Academic’s concern for Cardinal Keith O’Brien

Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A LEADING Scottish constitutional academic has criticised the treatment of the disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien by the Catholic Church, and demanded to know the safety and security arrangements he is living in, claiming that his situation smacked of somebody who had been ­“kidnapped by a sect”.

Professor Norman Bonney, honorary president of Edinburgh Secular Society and social science researcher with Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said that the Church’s treatment of the former Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews since he resigned in February after admitting sexual misconduct, had “numerous disturbing aspects” and was deserving of investigation by the police.

The cardinal stood down following allegations by three priests and a former priest of improper sexual contact in the 1980s. He later admitted his sexual conduct had “fallen beneath the standards” expected of him.

The Vatican announced in May that, with the Pope’s approval, O’Brien would leave Scotland “for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance”. His current location is not known.

Speaking on behalf of the society, Bonney called for greater transparency on O’Brien’s whereabouts: “Is the man at liberty or is he being held under constraint? Does he know that he is entitled as a UK citizen to live wherever he would choose in the UK and the EU.

“This case bears all the hallmarks of the ‘kidnapped by a sect’ story that happens from time to time in relation to much less significant ­denominations.”

Responding to Bonney’s comments, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: “Cardinal O’Brien is a free man in a free country. He is at liberty to go where he chooses.”


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