Scottish prelate in sex case renounces cardinal's privileges

AP News
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Posted: Mar 20, 2015 2:46 PM

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Scottish cardinal who admitted to sexual misdeeds has renounced the duties and privileges of his position, an arrangement agreed to after meeting with Pope Francis, church officials said Friday.

A Vatican statement said Francis had accepted 77-year-old Keith O'Brien's "resignation of the rights and privileges of a cardinal."

While O'Brien can still be called a cardinal, he won't exercise the role's rights, including voting in elections for pontiffs and advising the pope on the church governance and other important matters.

In 2013, O'Brien resigned as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and recused himself from the conclave of cardinals that elected Francis as pontiff that year.

The current archdiocese head, Archbishop Leo Cushley, welcomed the new arrangement.

"Cardinal O'Brien's decision followed a private discussion with Pope Francis which was preceded by a period of prayer and penance in order to reflect upon his misconduct," Cushley said in a statement.

Once Britain's highest-ranking Catholic leader, O'Brien left the archbishop's post after unidentified priests alleged in newspaper reports he acted inappropriately toward them. O'Brien eventually said his sexual conduct had "fallen below the standards" expected of a priest and apologized.

Cushley called the pope's decision "fair, equitable and proportionate."

"Cardinal O'Brien's behavior distressed many, it demoralized faithful Catholics and it made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic," Cushley said.

The Vatican said the pope encourages the Scottish faithful to continue the reconciliation process.

Critics of the church's handling of sexual abuse case noted that no details of the misconduct were revealed.

Cushley said details of a fact-finding visit last year by Francis' personal envoy are fully known "only to the Holy Father" and the prelate who conducted the investigation.