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 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The tragic killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a bitter public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 8:27 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
North Korea warns the United States that U.S. "citadels" will be attacked, dwarfing the hacking attack on Sony that led to the cancellation of a comedy film's release.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it's never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
More than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation, Unicef has warned.
updated 8:22 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Boko Haram's latest abductions may meet a weary global reaction, Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi says.
updated 5:34 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Drops, smudges, pools of blood are everywhere -- but in the computer room CNN's Nic Robertson reels from the true horror of the Peshawar school attack.
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT