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  • John Thavis

Cardinal O’Brien to leave Scotland for period of penance, Vatican announces

The Vatican announced today that Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, after admitting improper sexual conduct, would be leaving Scotland for several months of “spiritual renewal, prayer and penance.”

“Any decision regarding future arrangements for His Eminence shall be agreed with the Holy See,” the Vatican statement said.

The terse Vatican announcement provided no details about where the Scottish cardinal would be residing, but the wording appeared to indicate that Pope Francis wants close follow-up on a scandal he inherited.

Cardinal O’Brien, 75, was recently photographed while moving his personal belongings into a church-owned cottage in Dunbar on the North Sea, where he planned to reside. With the Vatican announcement, those plans have clearly changed.

In February, the cardinal resigned as archbishop of Edinburgh and said he would not be attending the papal conclave that began March 12. Later, he acknowledged that his sexual conduct had “fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and a cardinal.”

At that time, he apologized to those he had offended and to the church and people of Scotland. Three priests and one former priest had alleged sexual advances by the cardinal in the 1980s.

The Vatican’s announcement today:

His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, Archbishop Emeritus of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, for the same reasons he decided not to participate in the last Conclave, and in agreement with the Holy Father, will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance. Any decision regarding future arrangements for His Eminence shall be agreed with the Holy See.

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