- Clear challenge to the Church in Ireland
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Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien is facing the possibility of further disciplinary action being taken against him by the Holy See.
Today his successor as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Leo Cushley, was due to arrive in Rome for a five-day visit where he is expected to discuss the issue.
Cardinal O’Brien stepped down just over a year ago after allegations of sexual misconduct were made against him by five men, four of them priests. Last May the Vatican ordered him to spend time in prayer and penance outside of Scotland and Archbishop Cushley has said publicly that he should not return.
According to his spokesman, Archbishop Cushley has “listened to the parties concerned and will transmit any information provided to him to the Holy See”, adding that he will “assist in any way he can in order to help bring a just and equitable conclusion to the matter for all involved.”
He pointed out, however, that any decision on whether further action should be taken rests with Pope Francis. It is possible that the Pope could revoke O’Brien’s status as a cardinal. In 1927 Pope Pius XI accepted Cardinal Louis Billot’s resignation from the College of Cardinals following a dispute with the Pope over Billot’s support for the far-right movement, Action Française.
It is understood that those who made the allegations against Cardinal O’Brien want a church investigation into what happened.
Cardinal O’Brien is still living in England although he returned to Scotland at New Year to visit his friend Canon Matt McManus, parish priest of St Peter in Chains, Ardrossan in the Diocese of Galloway.
Another friend said: “Surely he has been punished enough, and has shown true repentance for his failings? To pursue a further case now is both unjust and unchristian and suggests that vengeance or some political agenda is the real motive.”