting cardinals from remote archdiocese also missed the occasional conclave because of the difficulties of travel. The Vatican adopted the 15-20 day rule, which was in force until Monday, to accommodate American cardinals traveling long distance to get here. (The advent of air travel has obviously made that less of an issue.)

Faced with repeated questions about cardinals embroiled in scandal, Vatican officials have insisted those are the only reasons for cardinal electors to miss an election.

Amended rules issued Monday by Pope Benedict call attention to an article in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Domenici Gregis, the rules governing a papal vacancy and election.

These rules do anticipate the circumstance of a cardinal refusing to take part in a papal election for reasons other than illness.

Under Paragraph 40, there’s this:

If a Cardinal with the right to vote should refuse to enter Vatican City in order to take part in the election, or subsequently, once the election has begun, should refuse to remain in order to discharge his office, without manifest reason of illness attested to under oath by doctors and confirmed by a majority of the electors, the other Cardinals shall proceed freely with the election, without waiting for him or readmitting him.

The paragraph goes on to say if the cardinal leaves for medical reasons -- or “for some grave reason acknowledged as such by the majority of electors” -- and later wants to come back, the conclave must readmit him.

So it appears O’Brien can indeed miss the conclave if he feels he’ll be a distraction. The question now: What about Mahony and Brady?

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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