Former head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Keith O’Brien, stepped down from his position in February amid a sex scandal, and a new report from Scottish newspaper The Herald says that he was in a long-term, physical relationship with one of his accusers. According to the report, the accuser, who has not been named, is currently working as a priest somewhere in Europe, and the Cardinal O’Brien helped the man secure the position within the church.
Earlier this year, Cardinal O’Brien was accused of groping Catholic priests for over thirty years. The cardinal, who actively denounced homosexuality in his sermons, stepped down after several priests complained to the Vatican about his inappropriate sexual behavior towards other officials within the Catholic Church. The accusers have continued to remain anonymous, but it has been confirmed that there are five sources behind the complaints. O’Brien took a temporary leave of absence from the Catholic Church in February.
The Cardinal confessed to having a long-standing relationship with one of his accusers shortly after he stepped down. The Herald had arranged to speak with the accuser, who is still an active priest in Europe, but the paper explained that the accuser backed out after receiving advice from Catholic bishops. The accuser is currently on leave from the church as well.
The Herald article cites sources within the clergy who described the relationship between O’Brien and his accuser as unusual. One source says that they were “very close,” and admitted that he and many others had suspicions about the relationship.
As part of his admission, Cardinal O’Brien explained that, until the accuser lodged the complaint, the two continued to speak regularly via telephone. The two also met in person several times at O’Brien’s official residence in Edinburgh.
The Herald also reports, again citing anonymous sources within the clergy, that the complaints were lodged against Cardinal O’Brien as retaliation for his conservative stance against homosexuality. Attributing anti-O’Brien sentiment to, somewhat confusingly, gay officials within the Catholic Church, The Herald explains that the cardinal’s continued and vicious denouncement of the homosexual lifestyle angered many throughout the church with less conservative views, and that the accusations and complaints, while accurate, were only made in an attempt to disgrace O’Brien.
One source told the Herald, “If you’re asking me to describe what this is about in one word, it’s revenge. I’ve no doubt the allegations did take place in the 1980s, but they’ve come out to – destroy O’Brien.”