Cardinal Keith O’Brien: Fall from grace ‘humbling’

Keith O'Brien has been speaking for the first time since returning to Scotland. Picture: Danny Lawson
Keith O'Brien has been speaking for the first time since returning to Scotland. Picture: Danny Lawson
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CARDINAL Keith O’Brien has admitted the scandal that saw him driven from office has been a “difficult” and “humbling experience”.

The former Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who was forced by Pope Benedict XVI to retire after admitting “inappropriate behaviour” with four priests and a seminarian, said in his first interview since returning to Scotland that he was now trying to live a “good Christian life”.

O’Brien, who as a cardinal remains the most senior Catholic in Britain, has moved his belongings from his former official residence in Edinburgh to a church-owned property in Dunbar in East Lothian where he had always planned to retire. The surprise move is said to have angered the hierarchy of the Catholic Church who would have preferred him to remain outside Scotland.

It is understood that Philip Tartaglia, the Archbishop of Glasgow, acting as President of the Bishop’s Conference of Scotland, has now written to the Papal Nuncio in London informing him of the cardinal’s return and the subsequent publicity.

Cardinal O’Brien, 75, was quoted as saying: “I’m just trying to do my best to live a good Christian life myself now. Many people have been helping me to go back on the right path and that’s what I have to do. But I haven’t always managed to live that in my own live.”

He also said: “I have been supported in a number of ways by many good Christian people and many people of no religion at all who realise I have said sorry for anyone I have offended.

“If Christianity is about anything at all, it’s about forgiveness. That’s what I have to do as a Cardinal priest – just forgive the wrongdoer and help them go back on to the right path again.”

He added: “It’s been quite a difficult time for me, quite a humbling experience for me.” He said of the men whose complaints led to his forced retirement: “It’s very difficult for them. That is why I have apologised for being a teacher who has not been able to live up to the teaching of the Church.

“We know what’s against God’s law. Consequently, we should try to live by God’s law. I’ve apologised for my failures in that respect.”

He also said that he was in the dark as to whether or not the Vatican was still making inquiries into the allegations against him. He said: “It’s up to those who are responsible in Rome for me to answer that sort of question.”

However, the cardinal’s return has angered one of his alleged victims who now plans to upset his “nice little retirement plan” by taking legal action against him. A former seminarian, now in his 50s, was quoted as saying: “Keith O’Brien is giving the impression he wants a nice peaceful little retirement now. My experience hasn’t left me for decades and as far as I’m concerned this brings things very much back into focus. I have an issue with Keith O’Brien and it needs dealt with.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said that the Church had no comment to make about the cardinal’s comments.

Liz Leydon, editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer, said: “Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s decision to move to Dunbar as he had always planned to when he retired as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese could be seen as a brave move in light of his recent admissions over his conduct.

“I do not see it as a bold move, however – there is no challenge in his actions.

“He will no doubt continue to pray and reflect on what has happened and cooperate in any way he can. The cardinal is being made welcome by the local community in a very Christian way at this time and I hope that will be respected by all concerned.”