26 March 2015, The Tablet

Cushley says O’Brien damaged Church’s credibility

The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh has described the actions of his predecessor, who has apologised for his sexual failings, as damaging the Church’s credibility and demoralising Catholics.

Archbishop Leo Cushley’s comments came after Cardinal Keith O’Brien, pictured, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by five men, four of them priests, resigned the “rights and privileges” of a cardinal.

This week The Tablet spoke to one of the priest accusers of Cardinal O’Brien who said there were multiple incidents of sexual misconduct by the cardinal against seminarians and young clergy.

The priest, who is remaining anonymous, said he believed that at least 40 cases took place from 1985, the year the cardinal became archbishop, until 2010.

He described how the cardinal made an “unmistakeable” sexual advance to him at Archbishop’s House in Edinburgh in 1990 which the priest, who is not gay, said he rebuffed. He said that the cardinal acted afterwards “as if nothing had happened…he blanked it completely.”

Asked why he did not make a complaint at the time, he replied: “Who would have believed me? Who could I have gone to that would have taken me seriously. The cardinal had his lawyers and they would have crushed me.”

He went on: “You’re controlled. You have no freedom of movement, of action. He can determine what your life is like.”

Even more seriously, the priest alleges that the cardinal approached individuals in the guise of a confessor in order to groom them for sexual contact.

“This is not a matter of people coming to him to confess, but him approaching them,” he said. 

The priest said clergy might not have complained if Cardinal O’Brien had had a long-term partner.

“It’s not the fact that he was gay, which everyone knew about. But that he was a predator,” he said.

These allegations were put to Cardinal O’Brien for a response. A spokesman said: “Cardinal O’Brien refers any further inquiries regarding his past or present situation to the statements issued by the Holy See Press Office on Friday 20March 2015 or by himself on the same date.”

Following the announcement of his resignation, the cardinal apologised to the “Catholic Church and the people of Scotland” and said his sexual conduct had fallen below the required standards.

Archbishop Cushley welcomed the apology and said the cardinal’s behaviour “distressed many, it demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic”.

When asked if the cardinal’s behaviour had led to mismanagement of the archdiocese a spokesman said it “does not believe that any such mismanagement has occurred.” He added, however: “the archdiocese will always take seriously any allegations or complaints concerning mismanagement and will deal with these appropriately”.

Above: Cardinal Keith O'Brien

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