Cardinal O’Brien accuser fears church backlash

Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Getty
Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Getty
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A former priest who made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Cardinal Keith O’Brien has claimed that the church’s hierarchy would “crush” him if it could.

The former priest, who has not been named, told a Sunday newspaper that he was the subject of unwanted attention when he was a 20 year old seminarian. He, along with three serving priests, claims to have been approached by Cardinal O’Brien, the former Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews who was Britain’s most senior Catholic until he resigned last week.

Today the former priest told the Observer that he is “disappointed” by the “lack of integrity” shown by the Catholic church. “There have been two sensations for me this week. One is feeling the hot breath of the media on the back of my neck and the other is sensing the cold disapproval of the church hierarchy for daring to break ranks. I feel like if they could crush me, they would,” he said.

“The vacuum the church has created has allowed whimsy and speculation to distort the truth,” the former priest said. “And the only support I have been offered is a cursory email with a couple of telephone numbers of counsellors hundreds of miles away from me. Anyway, I don’t need counselling about Keith O’Brien’s unwanted behaviour to me as a young man. But I may need counselling about the trauma of speaking truth to power.

“I have felt very alone and there is a tendency to become reclusive when people are trying to hunt you down.”

He said he felt particularly angered by calls for him to be publicly identified after making the allegations while remaining anonymous. “To those who want to know my name I would say, what does that change? And what do you think I have done wrong?”

“For me, this is about integrity. I thought it was best to let the men and women who put their hard-earned cash in the plate every Sunday know what has been happening. If you pay into something you have a right, but also a duty, to know what you are paying for,” he told the newspaper.

“I am as sinful as the next man – as my partner and pals frequently remind me. But this isn’t about trying to own the moral high ground. I feel compassion for O’Brien, more compassion than the church is showing me, but the truth has to be available – even when that truth is hard to swallow.”