Keith O'Brien

Page protected with pending changes
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Cardinal Keith O'Brien)

Keith O'Brien
O'Brien in 2007
ArchdioceseSt Andrews and Edinburgh
Appointed30 May 1985
Installed5 August 1985
Term ended25 February 2013
PredecessorGordon Gray
SuccessorLeo Cushley
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of SS Gioacchino ed Anna al Tuscolano (2003–2018)
Ordination3 April 1965
by Gordon Gray
Consecration5 August 1985
by Gordon Gray
Created cardinal21 October 2003
by Pope John Paul II
Personal details
Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien

(1938-03-17)17 March 1938
Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Died19 March 2018(2018-03-19) (aged 80)
Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, England
Previous post(s)Apostolic Administrator of Argyll and The Isles, Scotland (1996–1999)
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
MottoServe the Lord with gladness
Coat of armsKeith O'Brien's coat of arms

Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien (17 March 1938 – 19 March 2018) was a senior-ranking Catholic prelate in Scotland. He was the Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh from 1985 to 2013.

O'Brien was the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland[1] and had been the head of its conference of bishops until he stepped down as archbishop in February 2013. O'Brien's resignation followed publication of allegations that he had engaged in inappropriate and predatory sexual conduct with priests and seminarians under his jurisdiction and abused his power.[2] O'Brien was opposed to homosexuality, which he described as "moral degradation",[3] and a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage.[4]

On 20 March 2015, the Vatican announced that though he remained a member of the College of Cardinals, O'Brien would not exercise his rights or duties as a cardinal, in particular voting in papal conclaves; he had excused himself from participating in the 2013 conclave.[5] O'Brien died after a fall, aged 80, on 19 March 2018.

Early life and education[edit]

O’Brien was born at Ballycastle, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on St. Patrick's Day, 17 March 1938. After primary education in Ballycastle, his family moved to Scotland where his father was serving with the Royal Navy at Faslane. O'Brien initially attended 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.

O'Brien studied at the University of Edinburgh where he gained a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1959 (and 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[edit]

O’Brien was nominated Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh on 30 May 1985 and was consecrated by 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.[6]

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. In 2015 there were calls for the honorary degree from St Andrews to be revoked due to admission of sexual impropriety. Professor Manfredi La Manna wrote, "I, for one, would not recognise as a colleague someone who admitted abusing his position of power for sexual gratification with subordinates."[7][8] The university decided against this, noting, "(...) that revocation cannot change or ameliorate the wrongs of the past and that, notwithstanding the very real hurt and loss caused by the actions of the honorand, it would be no more than an empty gesture."[9]

O'Brien was Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles from 1996 until 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 Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, over the priest Brendan Smyth and other clerical abuse charges was 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.[citation needed] O'Brien said he did not know; Nichols said English, Welsh and Scottish bishops had "robust" rules in place to protect children.[10] Campaigners for victims of abuse wanted an investigation of the way O'Brien dealt with all allegations of abuse while he was leader due to O'Brien's sexual misconduct admission.[11] Mario Conti, Archbishop emeritus of Glasgow, said 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.[12]

When O'Brien announced on 25 February 2013 that Pope Benedict had accepted his resignation as archbishop, he said he would not exercise his right to participate in the conclave in March to elect Benedict's successor.[13] On 20 March 2015, Pope Francis accepted O'Brien's renunciation of all duties as cardinal, an event extremely rare in Church history.[14] Though he remained a cardinal until his death in 2018, he no longer participated in any public, religious or civil events.[15]

Curial appointments[edit]

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 fulfilled various engagements at the request of other members of the Conference. He was sometimes referred to as the "Primate of Scotland";[16] however, this title or position has never existed.

"Serve the Lord with Gladness"

Resignation as archbishop[edit]

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. He remained a cardinal.[13] 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 to succeed O'Brien as archbishop.[17]

Sexual misconduct and consequences[edit]

In 2013 allegations became public that O'Brien had engaged in homosexual, inappropriate, sometimes predatory sexual activity from the 1980s to 2003.

Accusations and admission[edit]

Reporters outside St Bennets, O'Brien's Edinburgh residence, on the day he resigned

On 23 February 2013, The Observer reported that O'Brien had been accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour involving four men (three serving priests, and one former priest) within the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh dating back to the 1980s.[18] 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."[18] It was reported that one complainant needed long term counselling due to the actions of O'Brien.[19]

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."[18]

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.[20]

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".[21] On 24 February 2013 he did not 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 asked for legal advice and been advised not to attend.[22] On 25 February 2013 it was announced that O'Brien's previously submitted resignation as archbishop would take effect that same day, and a temporary apostolic administrator was appointed in his place. O'Brien said that he would not participate in the oncoming conclave,[23] 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."[24][25] He said he intended to retire permanently from the public life of the church.[26] Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, temporary successor to O'Brien, said the "credibility and moral authority" of the church had been damaged.[26]

The same month, a former priest announced his intention to sue O'Brien, saying O'Brien had groped and kissed him as a 19-year-old seminarian in the 1980s.[27] One of the four whistleblowers who testified against O'Brien in 2013, Brian Devlin, who later left the priesthood, in 2021 waived anonymity to publish a book, Cardinal Sin, about his experiences and his fight for improved church governance and accountability.[28][29] Devlin asserts that O'Brien's misconduct was well known internally before the four made public allegations. He stated, "People go with sincere feelings to their bishop and he doesn't respond. It's indescribably bad and has nothing to do with Christianity. They still hurt and control people and I demand my freedom to say, 'Stop this. Stop your cruelty.'"[30]

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.[31] It was also alleged that O'Brien had been in a long-term physical relationship with one of the complainants.[32]

O'Brien faced allegations of a "culture of cronyism" within his archdiocese,[33] and that this made him less likely to challenge priests to whom he had made advances.[34][35]

In 2015, The Glasgow Herald reported allegations that in at least 40 cases young clerics were encouraged to let O'Brien hear their confessions, and the religious act was used for sexual grooming. There was allegedly reluctance to accept O'Brien's actions as a sexual predator.[36] Victims of O'Brien's sexual abuse felt unable to complain because within the church, only a pope has ever been able to discipline a cardinal.[37] After publication of the McLellan Report in 2015, The Rev. Andrew McLellan said the church's treatment of O'Brien showed that secrecy is still an "important part of the atmosphere" within the church.[38]

Ecclesiastical response[edit]

On 27 April 2013, The Scotsman reported that Cardinal Marc Ouellet would head an investigation into O'Brien, and that appointment of Scottish bishops had been halted until the inquiry was completed.[39] This contradicted another report suggesting that the Vatican would not hold a formal investigation or publish any formal report because "The Church doesn't work that way."[40] No decision had been made to demote or laicise O'Brien.[39][40]

O'Brien returned to Scotland and attempted to settle into 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."[41] There were fears the cardinal's visibility would harm the church further.[42] On 15 March 2013, it was confirmed that the Vatican had ordered O'Brien to leave Scotland,[43] and he left for months of "prayer and penance".[44][43][45] According to The Washington Post, "The statement did not specify that the decision was imposed on O'Brien by the Vatican as punishment, and in fact suggested 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."[46]

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."[47]

Supporters of O'Brien objected to the church requiring O'Brien to leave Scotland; John Canon 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 in 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).[48]

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.[2][49]

Throughout the scandal, the Catholic Church in Scotland failed to act. As of July 2013, O'Brien was still Britain's most senior Catholic. According to Peter Kearney, the director of communications of the Catholic media office (which was largely unavailable for official comment), only Rome could handle the O'Brien affair; nobody in Scotland had authority to challenge a cardinal.[2]

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. However, this was not the case; Kearney apparently did not know that Joseph Toal, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, had been given names and asked to be a contact point.[2]

Deveney said that this issue was no longer about personal failure, but systemic failure, and reported 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 added 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 she said that "O'Brien knows where the bodies lie. And the hierarchy knows he knows." She said that the issue was not about Scottish clergy, but was worldwide.[2]

In July 2013 O'Brien was reported to be in a monastery in Europe or an enclosed abbey in the English Midlands.[50][51] In November 2013 there was a report that O'Brien would face no further punishment, which disappointed alleged victims and victims' groups.[52]

Apostolic visitation[edit]

After some delay, it was reported in The Observer on 23 June 2013 that the Vatican had decided to hold an apostolic visitation. This is a formal high-level inspection into the affair, in which the "visitator" is given authority directly by the pope. In this case the visitator was the archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who had not yet been appointed at the time. 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".[53][54]

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.[54] 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, which related to 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 United States and government statutory commissions in Ireland.[53][54]

The complainants have been negotiating with Archbishop 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 also the extent of O'Brien's predatory behaviour. Cushley promised to hand over the requests personally but discouraged public discussion of the case.[55] During O'Brien's lifetime a Canonical trial remained possible but unlikely.[56] "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.[57] He says O'Brien bought a jet ski for a friend and the source of the money is unclear.[55] The church has neither confirmed nor denied this.[57]

O'Brien had since January 2014 been living, initially incognito, in a home provided by the Catholic Church[58] in the village of Ellington, Northumberland, fifty miles south of the Scottish border.[59] O'Brien later moved to Newcastle on Tyne.[60]

Charles Scicluna investigated O'Brien in April 2014[61] and such an investigation of a cardinal appears unprecedented.[62] There are concerns that the report, allegedly "hot enough to burn the varnish" from the Pope's desk, remains unpublished.[63]

Following Scicluna's apostolic visitation, the Holy See announced on 20 March 2015 that Pope Francis had "accept[ed] the resignation of Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien from the rights and duties of a Cardinal".[64][65] A statement for the Catholic Church in Scotland confirmed that O'Brien would continue to live outside Scotland until such time as his age and infirmity required that situation to be reviewed. He retained the title of Cardinal, but did not any longer carry out the functions of a cardinal and was only allowed to wear a cardinal's robes in private. According to the Holy See Press Office O'Brien would not take part in papal elections, act as papal adviser, or take part in Vatican congregations and councils, and would lose other roles of a cardinal.[66] Journalist David Gibson wrote that "Those developments, [Scicluna's unpublished report, the home bought for O'Brien, that O'Brien was not officially punished] plus the fact that O'Brien can keep the title of cardinal ... may also keep the issue on the boil rather than cooling it off."[67] The ecclesiastical historian Christopher Bellitto said, "What's odd, in this papacy especially, is that O'Brien loses the power, but not the pomp, ... a red hat is still a red hat, even if there is no punch behind it."[67][68]

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is concerned that the transparency Pope Francis promised is absent and the cardinal's wrong or abusive actions have been kept secret. There is further concern that other clerics failed to disclose abuse by O'Brien which they reasonably should have known or suspected. Abusive bishops have resigned in the past, but action against complicit clerics and bishops who conceal abuse would be a helpful innovation because it would help prevent further abuse and concealment.[69]


O'Brien was the first misbehaving Catholic cardinal whose case was dealt with publicly. Richard Sipe, a US former priest working on church abuse, said at the time that O'Brien was not the only case: "We have someone here too. It will go public soon." He was referring to US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was ultimately, unlike O'Brien, stripped of his cardinalate.[28]

The O'Brien case forced accountability and discussion of such cases on the Catholic church, and Rome was forced to create a process. According to O'Brien's victim Keith Devlin, O'Brien's and McCarrick's cases are linked: "If we hadn't gone to the Observer back then, the church would have dealt with McCarrick quite differently. Without O'Brien, there would be no church process."[28]

Health and death[edit]

O'Brien said, while criticising a parliamentary bill on embryology in 2008, that he carried an organ donor card.[70] O'Brien 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.[71] Following the acceptance of his resignation in February 2013 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."[13]

O'Brien died after a fall on 19 March 2018, two days after his 80th birthday.[72]


O'Brien was often forthright in his political and spiritual views.[73] 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 Basil Hume. He named his candidate, 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 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",[74] with a clear reference to Jesus.[75]


In 2011 he criticised "aggressive secularism", denouncing what he said was the way Christians had been prevented from acting in accordance with their beliefs.[76] 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.[77]

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.[78]

Evan Harris of the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association called O'Brien's statements "paranoid and unjustified".[77][78][76]


Before becoming a cardinal, O'Brien had been regarded as "liberal" on the issue of homosexuality, saying that there were a significant number of homosexual priests ministering within the Catholic Church.[79] However, in December 2004 he told members of the Scottish Parliament that homosexuals were "captives of sexual aberrations", comparing homosexuals to prisoners in Saughton Prison;[80] and later referred to homosexuality as a "moral degradation".[44][81] But in 2005 O'Brien did rebuke Bishop Joseph Devine, 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."[82]

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.[83] 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.[84]

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 well being 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.[85]

In 2012, O'Brien criticised in The Daily Telegraph government proposals 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.[86] Conservative MP Margot James, who was considered one of the most influential gay women in 2009,[87] 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: "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."[88] 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."[89]

The LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall awarded O'Brien "Bigot of the Year" at their annual awards in 2012.[90] The award was criticised by 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".[91]

Clerical celibacy[edit]

On 22 February 2013, in an interview with the BBC, O'Brien said he was open to the possibility of removing the requirement of celibacy in the priesthood.[92]

Abortion and embryo research[edit]

In May 2007 O'Brien 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.[93]

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.)[94][95][96]

O'Brien himself narrated a five-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.[97] 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".[70]

British politics[edit]

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 that he "welcomed the sentiment" but said 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."[98] 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."[99][100]

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 religious minority groups. 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.[101]

British monarchy[edit]

O'Brien 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. Former Prime Minister David Cameron said that "in principle" he supported reforming the law on royal succession to remove the ban on Catholics, and people married to Catholics, from ascending the throne.[102] Following the 2011 Perth Agreement, the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 actually discontinued disqualification of those whose consort is a Catholic from the possibility of inheriting the throne.[103]

Scottish independence[edit]

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".[104]


In 2011, O'Brien preached a homily including the quote below.

Travelling around our own Archdiocese and visiting schools, primary or secondary basically every week I realise that there are more and more children needing a nourishing meal provided by the State each day and this is accomplished throughout schools with the help of the State. No one can say that unemployment is no longer with us – rather at times it seems to be increasing. Further with the present economic recession biting harder and harder the needs of our people have become increasingly difficult to satisfy and it is not just the "poorest of the poor" who have to be helped by the St Vincent de Paul Society but rather people who might have considered themselves rather well off. In previous years it might have been relatively easy to recognise the signs of poverty in our community – but that is not quite the same at this present time when not only do the poor become poorer but very often the rich become poor! I would put it to the members of the St Vincent de Paul Society that they should consider how best to answer those calls for alleviation of poverty by an increasing number in our society who previously were and consider themselves “well off” but now find themselves and their families in rather straitened circumstances.[105]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cardinal Keith O'Brien" (Interview). No. 168. Interviewed by Mandy Rhodes. Holyrood Magazine. 8 June 2007. Archived from the original on 14 March 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e Deveney, Catherine (18 May 2013). "Three months on, a cardinal is banished but his church is still in denial". The Observer.
  3. ^ "Shamed Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien leaving Scotland 'for penance". The Independent. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  4. ^ Stanford, Peter (19 March 2018). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  5. ^ Bingham, John (20 March 2015). "Pope Francis strips disgraced Cardinal Keith O'Brien of privileges but not title". The Telegraph.
  6. ^ "Assignment of the Titles or the Deaconries to the new Cardinals". The Holy See. Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. 21 October 2003. Archived from the original on 19 August 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Pope revokes rights of Cardinal Keith O'Brien". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Cardinal's degree will not be revoked". 11 September 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  9. ^ "St Andrews University: Keith O'Brien will keep his honorary degree". HeraldScotland. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Crisis will not overshadow UK visit by Pope Benedict, say church leaders". The Irish Times. 3 March 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  11. ^ Bingham, John (8 March 2013). "Scottish priests 'out of control sexually', says former abuse adviser". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  12. ^ Lamb, Christopher (23 August 2013). "Cardinal O'Brien stopped probe of Scottish abuse files, says Conti". Archived from the original on 27 August 2013.
  13. ^ a b c "Cardinal Keith O'Brien resignation: Statement in full". BBC News. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  14. ^ "Pope accepts disgraced Scottish prelate's resignation from cardinal status". Catholic News Agency. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Pope accepts disgraced Scottish prelate's resignation from cardinal status". Catholic News Agency. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  16. ^ "In his speech on his ten-minute Bill, he mentioned that Cardinal O'Brien, the Primate of Scotland, had made a public statement...", Evan Harris MP, Oxford West & Abingdon, Liberal Democrat, 27 March 2009
  17. ^ "Rome-based Scot replaces disgraced Cardinal O'Brien". BBC News. 24 July 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  18. ^ a b c Catherine Deveney (23 February 2013). "UK's top cardinal accused of 'inappropriate acts' by priests". The Guardian.
  19. ^ "Britain's Top Cleric Cardinal Keith O'Brien Resigns Following 'Inappropriate Behavior' Accusations". 25 February 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  20. ^ "Cardinal O'Brien complainant 'warned' of risk of damage to Church". 3 March 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  21. ^ "Cardinal 'upset' over resignation". 26 February 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  22. ^ "Cardinal Keith O'Brien 'accused of inappropriate acts'". 24 February 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  23. ^ Pigott, Robert (25 February 2013). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien resigns as Archbishop". BBC News. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  24. ^ "Statement from Cardinal O'Brien". 3 March 2013. Archived from the original on 8 May 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  25. ^ Carrell, Severin (3 March 2013). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien admits and apologises for sexual misconduct". The Observer.
  26. ^ a b "Cardinal Keith O'Brien Sex Scandal 'A Serious Blow' To Catholic Church In Scotland". 4 March 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  27. ^ Johnson, Simon (15 March 2013). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien being sued by alleged abuse victim". London: Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  28. ^ a b c Deveney, Catherine (5 September 2021). "'Cardinal Keith O'Brien was like God to me. Then he tried to seduce me': the whistleblower's tale". The Observer.
  29. ^ Devlin, Brian (14 July 2021). Cardinal sin : challenging power abuse in the Catholic Church. Ireland: Columba Books. ISBN 9781782183846.
  30. ^ 'Cardinal Keith O'Brien was like God to me. Then he tried to seduce me': the whistleblower's tale The Guardian
  31. ^ Bingham, John (16 March 2013). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien accused of sex assault while in office as Cardinal". London: Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  32. ^ "Cardinal was in physical relationship with accuser". Herald Scotland. 21 March 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  33. ^ "Does Cardinal O'Brien deserve banishment or pardon? He at least owes us an explanation". Archived from the original on 17 June 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  34. ^ Mike Wade (5 March 2013). "Rome urged to inquire into Cardinal O'Brien 'cronyism'". The Times. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  35. ^ "Rome urged to inquire into Cardinal O'Brien 'cronyism'". Scottish Christian. 5 March 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  36. ^ "Disgraced Cardinal Keith O'Brien facing fresh accusations of sexual misconduct". HeraldScotland. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  37. ^ Carrell, Severin (18 August 2015). "Catholic church in Scotland asks forgiveness from child abuse victims". The Guardian.
  38. ^ "Catholic Church apologises to victims of abuse". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  39. ^ a b "Cardinal O'Brien scandal: No to new Scots bishops". 27 April 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  40. ^ a b Stephen McGinty (28 April 2013). "No Vatican action expected on Cardinal O'Brien". Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  41. ^ Kevin Rawlinson (3 May 2013). "Shamed church leader Cardinal Keith O'Brien: 'I didn't always go on the right path'". London: Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  42. ^ "Catholic Church 'asks Vatican to step in' over O'Brien concerns". 2 May 2013. Archived from the original on 16 June 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  43. ^ a b "Disgraced Cardinal Keith O'Brien to leave Scotland for 'prayer and penance'". BBBC News. 15 May 2013.
  44. ^ a b Sam Masters (15 May 2013). "Shamed Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien leaving Scotland 'for penance time' following inappropriate sexual conduct revelations". London: Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  45. ^ "Cardinal Keith O'Brien pays penance at Vatican". 15 May 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  46. ^ "Vatican: Cardinal O'Brien leaves Scotland to pray, atone after admitting to sexual misconduct - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. 16 May 2013. Archived from the original on 16 May 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  47. ^ "Independent Catholic News, Vatican statement on Cardinal Keith O'Brien, 15 May 2013". 15 May 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  48. ^ Rosemary Goring (20 May 2013). "The Herald (Scotland): Cardinal's victims need all our sympathy, 20 May 2013". Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  49. ^ Catherine Deveney (18 May 2013). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien still a danger, say abuse accusers". London: Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  50. ^ Marshall, Chris (24 July 2013). "New Archbishop Cushley promises 'reconcilliation [sic]' - Top stories". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 25 July 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  51. ^ Severin Carrell and Lizzy Davies (24 July 2013). "Vatican appoints replacement for disgraced Cardinal Keith O'Brien | UK news". London: Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  52. ^ "Vatican 'finished with Cardinal Keith O'Brien'". 23 November 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  53. ^ a b Victoria Raimes. "Vatican to launch Cardinal Keith O'Brien probe". Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  54. ^ a b c 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.
  55. ^ a b Catherine Deveney (March 2014). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien's accusers take fight for justice to the pope". Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  56. ^ "Disgraced Keith O'Brien faces Vatican 'trial'". 23 February 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  57. ^ a b STEPHEN MCGINTY (3 March 2014). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien finances 'examined'". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  58. ^ "Keith O'Brien stripped of the rank of cardinal – an extraordinary disgrace for the Scottish Church - Coffee House". 20 March 2015. Archived from the original on 19 August 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  59. ^ McLeod, Keith (16 July 2014). "Revealed: Sex shame cardinal Keith O'Brien enjoying retirement in £208k Northumberland bungalow provided by Catholic Church". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  60. ^ Cardinal Keith O'Brien, disgraced Catholic church leader, dies The Guardian
  61. ^ Davies, Lizzy (4 April 2014). "Vatican to investigate sexual allegations against Cardinal Keith O'Brien". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  62. ^ "Disgraced cardinal's archdiocese subject of Vatican investigation". 4 April 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  63. ^ "Report into Cardinal O'Brien should be published". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  64. ^ "Church welcomes Pope Francis' decision to accept Cardinal O'Brien's resignation" (Press release). Scottish Catholic Media Office. 26 September 2015. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  65. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (20 March 2015). "In rare step, Scottish prelate caught in sex scandal quits as cardinal". Crux. Archived from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  66. ^ "Pope Francis accepts Scotland cardinal's decision to renounce duties, rights of office". 20 March 2015. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  67. ^ a b Gibson, David (20 March 2015). "Scandal-scarred Cardinal Keith O'Brien renounces 'rights and privileges' of his office". The Washington Post. Religion News Service. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  68. ^ A similar situation also occurred when the late former Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Vienna, in Vienna, Austria, Hans Hermann Groër, who was found to have abused many, was asked by Pope John Paul II to relinquish his duties as archbishop and cardinal; he denied the allegations until his death.
  69. ^ Boorstein, Michelle (20 March 2015). "Cardinal steps down over sexual impropriety allegations, a first since 1927". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  70. ^ a b "Link to 10 April 2008 YouTube video in which O'Brien himself talks about the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill". 10 April 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  71. ^ "Scotland: Cardinal O'Brien gets pacemaker". BBC News. 26 March 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  72. ^ "Cardinal Keith O'Brien dies after fall". BBC News. 19 March 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  73. ^ "Scotland: The 'Cardinal of Controversy'". BBC News. 31 May 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  74. ^ "archiveDay". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  75. ^ Matthew, Gospel, chapter 9, lines 10-13.
  76. ^ a b "Cardinal Keith O'Brien criticises secularism". BBC News. 24 April 2011.
  77. ^ a b Caroline Wilson (25 April 2011). "Cardinal on attack over secularism". Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  78. ^ a b Riazat Butt (24 April 2011). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien warns of threat from 'aggressive secularism'". London: Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  79. ^ The Telegraph, October 2003
  80. ^ "Official Report Debate Contributions - Parliamentary Business : Scottish Parliament". Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  81. ^ Gerry Braiden (21 March 2013). "Cardinal was in physical relationship with accuser". Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  82. ^ The Scotsman, 28 March 2005
  83. ^ Cardinal in family life broadside, BBC, 1 January 2006
  84. ^ Sunday Times, 24 July 2006
  85. ^ "Scotland fails homosexual people". SCO News. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  86. ^ O'Brien, Keith (3 March 2012). "We cannot afford to indulge this madness". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  87. ^ "Gay Power: The Pink List 2009" The Independent, 2 July 2009.
  88. ^ "Catholic leader calls government's gay marriage plans 'madness'". The Guardian. London. 4 March 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  89. ^ "Gay marriage: people of faith need a better spokesman than Cardinal Keith O'Brien". The Daily Telegraph. London. 5 March 2012. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  90. ^ Tom Peck, "Britain's most senior Catholic is named 'Bigot of the Year'", The Independent, 2 November 2012
  91. ^ "Storm over Stonewall's Cardinal Keith O'Brien 'bigot' award". BBC. 2 November 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  92. ^ "Cardinal Keith O'Brien: 'Allow priests to marry'". BBC Scotland. 22 February 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  93. ^ Cardinal sounds abortion warning, BBC, 31 May 2007
  94. ^ "Cardinal O'Brien attacks embryo research". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 21 March 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  95. ^ MacDonald, Stuart; Oliver, Jonathan (23 March 2008). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien branded a 'liar' on embryo research by Labour peer". Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008.
  96. ^ Johnson, Simon; Petre, Jonathan (21 March 2008). "Cardinal Keith O'Brien condemns Gordon Brown over 'monstrous' embryo Bill". The Telegraph.
  97. ^ "Scottish Catholic Media Office: Cardinal O'Brien & Bishop Tartaglia continue opposition to HFEA Bill, 10 April 2008". Archived from the original on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  98. ^ "British government systematically attacking family values, Cardinal O'Brien states". Catholic News Agency. 25 February 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  99. ^ Bussey, Katrine (25 February 2010). "Pope could give Labour Party 'hell'". Press and Journal. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  100. ^ "Cardinal launches attack on Labour". BBC News. 24 February 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  101. ^ "Cardinal O'Brien attacks UK's 'anti-Christian foreign policy' on Independent Catholic News". 15 March 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  102. ^ "Catholic church leader criticises royal succession rule". BBC. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  103. ^ "Bills before Parliament".
  104. ^ Catholic leader backs Scottish independence, Scotland on Sunday, 15 October 2006
  105. ^ "St Vincent de Paul". Archived from the original on 7 October 2017. Retrieved 6 October 2017.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal Priest of Santi Gioacchino ed Anna al Tuscolano
Succeeded by