The Catholic Church in Scotland has welcomed the decision of Pope Francis to accept the resignation of Cardinal Keith Patrick O Brien from the rights and duties of a Cardinal. In what is an unprecedented action, Cardinal O Brien has now removed himself from the key duties that pertain to the office of Cardinal: the election of any future Pope and the assistance of the Holy Father in the governance of the Universal Church. Cardinal O Brien will also be reduced to a strictly private life with no further participation in any public, religious or civil events.
Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh said; As most people are aware, Pope Francis is a good and prayerful man whose character embodies justice and mercy. I am confident therefore that the decision of the Holy Father is fair, equitable and proportionate, Cardinal O Brien s behaviour distressed many, demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic. I therefore acknowledge and welcome his apology to those affected by his behaviour and also to the people of Scotland, especially the Catholic community.
Today s announcement follows the decision by Pope Francis to send a personal envoy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, on a fact-finding mission to Scotland last year. Based upon that investigation “ the content of which is fully know only to Pope Francis and Archbishop Scicluna “ Pope Francis has reached his canonical conclusion. Cardinal O Brien s decision followed a private discussion with Pope Francis. This was preceded by a period of prayer and penance in order to allow the Cardinal to reflect upon his misconduct.
Archbishop Cushley added: For my own part, I would like to express sorrow and regret to those most distressed by the actions of my predecessor. I also pay tribute to those who had the courage to come forward to speak to Archbishop Scicluna. I hope now that all of us affected by this sad and regrettable episode will embrace a spirit of forgiveness, the only spirit that can heal any bitterness and hurt that still remains .
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Notes to editors:
1. For more information contact David Kerr at the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh on 0131 623 8914 or 07903 621 232 David.Kerr@staned.org.uk
2. The statement issued at 12 noon in Rome in the daily Bulletin of the Holy See for 20 March reads: The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges of a Cardinal, expressed in canons 349, 353 and 356 of the Code of Canon Law, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O Brien, Archbishop Emeritus of St Andrews & Edinburgh, after a period of prayer and penance. With this provision, His Holiness would like to manifest his pastoral solicitude to all the faithful of the Church in Scotland and to encourage them to continue with hope the path of renewal and reconciliation .
3. According to the Code of Canon Law, only the Pope can investigate or discipline a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals. Canons 1401 and 1405 state that it is solely the right of the Roman Pontiff himself to judge in the cases mentioned in Canon 1401 . This includes cardinals.
4. Cardinal O Brien will continue to live outside Scotland until such times as he may require full-time residential accommodation for the sick or elderly, at which point this arrangement will be reconsidered.
5. Archbishop Charles Scicluna conducted his fact-finding mission over three days 8-10 April 2014. Those who spoke to him did so on the basis of anonymity.