Scotland cardinal renounces duties, rights of office

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis accepted Scotland Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s decision to renounce all “duties and privileges” associated with being a cardinal.

The former archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, who resigned in 2013 after admitting to sexual misconduct, will no longer exercise the role of a cardinal, including by serving as a papal adviser, a member of Vatican congregations and councils, and as an elector of a new pope, the Vatican press office said.

A written statement from the College of Cardinals, published March 20, said, “The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges of a cardinal expressed in canons 349, 353 and 356 of the Code of Canon Law, presented by his eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, archbishop emeritus of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, after a long period of prayer.”

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, told journalists the resignation was “not a punishment resulting from a process” or any formal proceedings against the cardinal, but rather it came from the cardinal himself after a long period of prayer and reflection “in dialogue with the Holy Father.”

While he will no longer be invited to attend consistories and other gatherings of cardinals, including an eventual conclave for the election of a new pope, Father Benedettini said, he retains his faculties as a priest and retired bishop.

The College of Cardinal’s statement also said Pope Francis expressed his pastoral concern for all Catholics in Scotland and encouraged “them to continue with hope the path of renewal and reconciliation,” the Vatican statement said.

In his own statement, released through the Scottish bishops’ conference, Cardinal O’Brien again apologized “to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland.”

“There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me. For that I am deeply sorry,” said his statement released March 20.

“I thank Pope Francis for his fatherly care of me and of those I have offended in any way. I will continue to play no part in the public life of the church in Scotland; and will dedicate the rest of my life in retirement, praying especially for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, for Scotland, and for those I have offended in any way,” the cardinal wrote.

The cardinal stepped down as archbishop in February 2013, after the Observer, a British weekly national newspaper, carried a story detailing complaints of three priests and one former priest who alleged Cardinal O’Brien had made sexual advances toward them.

The cardinal initially denied the allegations but, less than a week later, he issued a public apology for his actions. He did not attend the March conclave that elected Pope Francis because, he had said, he did not want media attention to be on him rather than on the process of electing a new pope.