Disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien has again apologised for his “sexual conduct” after formally resigning from his role in a meeting with Pope Francis.
Cardinal O’Brien stepped down from the archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh in February 2013 after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.
He issued an apology at the time, saying ‘’there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me’’.
He left Scotland and said he would play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in the country.
He will retain the title of cardinal, the church said, but has now been formally stripped of the “rights and duties” of the role after an investigation.
He said today: “I wish to repeat the apology which I made to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland some two years ago now on March 3 2013.
“I then said that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me. For that, I am deeply sorry.
“I thank Pope Francis for his fatherly care of me and of those I have offended in any way.
“I will continue to play no part in the public life of the Church in Scotland; and will dedicate the rest of my life in retirement praying, especially for the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, for Scotland, and for those I have offended in any way.”
Pope Francis sent a personal envoy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, to Scotland last year to interview priests and investigate Cardinal O’Brien’s behaviour.
The Pope and the cardinal then held a private discussion, and Cardinal O’Brien has now been “reduced to a strictly private life with no further participation in any public, religious or civil events”.
It means he will not be able to take part in the election of any future pope or the general governance of the Catholic Church.
It has also been ruled that Cardinal O’Brien will continue to live outside Scotland.
According to Canon Law, the Pope is the only person who can investigate or discipline a member of the College of Cardinals.
Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh said: “I am confident that the decision of the Holy Father is fair, equitable and proportionate.
“Cardinal O’Brien’s behaviour distressed many, demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic.
“I therefore acknowledge and welcome his apology to those affected by his behaviour and also to the people of Scotland, especially the Catholic community.
“For my own part, I would like to express sorrow and regret to those most distressed by the actions of my predecessor.
“I also pay tribute to those who had the courage to come forward to speak to Archbishop Scicluna.
“I hope now that all of us affected by this sad and regrettable episode will embrace a spirit of forgiveness, the only spirit that can heal any bitterness and hurt that still remains.”