Cardinal Keith O’Brien abuse ‘dated back to 1985’

Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Jane Barlow

Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Jane Barlow

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DISGRACED Cardinal Keith O’Brien was a “predator” who was involved in dozens of cases of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1980s, it has been claimed.

In an interview with the Catholic newspaper the Tablet, an unnamed priest alleges there were multiple incidents of ­sexual misconduct by O’Brien against seminarians and young clergy dating back to 1985, the year O’Brien became archbishop.

The man, who is one of five to have previously made allegations against the cardinal, said he believed that at least 40 cases took place between 1985 and 2010.

Last week O’Brien again apologised for his “sexual conduct” after formally resigning from his role at a meeting with Pope Francis.

The 77-year-old stepped down from the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February 2013 after allegations of inappropriate behaviour were made against him.

Speaking to the Tablet, the unnamed man described how the cardinal made an “unmistakable” sexual advance to him at Archbishop’s House in Edinburgh in 1990 which the priest, who is not gay, said he rebuffed.

He said that the cardinal acted afterwards “as if nothing had happened… he blanked it completely.”

Asked why he did not make a complaint at the time, he replied: “Who would have believed me? Who could I have gone to that would have taken me seriously.

“The cardinal had his lawyers and they would have crushed me.”

He added: “You’re controlled. You have no freedom of movement, of action. He can determine what your life is like.”

The priest also alleges that the cardinal approached individuals in the guise of a confessor in order to groom them for sexual contact. “This is not a matter of people coming to him to confess, but him approaching them,” he said.

The priest said clergy might not have complained if Cardinal O’Brien had had a long-term partner. “It’s not the fact that he was gay, which everyone knew about, but that he was a predator,” he said.

The cardinal has now left Scotland and will no longer play a part in public life.

Last week the Church announced he would retain the title of cardinal, but had been formally stripped of the “rights and duties” of the role after an investigation. Responding to the latest allegations made in the Tablet, a spokesman said: “Cardinal O’Brien refers any further inquiries regarding his past or present situation to the statements issued by the Holy See Press Office on Friday 20 March 2015 or by himself on the same date.”

In that statement, O’Brien said: “I wish to repeat the apology which I made to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland some two years ago now on 3 March 2013.

“I then said that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me. For that, I am deeply sorry. I thank Pope Francis for his fatherly care of me and of those I have offended in any way.

“I will continue to play no part in the public life of the Church in Scotland; and will dedicate the rest of my life in retirement, praying especially for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, for Scotland, and for those I have offended in any way.”

Leo Cushley, the archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, told the Tablet welcomed the apology, but said Cardinal O’Brien’s ­behaviour “distressed many, it demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic”.

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