When Cardinals Are Outed
For Their Homosexuality
His resignation came after allegations of homosexual predatory behavior with priests were published in the British newspaper The Observer on February 23. (1) Four persons, three priests and a secularized priest, had all submitted statements with their claims of molestation by O’Brien to the nuncio’s office on February 11, 2013.
A subdued Card. O'Brien outside his Edinburgh office after admitting 'sexual misbehavior'
Then, six days later, Card. O’Brien changed his tune and effectively admitted that the accusations against him of homosexual advances to seminarians and priests were true. I say effectively, because his public apology was vague. One does not find any deep remorse in his words. He seemed to be apologizing for some few peccadilloes, and not the grave sin against nature that he casually termed “sexual misbehavior.”
His vague admission of guilt follows: “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 apologize and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland I also apologize.”
Then another supposedly noble gesture: “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.” (2)
How can the people of Scotland and Church not be insulted at such a meager self-imposed “punishment”? When Church officials asked him to disappear quietly in a safe house in England during the Conclave proceedings, he asked with some surprise, “Am I to live the life of a hermit?” (3)
“Retired” with his full pension, the Cardinal seems to be planning a comfortable semi-public life, perhaps fishing and playing some golf from time to time with Card. Mahony, a fellow Prelate also barred from public ministry for his massive cover-up of homosexual-pedophile crimes by priests in the Los Angeles Archdiocese… (4) No one seems to think anymore of making reparation for serious sins and preparing to face God's judgment.
BBC reported that the Vatican intends to make an internal investigation, to take place behind closed doors to quickly and quietly settle this controversy.(5) If it follows the procedure of past cases, the findings will be unpublished.
Card. O'Brien in more carefree times dancing to the Scottish bagpipes
Card. Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is also reluctant to condemn his friend, calling O’Brien’s resignation “very sad,” but quickly pointing out that O’Brien had apologized and was leaving public life. He implicitly suggests that this is more than enough.
The four homosexual partners who accused O’Brien expressed disappointment at the Church's complacency with the guilty cardinal. The secularized priest noted he has felt a strong disapproval from the Hierarchy for “daring to break ranks. I feel like if they could crush me, they would.” (7)
So it may fall once again to the secular arm to administer justice. Private lawyer Nick Freeman made a formal complaint March 5, 2013, in order to trigger a full criminal investigation, saying it was “unacceptable to brush such allegations under the carpet.” (8) What will happen in the civil courts remains to be seen.
All the components of past outings of Prelates are present in the O’Brien case: serious allegations of molestation that had been ignored for decades; constant denials by the guilty cardinal; media publicity that forces a resignation; finally a vague admission of guilt. Then a private Vatican investigation comes, and a soft verdict: the guilty Prelate should retire quietly and live a life of seclusion and prayer. No details of the crimes and no “probate officer” to ensure compliance.
One can only wonder whether or not the O’Brien investigation will follow this same shameful path. We need to wait and see, but we should not be surprised if this path of complicity and shame is adopted once again.
Leftovers from the Gröer affair
I mentioned past cases. Several come to mind. More recently, there was the case of Card. Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006. Charges of homosexuality brought against him by two priests (2005) and one-ex-priest (2006) accused him of making sexual advances during his well-known “sleepovers” at a shore home in New Jersey.
Card. McCarrick dodges serious accusations with the help of the Vatican
Then, there is the famous Gröer affair of the 1990’s, before the general rot and corruption of the homosexual/pedophilia crimes by priests became public. The “conservative” Archbishop of Vienna was accused of molesting boys in an all-male Catholic high school in the 1970s. Women also stepped forward and said he had molested them as children. The Cardinal steadfastly denied all allegations and nothing was done until the media raised a public uproar.
Card. Hans Hermann Groer: A final vague admission of guilt, and no punishment
But the accusations kept coming. Finally, in 1998 a Vatican investigation was made, but the results were never made public. Soon afterwards, Gröer issued a vague written confession: “If I have sinned, I beg God and all the people for forgiveness.” (9)
More accusations were made with media coverage, and only then did the Cardinal withdraw from public life. But he still continued to work as a confessor in convents. Until his death in 2003, the Vatican viewed him complacently, even warmly, with John Paul II making a special effort to visit him during his 1998 trip to Austria.
This is the “punishment” of cardinals who are outed.
The Schönborn connection
An interesting side note to the Gröer affair was the ensemble of accusations of homosexual behavior brought against then Bishop Cristoph Schönborn who replaced Gröer as Archbishop of Vienna and was given the cardinal's hat in 1998. He was one of the preferred disciples of Benedict XVI, and today a strong papabile candidate in the Conclave that will start soon.
Skeletons in the closet of Benedict's favorite, Card. Schonborn?
The Bishops asserted the accusations were groundless, and the attention shifted to the Gröer affair. But the incident raises two questions: Why did the Vatican do nothing to verify the truth or falseness of these serious reports against those Austrian Bishops? Does the present day Cardinal have skeletons in his closet?
This could also explain the recent action of Card. Schönborn who allowed a homosexual man openly living in a registered civil partnership with another man to serve on a parish council, against the strong wishes of the parish priest. (11) Was Schönborn perhaps being pressured by homosexuals who know about his skeletons?
- "Britain’s Top Cardinal accused of ‘inappropriate acts’ by priests", The Observer, Feb. 23, 2003
- "Cardinal O’Brien admits and apologizes for sexual misconduct" The Guardian online, March 3, 2013
- “Disgraced Cardinal O’Brien facing possible police investigation,” Mail online, March 6, 2013
- "Card. Mahony barred from public ministry in Los Angel http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/la-cardinal-mahony-barred-public-ministryes," NCR online, February 1, 2013
- "Cardinal O’Brien faces Vatican sexual conduct inquiry,” BBC News online, March 4, 2013
- “Cardinals gather ahead of conclave,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2013, p. A3
- "O’Brien priest worries that church wants to crush him," The Guardian online, March 2, 2013
- “Cardinal O’Brien faces Vatican inquiry,” March 4, 2013, The Guardian online
- Atila S Guimãraes, Vatican II, Homosexuality & Pedophilia, pp. 263-269
- Ibid., pp. 267-268.
- “Cardinal Schonborn Strikes Again" NCR online, April 3, 2012,
Posted March 8, 2013