Keith O’Brien was in relationship with accuser

Keith O'Brien: Cardinal was brought down by priests out for 'revenge'. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Keith O'Brien: Cardinal was brought down by priests out for 'revenge'. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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CARDINAL Keith O’Brien was in a long-term physical relationship with one of the priests who reported his sexual misconduct to the Vatican, it has emerged.

• Cardinal Keith O’Brien was in long-standing relationship with one of his accusers

• Complaints about Cardinal’s sexual misconduct were “revenge” for same-sex marraige rhetoric

The man is known to have been in regular telephone contact with Cardinal O’Brien until recently, and was a frequent visitor to St Benets, the Cardinal’s official residence.

A report by The Herald also uncovered that the priest is now living abroad in a position that the cardinal had helped him secure.

Cardinal O’Brien resigned as leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland and retired from public life after admitting earlier this month that his sexual behaviour had “fallen below the standards expected”.

He confessed to the relationship after allegations surfaced of inappropriate behaviour towards priests in the 1980s.

It is understood that Cardinal O’Brien’s exposure came as a result of priests’ anger at the hypocrisy of his stance on same-sex marriage.

The tone of the Church leader’s rhetoric also angered those close to him, with homosexuality once described as “moral degradation” by the cardinal.

A senior source within the Church told the Herald that the priests, who were part of the cardinal’s “inner circle”, wanted to “silence” him.

“These guys, we now know, were part of an inner circle. In the 30 years sine these allegations took place there’s been ample time to complain.

“The Cardinal has had a huge profile to the past decade. But the door wasn’t just shut on them. It was bolted for the past 18 months.

“I believe they wanted to silence O’Brien... as he’s about to do another conclave, and make a huge deal of it. As he’s retiring, a decision’s been taken to go public and take him down.”

Another source said: “If you’re asking me to describe what this is about in one word, it’s revenge. I’ve no doubt the allegations did take place in the 1980s but they’ve come out to... destroy O’Brien.”

A Catholic Church spokesman said: “Some clergy were not in favour of Church efforts to persuade the Scottish Government against same-sex marriage.

“It is also the case that objections were raised to Cardinal O’Brien’s robust rhetoric.

“A number of complaints about Cardinal O’Brien were passed directly to the Vatican. Whether they were precipitated by his comments on homosexuality is not known, since the detail and nature of the complaints were not shared with the Bishops’ Conference in Scotland.”

See also: Interview: Cardinal O’Brien