Slugger O'Toole

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Cardinal O’Brien accused of “inappropriate behaviour stretching back 30 years.”

Sun 24 February 2013, 10:21am

I was going to write a nicely nuanced piece on the Ballycastle born, Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s interesting pitch to return to secular priests in the Catholic CHurch the right to marry. Instead when I looked him up on Google, this is what I got from The Observer, via BBC Scotland:

One of the complainants, it is understood, alleges that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him, resulting in a need for long-term psychological counselling.

The four submitted statements containing their claims to the nuncio’s office the week before Pope Benedict’s resignation on 11 February. They fear that, if O’Brien travels to the forthcoming papal conclave to elect a new pope, the church will not fully address their complaints.

“It tends to cover up and protect the system at all costs,” said one of the complainants. “The church is beautiful, but it has a dark side and that has to do with accountability. If the system is to be improved, maybe it needs to be dismantled a bit.”

The revelation of the priests’ complaints will be met with consternation in the Vatican. Allegations of sexual abuse by members of the church have dogged the papacy of Benedict XVI, who is to step down as pope at the end of this month. Following the announcement, rumours have swirled in Rome that Benedict’s shock move may be connected to further scandals to come.

The four priests asked a senior figure in the diocese to act as their representative to the nuncio’s office. Through this representative, the nuncio replied, in emails seen by the Observer, that he appreciated their courage.

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Comments (35)

  1. smcgiff (profile) says:

    Cardinal Mahony and Cardinal O’Brien… Will there be any electors left to elect the Pope.

    Maybe we do live in ‘the end of days’… for the Vatican.

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  2. Please note that our own great saint, Maelmhaedhoc Ó Morgair prophesied that the pope following “Gloria Olivæ”(by the usual count Benedict XVI, note the olive symbolism regarding the Benedictine order) is “Petrus Romanus” who will rule in the final persecution of the Church.

    Persecution from within as well as from without, I wonder.

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  3. Newman (profile) says:

    Timing of the complaint focused on Church politics not legal redress

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  4. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Ironic that the gentleman marked out as “bigot of the year” by Stonewall for his homophobia is accused by church insiders of being a raving bender.

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  5. smcgiff (profile) says:

    Ironic, but all too often… ‘He doth protest too much’

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  6. Turgon (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin and smcgiff,
    I always thought there was this concept of innocent until proven guilty.

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  7. Unhappily in situations like this much inappropriate behaviour will never be proven guilty because those in power are usually able to control how the accusations against them are assessed.

    The elite instinctively reacts to such accusations as an attack on the institution itself, which is what I’m cryptically
    referring to above as persecution from within, ie: the priests themselves persecuted by corrupt superiors.

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  8. smcgiff (profile) says:

    You’d have to be a very good barrister to claim I’ve found him guilty from my two comments. You can certainly infer… but that’s not the same thing.

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  9. anne warren (profile) says:

    My first thought on hearing this news was the same as Newman’s.
    I also agree with Turgon on the principle of presumed innocence until proven guilty.

    However . . .

    Cardinal Brady is the latest in a series of Cardinals facing calls to stand aside from the Conclave because of different allegations.Besides Cardinal Mahony who was mentioned above, the Head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, is also facing calls to stand aside from the Conclave because of questions over his role in covering up child sex allegations.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9890527/Britains-most-senior-Catholic-accused-of-inappropriate-acts-with-four-men.html

    Famiglia Cristiana (The Christian family) a popular Italian paper called for a survey among readers (who are mostly churchgoers) as to whether these Cardinals should participate in the Conclave or not. They were surprised to see that a majority voted that they shouldn’t.
    Cardinal Mahony is going anyway!

    It all seems indicative of an enormous gap between the Faithful and Church Hierarchy and raises questions of whether the Roman Catholic Church can make any adjustments to bridge the gap. If so what?

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  10. anne warren (profile) says:

    Sorry – typing error
    My previous comment should read

    However . . .
    Cardinal O’Brien is the latest . . .

    Please forgive!

    I get mixed up with all these Cardinals’ names.

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  11. Coll Ciotach (profile) says:

    Why would they wait to this moment to try to undermine this Cardinal? Strange. They must have their reason I suppose.

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  12. smcgiff (profile) says:

    Coll,

    Presumably they do not want him to be there to select their next religious leader. Why not come forward before now? Who knows, there always has to be a first time. Or maybe because he has come out so vehemently anti homosexual of late. Hypocrite IF true.

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  13. Coll Ciotach (profile) says:

    I would not go with that for he was making statements against gay marriage as far back as 2003.

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  14. anne warren (profile) says:

    Coll
    I think it was a reaction to Cardinal O’Brien’s statement about allowing secular priests in the Catholic Church to marry which was issued a day or two previously.
    They were probably aware of the other calls to stop Cardinals going on similar grounds.

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  15. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Turgon,

    I can only comment on what he has been accused of.

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  16. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    anne,

    It’s an awfully dirty way of doing it. But that’s what happens in an organization as undemocratic as the RC church – they have no way of holding him accountable so the only way they can force his hand is by damaging his credibility in public.

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  17. The allegations went into the Nuncio’s office the week before Ratzinger’s resignation was announced. If somebody wants to allege the complaints are politically motivated and timed, they should be aware they’re alleging a pretty big conspiracy theory that the complainants had prior knowledge of the Pope’s resignation.

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  18. anne warren (profile) says:

    Gerry wrote”The allegations went into the Nuncio’s office the week before Ratzinger’s resignation was announced”.
    True
    The OP had already written
    “The four submitted statements containing their claims to the nuncio’s office the week before Pope Benedict’s resignation on 11 February. They fear that, if O’Brien travels to the forthcoming papal conclave to elect a new pope, the church will not fully address their complaints”.

    Why?
    According to the OP one of the complainants said
    “It (The Catholic Church) tends to cover up and protect the system at all costs”

    I suggested the 4 complainants seized the opportunity of the Cardinal’s statement about priests getting married to expose/publicise their complaints.
    Why?
    They may not have approved of the statement
    They may not have wanted him to go to the Conclave as someone has already remarked

    None of this reasoning, deduction and hypotheses presupposes any “conspiracy theory that the complainants had prior knowledge of the Pope’s resignation”

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  19. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    anne warren
    “None of this reasoning, deduction and hypotheses presupposes any “conspiracy theory that the complainants had prior knowledge of the Pope’s resignation”
    According to Andrew Brown in the Guardian, Rowan Williams knew about the resignation before Christmas.
    It’s obviously an Anglican conspiracy.

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  20. anne warren (profile) says:

    Quite right, Baby!!
    There’s absolutely no other plausible explanation.
    Fits all the facts!
    Well done, Sherlock!

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  21. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    anne
    “Well done, Sherlock!”
    Elementary my dear Warren!

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  22. tomthumbuk (profile) says:

    Come back Martin Luther, all is forgiven.

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  23. Coll Ciotach (profile) says:

    Looks like he has resigned. If he is guilty – good. If he is not a tragedy.

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  24. Lionel Hutz (profile) says:

    This “inappropriate behaviour” term, does appear to be a catch-all term for behaviour which people dont like but which is not criminal.

    So when we talk about this man being “innocent until proven guilty,” I can’t help but think that there might not even be anything to be guilty of.

    For example, in the context of the church, homosexual advances would be seen by some as “innappropriate.” Oddly enough, the complaints seem to be made by the more conservative side church because the Cardinal had said some liberal things. Because it was so pressing that he should resign rather than serve out his remianing few weeks as a cardinal.

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  25. Coll Ciotach (profile) says:

    It gets more convuluted – his resignation was offerred on 13th November 2012. It was accepted nunc pro tunc. Put into effect on the 18th for announcement today.

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  26. Lionel Hutz (profile) says:

    He had his resignation in for him turning 75 next month. You must have to ask in advance. They’ve just brought his resignation forward

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  27. BarneyT (profile) says:

    I too applauded him when he pushed the right to marry issue, as it is only right and appropriate that priests have a taste of life in a relationship before they issue advice on the matter.

    On reading this recent news my first thought was “a polical move” to oust a reformist. We’ll see.

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  28. BarneyT (profile) says:

    ….but then that does not stack up against this intended resignation. However a cardinal in retirement can still push the priest marriage agenda but perhaps not so easy for one if he is effectively and brutally teinted.

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  29. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    Lionel, you say that ‘in the context of the church, homosexual advances would be seen by some as “inappropriate.” ‘

    Would such advances not be seen by all as inappropriate, indeed quite, quite wrong ? Further would not heterosexual advances, or indeed sexual advances of any type, be considered inappropriate, if not appalling ? It would not only not be fitting that a prince of the Church should make such advances, it would be quite scandalous.

    A cardinal who unwantedly fondled another man’s arse could well find himself up before the beak, and I hardly think that the offence would be seen to be the lesser, whether in the eyes of the law or those of his peers, if it was a female parishioner who endured his attention rather than his ordained secretary.

    There is however, as you imply, a fine distinction to be drawn between what may seem inappropriate and what may be criminal. Asking another man to dinner may not fall foul of either but if the Cardinal invites a female to dine alone with him such would certainly be seen as inappropriate.

    Going further, if a Catholic prelate invites another person, lay or prelate, man or woman, to join him in some sexual act then, providing that the proposed act was not in itself criminal then, while such a request would certainly be looked upon as inappropriate that would be so because of the position of the one making the request not because of the nature of the act requested.

    To ask, “Fancy a blow-job ?” (or whatever) may certainly seem crass but unless such a request, once rejected, is constantly repeated as to constitute harrassment then it is unlikely to be deemed criminal.

    Isn’t a crude rule-of-thumb that, “You can look, you can ask, but you must not touch” ?

    I suppose at this time many of us recall what must be the catchiest opening sentence of any novel, ever:

    It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me. “

    Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers (1980)

    If Cardinal O’Brien’s difficulties do nothing other than prompt us to return to that wonderful, panoramic, puckish consideration of all things Catholic and sexual then his eminence will certainly have accomplished some good in his time.

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  30. Lionel Hutz (profile) says:

    Rory,

    I think we are talking at cross purposes. I do not mean unwanted sexual harassment of the type that Lord Rennard is being accused of. Im saying that there is a scale of sexual advances.

    Criminal then unwanted and then acceptable advances.

    For example, I think I made acceptable advances towards my fiancee five years ago. Of course, I could be wrong and she just decided to let i pass. I never was very good at that sort of thing.

    The point is that a priest chancing his arm in the way I did would be innappropriate in the eyes of the church and all the more so when it would be to another man.

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  31. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    Yes, Lionel, your example serves well in explanation but it also serves to illustrate that we see eye-to-eye rather than being at cross purposes.

    But ideas of sexual harrassment are most certainly a moveable feast . I was once so accused by a works canteen server after complaining about the quality of the beef in a stew. I think she may have misread the issues being addressed between the covers of Susie Orbach’s Fat is a Feminist Issue (not that I said so at the time. I wasn’t ever quite that crazy.

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  32. GEF (profile) says:

    Online Rumor Claims Pope Resigned Over Arrest Warrant in Sex Abuse Scandal.

    Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/online-rumor-claims-pope-resigned-over-arrest-warrant-in-sex-abuse-scandal-90366/#YOH5Ms7OUzelDJMb.99

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  33. HeinzGuderian (profile) says:

    I am deeply shocked that grown men, who insist on wearing dresses and hats, and who further insist on being celibate, could ever be accused of sexual impropriety ? :)

    Surely these ‘men’ should be responsible for all our moral standards ?
    No ? :)

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  34. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    Oh for God’s sake, Guderian, do try at least to make some small effort not to appear totally cretinous. The only one being demeaned by your nonsense is yourself.

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  35. Fiction is so much better at this! Has anyone ever read Ronald Firbank’s “Concerning the eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli”?

    The opening with the dog is hilarious!

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