Cardinal O’Brien to do penance outside Scotland, Vatican says

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who in February resigned as Archbishop of Edinburgh & St Andrews after admitting to allegations of sexual misconduct, “will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance”, the Vatican said today.

The cardinal resigned after three priests and a former priest alleged improper conduct back in the 1980s. Although he did not admit to the specific allegations, he said that his behaviour had fallen short of what was expected of him “as a priest, bishop and cardinal”. The Vatican accepted his resignation on grounds of age as Archbishop of Edinburgh, and the cardinal recused himself from the conclave that elected Pope Francis.

He had wanted to remain in Scotland, in the house of a lifelong friend, Canon John Creanor, parish priest of Our Lady of the Waves, Dunbar, East Lothian, where he had long planned to retire.

But after he moved there two weeks ago, a Scottish newspaper reported that the Vatican had told him to shelve those plans and leave Scotland.

Today’s statement makes clear Cardinal O’Brien’s move was made “in agreement with the Holy Father” and that “any decision regarding future arrangements for His Eminence shall be agreed with the Holy See”.

In the Catholic canon law tradition, the reparation of scandal involves public penance as well as individual repentance. Customarily, doing public penance involves a period of exile from the Christian community for the good both of the individual involved and the wider Church.

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