Cardinal Keith O’Brien said in a statement on Saturday that he apologizes for any offenses and has asked for forgiveness after three priests and one former priest accused him of inappropriate behavior last week.
"In recent days,” the statement reads, “certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.
"However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.
"To those I have offended I apologize and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic church and people of Scotland, I also apologize. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic church in Scotland."
The statement was issued on Saturday night by the Catholic Church of Scotland.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien stepped down from his role as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in Scotland last week, just a day after three priests and one former priest formally lodged allegations against him which accused him of inappropriate conduct.
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Prior to resigning, Cardinal O’Brien, who was born in Antrim, was the highest Catholic clergyman in Britain. With his resignation, there will be no British representative at the forthcoming papal conclave that will be held to elect a replacement for the former Pope Benedict XVI after his abdication.
The same day the Catholic Church of Scotland issued Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s statement, the former priest who accused Cardinal O’Brien spoke to the Observer newspaper in Britain. The former priest has opted to remain anonymous.
The former priest said that he is “disappointed” with the “lack of integrity” shown by the Catholic church during this situation.
“There have been two sensations for me this week,” the former priest said. “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 continued, “The vacuum the church has created has allowed whimsy and speculation to distort the truth.
“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.”
The former priest also spoke out regarding that some have told him to step forward and reveal his identity: “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.”