News & Politics

Anti-Gay British Cardinal Resigns After Multiple Men Claim Inappropriate Advances

Cardinal Keith O'Brien's resignation adds to the scandals engulfing the Catholic Church.

Britain’s top Catholic Cardinal resigned today after allegations of improper conduct were reported on by The Observer newspaper. The allegations include claims that Cardinal Keith O’Brien, known for his outspoken views, acted “inappropriately” towards priests.

Multiple people involved with the church complained of “inappropriate contact” that was initiated by O’Brien. As the New York Times notes, a “priest, was said to have been invited to spend a week ‘getting to know’ the cardinal...and having to deal with ‘unwanted attention’ from the senior cleric after a late-night drinking session.” One 18-year-old student at a Catholic seminary said that Cardinal O’Brien made an “inappropriate approach” to him after night prayers. Another man “had his own experience of inappropriate contact when, in the early years of his priesthood, he sought counseling over personal problems from Cardinal O’Brien, then an archbishop,” the Times noted.

One of the four men who made the allegations against O’Brien left the Catholic Church and later married because he could not imagine living under O’Brien’s authority.

The alleged actions of O'Brien date back to 30 years ago, but the priests submitted the claims to the Vatican's ambassador to Britain a week before the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

O’Brien was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003. In announcing his resignation, he did not mention the allegations, but said: “Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologize to all whom I have offended.” The Observer reports that a spokesman for the cardinal says the claims are "contested."

O’Brien’s resignation means that he will not attend the deliberations over choosing the next pope, which have started after the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The United Kingdom will now be absent from the proceedings. The allegations against O’Brien add to the multiple scandals engulfing the Catholic Church, most notably child sex abuse cases.

Cardinal O’Brien made a name for himself by speaking out harshly against homosexuality, abortion and secularism. He has compared gay marriage to “slavery” said that the rate of abortion in the United Kingdom was like “two Dunblane massacres a day,” a reference to the 1996 massacre of children in a Scottish school.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.