Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland has confessed to some unspecified sexual misconduct. Without mentioning the accusations against him, he said:
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. (Source)
“As a cardinal” would seem to imply misconduct since 2003, when he was elevated to the rank of cardinal by JPII. That would be pretty recent. And now the cardinal has retired and expects to live quietly outside “the public life of the Catholic Church,” as he put it.
It mustn’t end this way.
For starters, as anybody can see, he remains very much in the public life of the Catholic Church, making daily headlines. The public won’t let it go (nor should they) until the matter is fully investigated and justice is brought upon him.
Sun News is reporting that Cardinal Marc Ouellet may have played a role in forcing him to resign. A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Quebec said this:
“The fact that Cardinal Ouellet and his team were able to verify the allegations and to get one of the most important Catholic Church figures in Britain to resign, and in less than three months, is considered a masterful tour de force by some observers,” she said. (Source)
That may be a tour de force by Vatican standards, but it’s not good enough. Nor should it be the final word. A full inquiry must be held.
More generally, the Vatican needs to develop a better “exit strategy” for wonky clerics, not just sexual predators but also dissenters. Until this is solved, the problems in the Church will never end. I don’t believe the biological solution will be effective because the dissenters currently in the Church keep promoting their buddies to high positions, thus perpetuating the “mafia” that others have uncovered. It could take a century or more if we rely solely on the biological solution.
What we really need is a better mechanism whereby the Vatican can yank wonky clerics even if they’re being promoted by other wonky clerics. The pope should be able to fire a guy like Fr. Raymond Gravel even if his bishop seeks to protect him (take down the bishop too). This is long overdue. Unless the new pope gets this done, we’ll be spinning our wheels and the media will continue to feast on our misery, like shooting fish in a barrel. So much hinges on this, since the new evangelization is also being stunted by the scandalous image of the Church. We have to start from the beginning. And soon.