As David Gibson reported earlier, Great Britain’s only vote in the upcoming papal conclave resigned this morning. Cardinal Keith O’Brien acknowledged that accusations of inappropriate behavior with other priests against would be a distraction for the church.

Last year, the Scottish LGBT group Stonewall dubbed O’Brien their “bigot of the year” and cited his extreme statements against gay and lesbian people, including:

  • Calling Britain’s plans to legalize same-sex marriage “madness” and labeling it a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.
  • Writing that individuals living in same-sex relationships “are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved.”

Colin Mcfarlane, director of Scotland Stonewall, wrote this upon hearing that O’Brien had resigned:

We trust there will now be a full investigation into the serious allegations made against Cardinal O’Brien. We hope his successor will show a little more Christian charity towards openly gay people than the Cardinal did himself.

I had wondered last night if the release of details surrounding the allegations was at all related to the Cardinal’s call for an easing up on priestly celibacy. One religion reporter I asked via Twitter about the timing speculated that O’Brien may have been trying to preempt the impending scandal with those comments.

O’Brien joins a growing list of anti-gay-rights crusaders brought down because of sex scandals with other men. Is Cardinal O’Brien a hypocrite or just caught up in a particular milieu? What causes men like O’Brien to speak so vociferously against actions of the kind in which they’ve been involved?

Update: A priest friend pointed out to me that O’Brien is not the UK’s only elector in the upcoming conclave. Cardinal Sean Brady, while Primate of All Ireland, is the Archbishop of Armagh, which is technically located in Northern Ireland (one of only a few dioceses in the Catholic world that covers territory in two nations). Brady has been much maligned for his handling on clergy sex abuse in Ireland.

Categories: Institutions


Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes about religion and politics from Washington, D.C., paying close attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life. His writing has appeared in Religion & Politics, the Jesuit magazine America, on, and in Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.


  1. Jonathan Spera

    Hypocrite = every member of the Catholic Church. Including me. Including you, Michael. Including O’brien. Even the former pope knows that he is the greatest beggar in need of confession. And I know you know all of this already – so the question becomes what’s your point in writing this article?

  2. Attractive component to content. I simply stumbled upon your blog
    and in accession capital to claim that I get in fact loved account your blog posts.
    Any way I will be subscribing on your feeds or even I
    fulfillment you get right of entry to consistently fast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.