As the College of Cardinals begins arriving in Rome for the papal conclave, one who won't be joining them has apologized for the inappropriate conduct that ended his career. Last week, Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien resigned from his post as the archbishop of Edinburgh, the highest ranking Catholic official in Great Britain, after allegations surfaced of sexual misconduct involving four of his former students. O'Brien had previously denied any wrongdoing and vowed to contest the charges, but on Monday he changed course, confessing to the charges and asking for forgiveness. He did not get into any specifics, but did say that "there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal."
O'Brien is the only British cardinal eligible to participate in the vote for the next pope, but he will not be joining his fellow cardinals in Rome for the conclave. The rest are either in Rome now or on the way and on Monday they began making preparations for the papal election. During the preliminary meetings this week, the cardinals will lay out the ground rules and other procedures that will govern the conclave, including picking a starting day, which could be as soon as next week. They also have to arrange to seal off the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican hotel, to prevent eavesdroppers and other meddlers from overhearing the private deliberations.
Many of the cardinals, including Timothy Dolan of New York are predicting a quick vote, in part because Pope Benedict gave enough warning of his departure that politicking for a successor has already started and the Church hopes to have a successor in place by the last week of the month, which is Holy Week.
Here is O'Brien's full statement on the allegations made against him:
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.