(ROME) — Britain’s most senior cardinal, Keith O’Brien, is stepping down following published reports that he made unwanted sexual advances toward four priests in Scotland in the 1980s.
“Approaching the age of seventy-five and at times in indifferent health, I tendered my resignation as Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh to Pope Benedict XVI some months ago. I was happy to know that he accepted my resignation ‘nunc pro tunc’ — (now — but to take effect later) on 13 November 2012. The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today, 25 February 2013…,” O’Brien, who will retain the title of cardinal, said in a statement Monday.
He also added that he has decided not to participate in the upcoming papal election.
“I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focussed on me — but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his Successor,” O’Brien, 74, said.
The Scottish cardinal is the latest voting member of the College of Cardinals to be tainted by scandal but the first to recuse himself from the conclave.
O’Brien has been accused of committing “inappropriate acts” in his relations with three priests and one former priest from the diocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, British newspaper The Observer reported on Sunday. The cardinal has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights.
He denied the allegations over the weekend.
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Ireland’s Cardinal Sean Brady have also faced pressure to bow out of the conclave on the grounds that their moral authority has been compromised because of the church sex-abuse scandal.
Documents from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles show that Mahoney covered up for pedophile priests.
President Obama’s former ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, this weekend called on Mahony to bow out of the conclave.
“Just like everyone else, Cardinal Mahony should reflect on the example set by the pope,” Diaz told La Stampa’s Vatican Insider.
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Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN
Chris Williams and Jason Hanna, CNN