Priests 'feel vindicated' after Cardinal Keith O'Brien admission

Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Image caption Cardinal Keith O'Brien admitted he had not met the standards expected of him

Three priests and a former priest have said that they felt "vindicated" after Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien admitted sexual misconduct.

The group had accused the senior Roman Catholic clergyman of "inappropriate behaviour" towards them in the 1980s.

Catherine Deveney, the journalist who broke the story in The Observer, said she had spoken to the four men, who were "relieved at being vindicated".

Cardinal O'Brien said he was sorry for not meeting the standards expected.

In a statement on Sunday, he admitted he had initially contested the "anonymous and non-specific" allegations.

While not addressing the cases of the four men directly, he added: "However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.

"To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise."

The cardinal, who resigned last week as archbishop of the St Andrews and Edinburgh diocese, is now expected to face a Vatican inquiry.

He had been entitled to take part in the conclave to choose the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who retired at the end of last week.

However, when the allegations broke just over a week ago he said he would not be travelling to Rome with other cardinals to take part in the vote.

Ms Deveney told the BBC's Today programme that she had spoken to all four men following Cardinal O'Brien's latest statement.

She explained that they had displayed a mixture of emotions.

The journalist added: "There is obvious sadness for Keith O'Brien as a man, but this wasn't about just Keith O'Brien the man but about Keith O'Brien the cardinal.

"So there is a mixture of sadness, a bit of relief they have been vindicated and I would say that there has also been a little bit of anger that it took all of this to get to where we are.

"One of the individuals concerned said that to take the cardinal on as an individual himself would have been like running into a brick wall."

She insisted that the four men making the allegations had not been motivated by a personal vendetta against Cardinal O'Brien.

'Spiritual men'

Ms Deveney said: "These men are spiritual men - they want to see an open and transparent Catholic Church as a result of this, they don't want to see it destroyed."

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Media captionCatherine Deveney: "There is a mixture of sadness, a bit of relief they have been vindicated and I would say that there has also been a little bit of anger."

In the allegations, one former priest claimed Cardinal O'Brien made an inappropriate approach to him in 1980, after night prayers, when he was a seminarian at St Andrew's College, Drygrange.

A second statement from another complainant said he was living in a parish when he was visited by Cardinal O'Brien and inappropriate contact took place between them.

A third complainant alleged that he had dealt with what he described as "unwanted behaviour" by the cardinal in the 1980s after some late-night drinking.

The fourth complainant claimed the cardinal used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact.

During his public role in Scotland's Roman Catholic church, Cardinal O'Brien used strong language to condemn homosexuality.

Last year he said that same-sex relationships were a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right".

Comments of that kind led to the cardinal being named Bigot of the Year by gay rights group Stonewall.

Following the cleric's latest statement, the director of Stonewall Scotland, Colin Macfarlane, said: "What we would like to see is the cardinal apologise for some of the often cruel and sometimes vicious language which he has used, and we are saddened that he has not been able to do that in his statement.

"But we also actually think it is quite sad that in this day and age somebody feels they have to lie about their sexuality to themselves and to other people as well."

Scotland For Marriage, the campaigning group against gay marriage, said it would not be deflected from its work by "the personal failings of a single high-profile supporter".

"The revelations surrounding his personal life have, understandably, caused many people to accuse him of double standards," the group said in a statement.

"Clearly, after these sad revelations, he will no longer be involved in the Scotland For Marriage campaign."

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