17 MARCH 2013 | BY DAN LITTAUER
17 MARCH 2013 | BY DAN LITTAUER
Cardinal Keith O’Brien is alleged to have attempted to grope a priest in Rome on the night of a drinks party celebrating him becoming a ‘prince of the Church’ in October 2003.
The party where O’Brien allegedly tried to grope a man was attended by a noteable bishops and dignitaries.
This is the first direct allegation against the Cardinal and sexual misconduct at the heart of the Catholic Church.
The Scottish daily, The Herald , said that the alleged assault took place at the Scots College in Rome, where he was staying for the consistory at which he was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II.
The allegations come at the heels of the Cardinal admitting that his 'sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of' himself 'as a priest, archbishop and cardinal'.
The allegation comes from a priest now based in London, who is said to have complained to the Vatican last year, prompting his departure as leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, months before separate allegations relating to the 1980s came to light.
Cardinal O'Brien, who turns 75 today (17 March) announced last November that he would be stepping down as leader of the Scottish Catholic Bishops Conference saying he was retiring.
At the time, his decision was put down to a severe gout condition which left him in hospital, reported The Telegraph.
But it was reported earlier this month that he had secretly been summoned to Rome after the priest who alleges he was abused there complained directly to the Vatican.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the head of the Vatican's bishops department, is said to have overseen the case.
This lead to the accusation that the Vatican was trying to cover-up the issues by quietly retiring the O’Brien.
But when four other priests came forward last month the case was referred directly to Pope Benedict.
In one of the last acts of his pontificate, he effectively sacked Cardinal O'Brien by ordering that his resignation, already submitted, would be accepted with immediate effect.
The newly elected Pope Francis, will now have to decide whether or not to strip O’Brien of his position as a Cardinal, one of only a handful of such cases in the last 200 years.
Cardinal O'Brien was ordered to leave Scotland to an undisclosed location in England and told to live ‘as a hermit’.
During his time as leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland he became known as one of the most outspoken anti-gay marriage proponent which he said would cause ‘further degeneration of society into immorality.’
Last year he was voted ‘bigot of the year’ by gay rights group Stonewall.
Speaking with Gay Star News, Peter Tatchell, veteran British human rights advocate said: ‘If this accusation of sexual assault is true, then Keith O'Brien should face criminal prosecution.
‘He condemned LGBT people for consenting same-sex relationships, despite allegedly having committed a sex attack on another man. O'Brien is such a hypocrite. He should not be exempt from the law.
‘I also feel sorrow for him. He's undoubtedly a tortured soul; having led a two-faced double life for decades. I hope he gets counselling to enable him to eventually accept his homosexuality. It would do him a great deal of emotional and moral good.
‘His best way to redemption is to come out, apologise and begin a gay-affirmative ministry to LGBT Catholics’.