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News

Vatican launches inquiry in O’Brien's former diocese
04 April 2014 15:50 by Christopher Lamb

A top Vatican investigator has been appointed to examine claims of sexual misconduct in the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, where Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned amid scandal last year.

Bishop Charles Scicluna, who has a reputation for forensic investigations into sexual abuse, has been asked to listen to and report the testimony of past and present clergy in the archdiocese.

Cardinal O’Brien resigned last February after being accused of sexual misconduct by five men, four of them priests.

He later admitted that his sexual conduct had fallen short of that expected of priest, archbishop and cardinal.

Since then he has been ordered to undergo a period of prayer and penance and is living outside of the archdiocese.

The cardinal’s successor, Archbishop Leo Cushley, has conducted his own informal inquiries into the allegations and in February travelled to Rome to give his view.

The investigation was announced by the archbishop in two letters to his clergy on Tuesday, which have been obtained by the National Catholic Reporter.

In them Archbishop Cushley says that the Maltese auxiliary bishop will travel to the archdiocese on 8-10 April and has asked priests who wish to speak to him to “prepare their narrative in writing”.

According to Tuesday's letters from Archbishop Cushley, Pope Francis has asked the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops to send Scicluna to "listen to and report the testimony offered by past and present members of the clergy ... concerning any incidents of sexual misconduct committed against them by other members of the clergy whomsoever." Cushley has welcomed Bishop Scicluna’s appointment.

In 2005 Scicluna was asked by the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to hear testimony of victims of sexual abuse committed by Fr Marcial Maciel, the disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Scicluna also served as promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he examined numerous clerical abuse cases.

Archbishop Cushley wrote that he has spoken directly to Pope Francis and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, about the Cardinal O’Brien matter.

“I believe the Holy See is examining the ‘lie of the land’ and trying to establish more precisely the veracity of various assertions now before it,” he wrote, and encouraged clergy to co-operate with the investigation.