The Scottish Cardinal, Keith O’Brien

It was back in 2007 that I was provoked into writing the paper WHO SUFFERS as a response to what I felt was the immoral uttererances of Cardinal O’Brien with regard to abortion when he equated abortions with the Dunblane Massacre of primary school children. I found this grossly immoral because he seemed unable to recognise the difference between the appalling suffering of those children, their parents and families  and the termination of potential persons without awareness or any capacity to suffer. Today comes the news that he has admitted that his treatment of young priests  when he was their bishop was immoral (Sexually explicit I suppose) and he has been retired from acting as a priest and a bishop. This underlines not only the contradiction in his equally extreme condemnations of homosexuality and gay marriage, but is most depressing because such behaviour is such a gross abuse of his power and position in the hirearchy.  Today’s announcement however exposes yet again the hierarchy culture of cover-up. As reported on Today today, the Vatican was aware of the charge against him but only took action to “retire” him and to bar him from taking part in the conclave to elect a new pope after the four priests went to the press. If they had not done so he would simply have been quietly retired after taking an active part in the election of a new pope.

When Cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Conner spoke on Today not surprisingly he stuck to the line that there will always be sinners and that this whole business of abuse is to be seen simply in those terms and he shied away from the word “reform” like a frightened rabbit .

The point though is surely that it is becoming more and more obvious that what is required is a fundamental rethink becuase what has become the teaching of the Catholic Church as regards abortion, sexuality and relationships, intercourse, birth control, priestly celibicy, marriage, the role of women in the Church and of course papal infallibility are all interwoven and are all deeply flawed.  (See my long paper on Abortion, Murder by Another Name?)

This quotation from the Observer 3-3-13 is illuminating and shows, as I was unaware, that Keith O’Brien was and had questioned papal orthodoxy before and as regards clerical celibicy was prepared to put his head above the parapet.:

The cardinal was forced out only three days before the pope retired last Thursday. There is growing speculation that the Vatican acted swiftly because O’Brien had challenged one of the church’s greatest orthodoxies – saying, in a BBC interview and only two days before the Observer story was published, that priests ought to be allowed to marry and have children.

Catherine Pepinster, editor of the weekly Catholic newspaper the Tablet, said Benedict and his close aides may have been extremely irritated because O’Brien had promised to renounce his once liberal views on some church teachings when he became a cardinal in 2003.

On becoming a cardinal the Vatican had made him swear an oath to uphold the teachings of the church, binding him to uphold its orthodox positions. He then took a hardline stance against gay issues and abortions.

Pepinster said his new statement would, however, allow the Scottish church to move on. “This is a shocking admission, but one that is in many ways welcome, not least because it seems Cardinal O’Brien must have been leading a double life, and that is now at an end.

“That must surely be a relief to him and a burden lifted. But it must also be a relief to Catholics in Scotland. The boil has been lanced, and it’s time to move on. Too many scandals in the Catholic church drag on and on, but this one has been dealt with speedily, and a line can be drawn.”


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