Skip to main content

Scotland's archbishop contests "inappropriate behavior" claim

By Matt Smith, CNN
updated 5:20 AM EST, Mon February 25, 2013
Cardinal Keith O'Brien contests the claims against him
Cardinal Keith O'Brien contests the claims against him "and is seeking legal advice," the Scottish Catholic Media Office told CNN.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cardinal Keith O'Brien is accused of "inappropriate behavior" with priests
  • O'Brien "contests these claims and is taking legal advice," his archdiocese says
  • Pope Benedict XVI has been informed of the allegations, a Vatican spokesman says

(CNN) -- Scotland's Roman Catholic archbishop is contesting accusations of "inappropriate behavior" with priests, claims leveled as Cardinal Keith O'Brien prepares to join the conclave that will choose a new pope.

British newspaper The Observer reported Sunday that three priests and one former priest have leveled allegations against O'Brien that date back 30 years. The Observer did not recount details of the claims or identify any of O'Brien's accusers, but said one of the priests alleged "that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him."

O'Brien did not attend Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday, but the Scottish Catholic Media Office told CNN that the cardinal "contests these claims and is taking legal advice."

Pope delivers final Angelus prayer
Vatican denies 'false news reports'
Key moments in pope's resignation
Rumors swirl around pope's resignation

His accusers took their complaints to the Vatican representative in Britain and demanded O'Brien's resignation, The Observer reported. At the Vatican, Father Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the church, told reporters that Pope Benedict XVI has been informed of the allegations.

The Irish-born O'Brien is scheduled to retire on St. Patrick's Day, his 75th birthday. But in a message to the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh last Sunday, he said he expected to take part as the College of Cardinals gathers in Rome to pick a successor to Benedict, who has led the worldwide church since 2005.

The accusations against O'Brien follow a buzz in Italian media about claims that gay clergy may have made themselves vulnerable to blackmail by male prostitutes, setting off speculation that a brewing scandal may have triggered Benedict's resignation. The Vatican vehemently denied the allegations Saturday, with Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone criticizing a rash of "often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories" as the cardinals prepare for their conclave.

Benedict announced his resignation on February 11, saying that at 85, he was too weak to continue his duties. He leaves the papacy on Thursday, becoming the first pope to step down since 1415.

CNN's Hada Messia and Per Nyberg contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:58 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
ISIS has published a video titled "A second message to America," showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.
updated 9:35 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions and pleaded for U.S. help in interviews with CNN.
Hundreds of jihadis in Syria are from abroad -- which countries have the biggest problem?
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
CNN attends a funeral where mourners keep their distance.
updated 5:13 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Libyan militia members have apparently turned the abandoned U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, into a water park.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Beijing says only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive, prompting criticism.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
In a major breach of privacy, a hacker leaked a series of pictures allegedly showing Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities in the nude.
Instead of weaving garments sold in the West, children should be in school
According to the International Labour Organization, there are 168 million child laborers around the world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT