Cardinal Keith O’Brien last night admitted that his sexual conduct had at times “fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal”.
The cardinal, who was Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric, stepped down from his post as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh last week, a day after three priests and a former priest made allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour against him.
In a statement issued by the Catholic Church in Scotland last night, O’Brien apologised and asked forgiveness from those he had “offended”.
“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,” the statement said.
It is understood he is currently not in Scotland and will not attend the conclave to elect the successor to Pope Benedict.
The statement said: “In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.
“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.
“I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”
Last Monday, it was announced that O’Brien would resign his post with immediate effect.
The move came a day after the Observer newspaper reported that three priests and a former priest had complained about him to the Vatican over alleged “inappropriate” behaviour stretching back 30 years.
His resignation was accepted by the Pope on Feb 18.
The cardinal, who initially said he was taking legal advice when the allegations against him emerged, had been due to retire later this month when he turned 75.
In an earlier statement issued via the Catholic Church’s media office in Scotland, the cardinal said: “For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended.”
O’Brien, who recently advocated priests marrying, has been an outspoken opponent of prime minister David Cameron’s plans to legalise same-sex marriage.
Last year, his stance earned him the Bigot of the Year award from the gay rights group Stonewall.
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