The peer and QC Baroness Helena Kennedy has spoken of the “huge compassion” she feels towards Cardinal Keith O’Brien following his admission that his sexual conduct had “fallen beneath the standards” expected of him.
Lady Kennedy said it was “torture” for the Roman Catholic Church to force priests who wanted to have a sex life to be celibate as she spoke at a news conference calling for reform of the Catholic Church.
“I feel very sad for Cardinal O’Brien because here was a man who quite clearly had wanted to have a sexual life and felt that it was a failing for him to want to have a sexual life and that he was going against his commitment to celibacy,” she said.
“It is terrible to torture people by expecting that of them and I just feel huge compassion for him. I do not like the idea that there might be an issue of being predatory but I do not want to make a judgment on that.
“But he himself has said that he was involved in sexual activity and I feel very sad that that was something that he had to in some way bury, then give expression to - then feel shame and guilt and presumably is absolutely covered with guilt now.
“I feel very sad for him and for his victims.”
Lady Kennedy’s remarks come after Cardinal O’Brien resigned last week from his post as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh amid allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” towards three serving priests and one former priest.
This weekend Cardinal O’Brien admitted that his sexual conduct had “fallen beneath the standards” expected of him and asked forgiveness of those he had offended.
In a statement, he said: “Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.
“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.”
Lady Kennedy, who was brought up in Glasgow as a Roman Catholic, was speaking at the launch in the House of Commons of the Catholic scholars declaration on authority in the Church.
The group has said that the faithful have suffered from “misguided” church rulings on sexual ethics, including contraception, homosexuality and remarriage. It has called for a new pope to introduce more democracy in the Church.