Cardinal Keith O'Brien has admitted that his sexual conduct has fallen below the standards "expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal".
In a statement on Sunday he apologised to those he had offended and asked for forgiveness. He also apologised to the Scottish Catholic Church and the people of Scotland.
The cardinal had already offered his resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh to the Vatican in advance of his 75th birthday later this month. However in a highly unusual move the Vatican announced on Monday that Pope Benedict XVI was accepting it with immediate effect. That decision came after a national newspaper published allegations by three priests and a former priest that he had behaved inappropriately towards them.
According to the Observer newspaper the four men signed sworn statements detailing the allegations and submitted them to the Papal Nuncio to Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini. The Vatican will now investigate the allegations.
The cardinal has now left the country.
There are also unconfirmed reports that a fifth man - a priest - made allegations against Cardinal O'Brien to the Congregation for Bishops last October.
Cardinal O'Brien said that he will now spend the rest of his life in retirement and will play no further part in the public life of the Church in Scotland.
In an interview with the BBC Today programme yesterday morning Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor spoke of his "greatness sad and shame" about recent events regarding Cardinal O'Brien.
The Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, has been appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh until a successor to Cardinal O'Brien is found.
Read Cardinal O'Brien's statement here.