CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Scottish cardinal bows out of the conclave


HONG KONG (SE): “Over the centuries, the cardinals have faced multiple forms of pressure exerted on the individual voters and the same college, with the aim of conditioning decisions, to bend them to a political or worldly logic,” a terse communiqué from the Vatican Secretariat of State released on February 23 reads.

The communiqué goes on to say that in bygone days it was often states or power-seeking families that brought hostile and even armed pressure on the college of cardinals, whereas today, it is public opinion that is brought to bear, even involving news reports that are not verified, unverifiable of completely false.

While the communiqué is referring to an article in the Italian daily, La Repubblica (see page 1), on the supposed contents of the dossier of the investigation into the VatiLeaks affair handed to Pope Benedict XVI on December 17, Keith Cardinal O’Brien, from Edinburgh and St. Andrews in Scotland, is maybe indirectly the first to bow to negative publicity.

After complaints by three unnamed priests and one ex-priest that the cardinal had behaved in what is described only as an inappropriate manner with them in the 1980s were handed to the apostolic nuncio in London, he has responded to calls to step down and not take any part in the conclave.

As of February 25, he was no longer the archbishop of Edinburgh and St. Andrews.

The unnamed priests are reported to have said that they are coming forward now as they cannot stand the thought of him having any part in the election of a new pope.

A press release from the Scottish Catholic Media Office quotes Cardinal O’Brien as saying, “I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focussed on me—but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor.”

Cardinal O’Brien turns 75 on March 17 this year. He had already tended his mandatory letter of resignation to Pope Benedict on November 13 last year, which was accepted and made effective from his 75th birthday.

However, in view of the accusations and the intense media pressure, the pope has accepted his early resignation, which became effective on February 25.

In stepping down, Cardinal O’Brien said, “I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest. Looking back over my years of ministry; for any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended.” reported that although Cardinal O’Brien did not deny the charges he has disputed them. “The Scottish cardinal has disputed the charges of inappropriate behaviour that were raised by three priests and one former priest, but has not directly denied them. In announcing his resignation he did not allude to the charges of misconduct,” the United States of America-based news agency reported.

In his resignation statement the cardinal thanked the pope for his kindness and courtesy both to him and the people of Scotland, wishing him a long and happy retirement.

Cardinal O’Brien has been a high profile defender of the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, and led Church opposition to and criticism of the same-sex marriage bill which was recently passed in the British House of Commons.

He has also been at the head of Church opposition towards government policy on issues as varied as treatment of asylum seekers, climate change and cutbacks in social services to the poor.

In addition, he spoke out strongly against legislation on embryo research, calling it, “(Creating) a regime where extracting tissue and cells from human beings no longer requires their consent or involvement,” Cardinal O’Brien said.

“Such behaviour was last seen under the Nazis,” the archbishop of St. Andrew’s and Edinburgh told the prime minister of England, Gordon Brown, in a letter dated October 28 last year, prior to a debate scheduled for October 29 in the House of Lords on Schedule Three of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology, which seeks to provide for the removal of human tissue from certain categories of people without their consent.

He was also supportive of what he called the persecuted Church and travelled extensively to places where the Church is under great pressure in order to form links with his own diocese and encourage people to be supportive, as he could offer them a deeper understanding of the depth of the suffering Catholics in some countries are enduring for their faith.

After a visit to China in 2007, he told the Sunday Examiner, “I think the rest of the world must respond in every way possible to life in the Church and the state of China at this present time.”

In stepping back from the conclave, Cardinal O’Brien is following the normal protocol of absenting himself from Church affairs while under investigation.


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