Photo: Jeff J Mitchell / Getty
Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, will officially end his time as head of the Catholic Church later this week on February 28.However, his last few days gained a new headache this week, after Britain’s top Catholic leader resigned following accusations that he made an “inappropriate approach” a few years ago.
The allegations against Archbishop of Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, appeared this weekend in the Guardian’s Sunday paper, the Observer. The paper cited statements sent by three priests and a former priest to the Vatican earlier this month. The statements include reports of an “inappropriate approach”, “inappropriate contact” and “unwanted behaviour”.
According to the Observer, one priest “alleges that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him, resulting in a need for long-term psychological counselling.”
Vatican watchers had been wondering if more scandals would come out. One report in an Italian newspaper alleged that in December Benedict received the results of an investigation he had commissioned — and that investigation had cemented his decision to retire.
La Repubblica reported that the report contained details not only of financial corruption, as previously detailed in the VatiLeaks scandal, but also of a so-called “gay lobby” within the Church who were susceptible to blackmail.
As the accusations against O’Brien are unproven (and given that they are decades old and he has retired, unlikely to be investigated), it’s hard to make any sort of definitive link to the report. O’Brien was considered by many to be a outspoken opponent of gay rights, and was named the “Bigot of the Year” by gay advocacy group Stonewall last year.
Notably, O’Brien’s resignation was officially accepted on the basis of his age, rather than the accusations, according to an official Vatican statement. O’Brien had intended to retired in November anyway, according to his statement.
Regardless, the resignation appears to show the Church is still in crisis mode, and strengthens the argument that the era of Benedict’s leadership will be remembered as a time of scandals.
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