THE men whose allegations of sexual misconduct prompted the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien have criticised the Vatican for telling the cleric to leave Scotland for a period of “prayer and penance”.
It was announced last week that the cardinal, Britain’s most senior Catholic, would spend several months out of the country “for the purpose of spiritual renewal” after he admitted in March that his sexual conduct had fallen below expected standards.
The three priests and a former priest, who made the accusations against O’Brien in February relating to incidents in the 1980s, attacked the move and said O’Brien should have instead been sent for psychological treatment.
They also reiterated calls for a full investigation into O’Brien’s behaviour and said stripping him of his status as a cardinal should not be ruled out.
One of the priests said: “Keith is extremely manipulative and needs help to be challenged out of his denial. If he does not receive treatment, I believe he is still a danger to himself and to others.”
The Vatican statement confirming O’Brien’s temporary exile followed his return to a church house in Dunbar, where he had been planning to retire.
The ex-priest who complained about the cardinal’s inappropriate behaviour said: “Removing O’Brien from Scotland might temporarily reduce the embarrassment to the Church authorities but this story has not been fully told yet. I’m still waiting to be told what, if any, process the Church has in mind.”
Calls for an investigation into O’Brien’s behaviour also received backing last night from Catholic theologian Professor Werner Jeanrond, master of St Benet’s Hall at Oxford University.
He said: “We are constantly presented with this half-baked solution of removing people. I am in favour of investigation on the personal level, so that he can own up to his concealment and own his own life again, but because he was in the clerical life it also has to be a formal investigation. We also have to have an investigation into why we are in this mess.”
Peter Kearney, director of communications for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said no-one in Scotland had the authority to challenge O’Brien’s behaviour, his return to Scotland or his residence in Church property.
He added: “We are part of the Roman Catholic Church, and the ultimate authority for the way the Church functions in Scotland lies in Rome.”