Pope Francis has officially accepted the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, whose apparent sexual misconduct toward junior priests in 2013 led him to renounce his rights as leader of Scotland’s Catholics, according to the BBC. While O’Brien will retain the cardinal title, he will be retired to private life, the Vatican announced Friday.
"I wish to repeat the apology which I made to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland,” O’Brien said in a statement following the pope’s decision. "I then said that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me. For that I am deeply sorry.” Francis’ decision was based on an investigation led by the Vatican, the results of which were apparently given to Francis earlier this month.
The inquiry centered on allegations that O’Brien acted inappropriately with three Scottish priests and a former priest. The charges stemmed from events dating back to the 1980s and were first publicized in an expose published in February 2013 by the Observer.
All four complainants submitted statements to the Vatican one month before O’Brien was scheduled to retire. One priest, identified only as “Priest C,” claimed O’Brien used night prayers as an excuse to inappropriately touch him. “Priest B” said O’Brien made unwanted advances toward him after a late-night drinking event. "[The church] tends to cover up and protect the system at all costs," one of the statements read, according to the Observer. "The church is beautiful, but it has a dark side and that has to do with accountability. If the system is to be improved, maybe it needs to be dismantled a bit."
O’Brien initially denied the allegations, but later apologized for “fall[ing] below the standards expected of me.”
During his time as cardinal, O’Brien vocally opposed gay rights and condemned homosexuality as immoral. He also was an outspoken opponent of gay adoption and same-sex marriage.
O’Brien will be succeeded by Archbishop Leo Cushley. “As most people are aware, Pope Francis is a good and prayerful man whose character embodies justice and mercy,” Cushley said. “I am confident therefore that the decision of the Holy Father is fair, equitable and proportionate.”