SCOTLAND’S cardinal-designate has retreated from his liberal stance on homosexuality and contraception amid claims of pressure from the Vatican to follow the Roman Catholic Church’s strict doctrine.
The Most Rev Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, inserted a paragraph into his formal Profession of Faith, a statement made by church figures before taking office.
In the statement, Archbishop O’Brien said he upheld the Church’s teaching on the immorality of the "homosexual act" and its ban on contraception.
The comments distance him from the more liberal approach he took less than two weeks ago, which seemed to question the Church’s position on celibacy in the priesthood, contraception and homosexuality.
His standpoint then is said to have angered traditional elements within the Church.
It has been claimed that Archbishop O’Brien was forced to abandon such liberal views, or face losing his cardinalship.
When it was announced last month that he was to become Scotland’s next cardinal, he gave a number of interviews challenging traditional Catholic doctrine.
He said: "What I would ask for in the Church at every level, including the cardinals and the Pope, is to be able to have full and open discussion about these issues and where we stand."
But the Archbishop distanced himself from these comments in the Profession of Faith, made at a low-key service in St Mary’s Cathedral in the Capital ahead of his official appointment as a cardinal on October 21.
The statement read: "I accept and intend to defend the law on ecclesiastical celibacy as it is proposed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church; I accept and promise to defend the ecclesiastical teaching about the immorality of the homosexual act; I accept and promise to promulgate always and everywhere what the Church’s Magisterium teaches on contraception."
Some elements within the Church claimed the statement had been made under pressure from the Vatican, a claim denied by a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland and the cardinal-designate himself, who
added today: "Having recently restated my loyalty to the Church, its teachings and the Pope, I would hope that Catholics everywhere would join with me in respecting the decisions of the Pope and demonstrate their own loyalty by not questioning them."
An anonymous fax sent to news organisations and Catholic groups said: "O’Brien was told by the Vatican if he did not correct what he said at a mass on October 1 he would not be allowed to become a cardinal."
Ronnie MacDonald, of the newsletter Catholic Truth, said: "It was a directive from Rome that the Profession of Faith be made in public. This is a very public slap-down, although I don’t think that they [the Vatican] will reverse the process now."
But Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said there had not been a change in position.
He said: "He [Archbishop O’Brien] utterly accepts the teachings of the Church on all those issues. In the previous week there was some slightly misinformed coverage where his position was misinterpreted."