Disgraced Cardinal to leave Scotland for penance-Vatican

Wed May 15, 2013 11:11am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Disgraced Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who resigned as head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland after admitting to sexual misconduct, will leave his country for months of "prayer and penance", the Vatican said on Wednesday.

A brief Vatican statement did not say where O'Brien, once Britain's most senior Catholic cleric, was going, or spell out why he was quitting Scotland.

But it will be hoping the announcement draws a line under an affair that has added to a sense of crisis in the Catholic Church as it continues to deal with separate scandals over sexual abuse of children by priests.

The cardinal resigned as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh on February 25 after three priests and one former priest in Scotland complained about incidents of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1980s.

O'Brien initially rejected the allegations published in a British newspaper and said he was seeking legal advice. But he later apologized for the misconduct.

The Vatican said on Wednesday his departure had been decided "in agreement with the Holy Father," stopping short of saying if Pope Francis had ordered O'Brien to go.

O'Brien would leave Scotland for "several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance," the Vatican added.

He would be leaving for the same reasons that he decided not to participate in the conclave that elected Pope Francis on March 13, the statement said, without going into further detail.   Continued...

Scottish Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien kisses Pope John Paul II's hand during the consistory in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican October 21, 2003. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi