|His Eminence Cardinal
|Archbishop Emeritus of St Andrews and Edinburgh|
|Archdiocese||St Andrews and Edinburgh|
|Appointed||30 May 1985|
|Installed||5 August 1985|
|Term ended||25 February 2013|
|Other posts||Cardinal-Priest of SS Gioacchino ed Anna al Tuscolano|
|Ordination||3 April 1965
by Gordon Gray
|Consecration||5 August 1985
by Gordon Joseph Gray
|Created Cardinal||21 October 2003|
|Birth name||Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien|
17 March 1938 |
Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
|Previous post||Apostolic Administrator of Argyll and The Isles, Scotland (1996–99)|
|Motto||Serve the Lord with gladness|
|Coat of arms|
Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien (born 17 March 1938) is a Scottish Roman Catholic cardinal. He served as the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh from 1985 to 2013. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2003.
O'Brien was the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and had been the head of its Conference of Bishops. His resignation as archbishop was announced in February 2013 after allegations initially in The Observer newspaper that O'Brien had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with junior priests. It was also announced that he would not attend the conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor as Pope. On 3 March 2013 O'Brien admitted that his sexual conduct had at times "fallen beneath the standards expected of [him]". Following his resignation as Archbishop, the Vatican referred to O'Brien as "His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, Archbishop Emeritus of St Andrews and Edinburgh", in line with the standard practice of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The Vatican announced on 15 May 2013 that he had agreed to leave Scotland for several months of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Archbishop and cardinal
- 3 Health
- 4 Views
- 5 Sexual misconduct and consequences
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Early life and education
||This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. (October 2013)|
O’Brien was born at Ballycastle, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on 17 March 1938. After primary education in Ballycastle, he moved with his family to Scotland where his father was serving with the Royal Navy at Faslane, initially attending St Stephen's Primary School, Dalmuir before continuing to secondary school at St Patrick's High School, Dumbarton. His family then moved to Edinburgh, where he completed his secondary education at Holy Cross Academy, before studying at the University of Edinburgh where he gained a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1959 (and later a Diploma in Education in 1966). His studies for the priesthood were at St Andrew's College, Drygrange, Roxburghshire, and he was ordained priest on 3 April 1965 by his predecessor, Cardinal Gordon Gray. Initially, serving as curate at Holy Cross, Edinburgh from 1965 until 1966, he completed his teacher training certificate at Moray House College of Education. From 1966 to 1971, he was employed by Fife County Council as a teacher of mathematics and science; he also served as chaplain to St Columba's Secondary School, initially in Cowdenbeath and then in Dunfermline, while assisting at St Bride's Parish, Cowdenbeath.
O'Brien was then moved to full-time parish apostolate in St Patrick's, Kilsyth from 1972 until 1975 and then St Mary's, Bathgate from 1975 until 1978. He served as spiritual director to the students at St Andrew's College, Drygrange from 1978 until 1980 then as Rector of St Mary's College, Blairs, the junior seminary near Aberdeen, from 1980 until 1985.
Archbishop and cardinal
O’Brien was nominated Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh on 30 May 1985 and was consecrated by Cardinal Gray, then Archbishop Emeritus of St Andrews and Edinburgh, at St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh on 5 August 1985. Pope John Paul II created him Cardinal-Priest of Ss Joachim and Anne ad Tusculanum on 21 October 2003.
O'Brien was made Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 2005, appointed Grand Prior of the Scottish Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in 2001 and appointed Knight Grand Cross (KGCHS) of that order in 2003.
In 2004 O'Brien was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of St Andrews, and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Edinburgh. He was Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles from 1996 to 1999, when Bishop Ian Murray took over the diocese. O'Brien took part in the 2005 Papal Conclave which elected Pope Benedict XVI. In anticipation of the 2010 visit of Pope Benedict to England and Scotland, O'Brien and Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said that the crisis involving Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, over the priest Brendan Smyth and other clerical abuse charges is one for the Irish Catholic Church and should not overshadow Benedict's visit. O'Brien and Nichols were asked whether the pope would respond to charges made against the church about clerical sex abuse during his four-day visit, the first papal visit to the UK since John Paul II in 1982. O'Brien said he did not know; Nichols said English, Welsh and Scottish bishops had "robust" rules in place to protect children. Former Archbishop Mario Conti claims all the Scottish Catholic bishops except O'Brien cooperated over an independent inquiry into the handling of child abuse in Scotland between 1952 and 2012 with the results to be published. The inquiry was delayed because O'Brien and only O'Brien withdrew cooperation.
O'Brien had intended to take part in the March 2013 conclave to elect the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, but said that he would not attend (although still entitled to as a cardinal) when he announced in February 2013 that he had resigned as archbishop following public allegations of sexual misconduct.
After his creation as cardinal, O'Brien was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and also a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. He was President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland and fulfils various engagements at the request of other members of the Conference. He has been referred to sometimes as the "Primate of Scotland", however, no such title was bestowed upon him and there is no precedent in Scotland for the position of Primate.
Resignation as archbishop
O'Brien tendered his resignation from the governance of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh to the Pope some time in 2012, in view of his 75th birthday in March 2013; the Pope accepted it nunc pro tunc on 13 November 2012 and decided it would become effective on 25 February 2013 (O'Brien remains a cardinal). The announcement of his resignation followed allegations initially in The Observer newspaper that O'Brien had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with junior clergy. The Pope appointed Philip Tartaglia as temporary apostolic administrator in O'Brien's place. In July, Leo Cushley, a priest from Motherwell was named as the successor to replace O’Brien as archbishop.
O'Brien said, while criticising a parliamentary bill on embryology in 2008, that he carried an organ donor card. O'Brien has suffered from heart problems and was fitted with a pacemaker after complaining of dizzy spells and fainting prior to Passion Sunday Mass in March 2008. When he announced that he would not attend the 2013 conclave he said "Approaching the age of 75 and at times in indifferent health, I tendered my resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh to Pope Benedict XVI some months ago."
O'Brien was often forthright in his political and spiritual views. In 1999, at the European Synod of Bishops, O'Brien declared who he saw fit to be the next Archbishop of Westminster, following the death of Cardinal Hume. He named his candidate, Father Timothy Radcliffe, Master General of the Dominican order (Black Friars). At the synod, Radcliffe had made an appeal to O'Brien, saying that there was a crisis of authority going in the Church, but the answer could not be more emphasis on authority. In the presence of the Pope, Radcliffe went on: the Church should not only speak about the poor, the divorced people, women who had had abortions, homosexuals, but should also take at heart their experiences, eat their bread, take what they had to offer. "They'll blame us being associated with the wrong people but we have a good precedent."
In 2011 he criticised "aggressive secularism" denouncing what he claimed was the way Christians had been prevented from acting in accordance with their beliefs. O'Brien said aggressive secularism threatened the Christian heritage and he wanted religion to remain in the public sphere. Specifically legislation requiring Christians to tolerate homosexuality was a type of secularism O'Brien opposed, and he called on Christians of all denominations to unite in combating secularism.
Referring to equality legislation which prevents discrimination against homosexuals, he [O'Brien] said Christians faced being sidelined in British society because they were not willing to publicly endorse lifestyles that run contrary to their belief system.
His [O'Brien's Easter 2011] homily included instances where Christians had fallen foul of equality legislation, preventing discrimination against gay people, and swiftly drew fire from groups campaigning against religious privilege in public life.
Before his elevation to cardinal, O'Brien had been regarded as "liberal" on the issue of homosexuality, noting the significant number of homosexual priests ministering within the Catholic Church. However, in December 2004 he told members of the Scottish Parliament that homosexuals were "captives of sexual aberrations", comparing homosexuals to prisoners in Saughton jail; and later referred to homosexuality as a “moral degradation”. But O'Brien did rebuke Bishop Joseph Devine in 2005 who had suggested that homosexuals should not be allowed to teach in Catholic schools commenting, "I don't have a problem with the personal life of a person as long as they are not flaunting their sexuality."
In January 2006 he criticised Westminster MPs over the introduction of Civil Partnerships in the UK, and Holyrood members over the liberalisation of divorce laws in Scotland, In July 2006 he opposed proposals to change the law which would require Catholic adoption agencies to place children with homosexuals in the same way as with heterosexuals, calling them totalitarian.
In December 2011, O'Brien reiterated the Catholic Church's continued opposition to Civil Partnerships and suggested that there should be no laws that "facilitate" same-sex relationships, saying that “The empirical evidence is clear, same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful to the medical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, no compassionate society should ever enact legislation to facilitate or promote such relationships, we have failed those who struggle with same-sex attraction and wider society by our actions.”
On 5 March 2012, O'Brien criticised government proposals in the Telegraph to introduce same-sex marriage, saying it was "madness", and would "redefine society since the institution of marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of society", and thus shame the United Kingdom. Conservative MP Margot James, who was considered one of the most influential gay women in 2009, called these comments "scaremongering" and said: "I think it is a completely unacceptable way for a prelate to talk. I think that the government is not trying to force Catholic churches to perform gay marriages at all. It is a purely civil matter." The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, said that, "We have had prejudice, discrimination and homophobia for hundreds of years. That doesn't make it right [...] I don't want anybody to feel that this is a licence for whipping up prejudice." Dan Hodges wrote: "I can't remember the last time I read a more morally and intellectually bankrupt rant from a senior member of the clergy."
Stonewall, a London-based lobbying group against attacks on lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, awarded O'Brien "Bigot of the Year" at their annual awards in November 2012. The award was criticised by the first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, as being "clearly wrong" and "not conducive to a proper and dignified debate on the important issue of equality in Scotland".
On 23 February 2013 The Observer published accounts of four male members of the Scottish Catholic clergy (current or former priests) claiming that in the early 1980s O'Brien had abused his position as a member of the church hierarchy by making unwanted homosexual advances towards them. Further accusations, and admission by O'Brien, followed.
Abortion and embryo research
In May 2007 he urged Roman Catholics to reject political candidates who support what he called the "social evil" of abortion, and said that such Catholic politicians should not expect to remain full members of the Church.
During March 2008, O'Brien highlighted the issue of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill being debated in Parliament, denouncing the government for a "monstrous attack on human rights" through its "evil" endorsement of "Frankenstein" experiments. Some scientists suggested that he intentionally used inflammatory language to stir up opposition to the bill; others argued he was sticking up for morals and forced the Government to allow MPs to vote freely on the issue. (Gordon Brown had originally imposed a three-line whip on Labour MPs, meaning they had to back the bill, regardless of personal convictions.)
O'Brien himself narrated a 5-minute video recording in which he stated the "many, many concerns" of the Catholic Church concerning the Bill which was to be voted on in Parliament. It was posted on YouTube, and sent as a DVD to every member of Parliament. In the video O'Brien made clear he was not against medical research, and supported research with non-embryonic stem cells, but was opposed to using embryos which would later be destroyed. He expressed the Church's concerns over "human-animal hybrids".
In February 2010 the Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy, said in the House of Commons that faith was "at the very foundations of the Labour Party" and encouraged openness to religion in public life. O'Brien responded by saying he "welcomed the sentiment" but pointed out that "a tangible example by the Government over the last decade that it acknowledged or endorsed religious values would also have been welcomed. Instead we have witnessed this Government undertake a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values." O'Brien said to the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Iain Gray, "I hope he [Pope Benedict XVI] gives you hell [during his September 2010 visit] for what has happened over the past 10 years."
In March 2011 O'Brien called British foreign policy "anti-Christian" for greatly increasing aid to Pakistan without requiring any commitment from the Pakistani government to religious freedom for Christians and other minorities. He made this statement in the wake of the assassination of Pakistani minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who had spoken out against the country's blasphemy law.
O'Brien has called for a 310-year-old law banning Catholics from taking the throne to be repealed. He said the Act of Settlement of 1701 was hampering efforts to curb sectarianism. Prime Minister David Cameron said that "in principle" he supported reforming the law on royal succession to remove the ban on Catholics, or people married to Catholics, ascending the throne.
In an interview with the University of St Andrews philosopher John Haldane, published in the Catholic Herald in October 2006, O'Brien stated that he would be "happy" if Scots voted for independence, and predicted that independence is coming "before too long". He drew parallels with the independence of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland: "it is difficult to argue that ecclesiastical independence is acceptable but political independence is not".
Sexual misconduct and consequences
In 2013 allegations became public that O'Brien had engaged in inappropriate sexual activity from the 1980s to 2003.
Accusations and admission
On 23 February 2013, it was reported by The Observer that O'Brien had been accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour involving four men (three serving priests, and one former priest) within the Diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh dating back to the 1980s. The former priest resigned the priesthood when O’Brien became a bishop and stated, "I knew then he would always have power over me. (…) I left to preserve my integrity." It was reported that one complainant needed long term counselling due to the actions of O'Brien.
One of the four, referred to only as "Priest C", alleges that the degree of control a superior has over subordinate priests made it hard for him to refuse O'Brien's demands. "He [the bishop above a priest] has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold … he controls every aspect of your life."
The complaint demanding O'Brien's immediate resignation was lodged with the Vatican's ambassador to the United Kingdom and there were efforts to silence at least one critic.
O'Brien initially contested the allegations. According to the BBC, a source within the church said that O'Brien "doesn't know who his accusers are and doesn't know what they're accusing him of". On 24 February 2013 he failed to attend a special service to celebrate the eight-year tenure of Pope Benedict XVI at St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh. It was widely reported that he had sought legal advice and been advised not to attend. On 25 February 2013 it was announced that O'Brien's previously submitted resignation as archbishop (but not as cardinal) would take effect on 25 February 2013 and a temporary apostolic administrator was appointed in O'Brien's place. O'Brien said that he would not participate in the forthcoming conclave, although entitled to do so. O'Brien then made no further public appearance until early May 2013.
On 3 March 2013, the Scottish Catholic Media Office released a statement from O'Brien in which he said "I ... admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal." He said he intended to retire permanently from the public life of the Church. Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, temporary successor to O'Brien, said the "credibility and moral authority" of the Church had been damaged.
O'Brien was further accused of trying to grope a priest in 2003 in Rome at a drinks party to celebrate his becoming a cardinal. It was also alleged that O'Brien had been in a long-term physical relationship with one of the complainants. It is assumed O'Brien remained sexually active till 2009 at least.
The Scotsman reported that the Vatican was not actively investigating O'Brien's actions and would not hold a formal investigation or publish any formal report because "The Church doesn’t work that way." Another source by the same newspaper suggested on 27 April 2013 that Cardinal Marc Ouellet would head an investigation into O'Brien, and that appointment of Scottish bishops had been halted till the inquiry was completed. No decision had been made to demote or defrock O'Brien.
O'Brien returned to Scotland and attempted to settle in the church-owned cottage he had planned as his retirement home in Dunbar, East Lothian. One of his accusers, a former seminarian, stated, "Keith O’Brien is giving the impression he wants a nice peaceful little retirement now. My experience hasn’t left me for decades and as far as I’m concerned this brings things very much back into focus. I have an issue with Keith O’Brien and it needs to be dealt with." There were fears the cardinal's visibility would harm the church further. On 15 March 2013, it was confirmed that the Vatican had ordered O'Brien to leave Scotland, and he left for months of "prayer and penance".
|“||The statement didn’t specify that the decision was imposed on O’Brien by the Vatican as punishment, and in fact went out of its way to suggest that the decision was O’Brien’s. But in the past, wayward priests have been sanctioned by the Vatican with punishments of “prayer and penance,” and the statement made clear Francis supported the move and that the Holy See would decide his future fate.||”|
The Vatican stated on 15 May 2013 that O'Brien "will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance", and “Any decision regarding future arrangements for His Eminence [Cardinal Keith O'Brien] shall be agreed with the Holy See.”
Supporters of O'Brien objected to the Church requiring O'Brien to leave Scotland; Canon John Creanor threatened legal action to prevent O'Brien's "forced exile", and said he had a legal team ready. Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said that forcing O'Brien into exile from Scotland would breach international law. Holloway likened O'Brien's forced exile to the tactics of "extraordinary rendition" (extrajudicial transfer) of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The four complainants said that O'Brien needed psychological counselling rather than prayer and penance. One accusing priest said, "Keith is extremely manipulative and needs help to be challenged out of his denial. If he does not receive treatment, I believe he is still a danger to himself and to others." The four accusers believed there was a smokescreen, with the full story untold, and wanted an investigation to reveal the extent of O'Brien's actions.
Throughout the scandal, the Catholic Church in Scotland was unable to act. As of July 2013[update] O'Brien was still Britain's most senior Catholic. According to the director of communications of the Catholic media office (which was largely unavailable for official comment), Peter Kearney, only Rome could handle the O'Brien affair; nobody in Scotland had authority to challenge a cardinal.
According to Catherine Deveney writing in The Observer, Archbishop Tartaglia who was temporary leader of St Andrews and Edinburgh following O'Brien's resignation, failed to confront the issue, and behind the scenes "church insiders" were critical; one told her that "He is completely lacking in leadership qualities". Kearney told the Observer there could be no Scottish investigation because the nuncio had rightly not identified the complainants. But he had; Kearney apparently didn't know that Joseph Toal, bishop of Argyll and the Isles, had been given names and asked to be a contact point.
Deveney says that this issue is no longer about personal failure, but systemic failure, and reports that theologian Werner Jeanrond said "As a church, we have failed to come to terms with homosexuality. The highest clerical representative of the church is himself a victim of the system which didn't allow him to own his homosexuality." She adds that there are many other scandals involving Scottish clergy, including at least one bishop; misdeeds include sexual misconduct, heavy drinking, payoffs to cover scandals and serious abuse, and says that "O'Brien knows where the bodies lie. And the hierarchy knows he knows." She says that this issue is not about Scottish clergy, but is worldwide.
It was reported in July 2013 that O'Brien was in a monastery in Europe or, more specifically, an enclosed abbey in the English midlands. In November 2013 there was a report that O'Brien would face no further punishment, which disappointed alleged victims and victims' groups.
After some delay, it was reported in The Observer on 23 June 2013 that the Vatican had decided to hold an apostolic visitation, a formal high-level inspection into the affair, in which the "visitator", in this case the archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who had not yet been appointed at the time, is given authority directly by the pope. Papal nuncio Antonio Mennini told one of the complainants, a former priest known as "Lenny", of the decision. Anyone affected would be able to give evidence; if there was considered to be sufficient evidence, a deeper process would take place in Rome. Lenny was relieved that the facts would finally be examined, but said that the visitation also had to examine "whether any promotions were awarded to the cardinal’s cronies".
According to the article, senior figures in Rome said the visitation would also deal with the more general accusations of moral failings in the church in Scotland. There was criticism of the choice of O'Brien's successor as Archbishop of Edinburgh as visitator; Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer who had worked at the nunciature in Washington and later represented Catholic abuse victims all over the world, said that the whole point was for someone from outside to investigate, and that the choice of O'Brien's successor would make the Church "look like fools". Doyle said that dealing with a previous case, widespread child abuse in Ireland, by an apostolic visitation had been a "total farce", and that only totally independent investigations have elicited significant truth in similar cases, as with (non-ecclesiastical) grand juries in the USA and government statutory commissions in Ireland.
The complainants have been negotiating with Leo Cushley but have also appealed to Pope Francis. They would like an investigation into the way the diocese was governed, the manner of O'Brien's appointment, whether close associates were appointed to positions of power and the measure of O'Brien's predatory behaviour. Cushley promised to hand over the requests personally but discouraged public discussion of the case. A Canonical trial is possible but unlikely. "Lenny" claims the finances of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh under O'Brien are being investigated internally to find if there were irregularities. If this were not done he would have involved the charity regulator. He claims O'Brien bought a jet ski for a friend and the source of the money is unclear. The Church has neither confirmed not denied this.
- Cardinal O'Brien, the church's leader in Scotland, The Daily Telegraph, 18 April 2008
- He was the leader of Scotland’s 800,000 or so Catholics, Interview – Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Holyrood Magazine, 8 June 2007
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- Cardinal O'Brien stopped probe of Scottish abuse files, says ContiCardinal blocked abuse investigation, says Archbishop of GlasgowCardinal Keith O'Brien 'blocked church sex abuse report', says archbishop
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- Cardinal sounds abortion warning, BBC, 31 May 2007
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- Catholic leader backs Scottish independence, Scotland on Sunday, 15 October 2006
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- Cardinal Keith O'Brien 'very upset' about his resignationCardinal O'Brien's departure leaves a rudderless Church
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- Vatican: Cardinal O’Brien leaves Scotland to pray, atone after admitting to sexual misconduct[dead link]
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- "Vatican ‘finished with Cardinal Keith O’Brien’". Scotsman.com. 2013-11-23. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- Catherine Deveney (23 June 2013). "Vatican agrees to inquiry into Cardinal O'Brien's sexual conduct | World news | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
- Catherine Deveney. "Cardinal Keith O'Brien's accusers take fight for justice to the pope". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- "Cardinal Keith O’Brien finances ‘examined’". The Scotsman. 2014-03-03. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- O'Brien's video concerning human embryos on YouTube
- Profile of Keith O'Brien at the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh website (deleted from live site) at the Wayback Machine (archived June 18, 2012)
- Profile of Keith O'Brien at the Vatican website
|Catholic Church titles|
|Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh
30 May 1985 – 18 February 2013
Hans Hermann Groër
|Cardinal Priest of Santi Gioacchino ed Anna al Tuscolano
21 October 2003–present